Page 1

2015-2016 Annual Report

Table of Contents


About Sister Cities Girlchoir


Demographics & Statistics


Season Highlights


Celebrate our Staff


We Love SCG!




Circle of Support


Recent Media

All photos are credited to Joseph Kaczmarek, unless noted.

Photo Credit: Brandon Lee



The Girlchoir Movement Board of Directors
 Bo Banwo
 The Food Trust Fran Connolly
 Eamon Consulting 

Founder’s Message We have FOUR seasons of purple power to celebrate! This year was a season of growth and we are thrilled to welcome the new families and community partners that have joined in this work. I am so proud of the purple community we have all built together that aims to empower and highlight the lives of the amazing young women of Sister Cities Girlchoir. I hope to see you in the audience soon—(tip: wear purple!)

Sister Cities Girlchoir P.O. Box 15277 Philadelphia, PA 19125 909-4SISTER (909-474-7837)

Stacey Cruise
 Legacy School Services Carol Frazier
 Kimmel Center, Education Department Tom Knoche
 Rutgers-Camden University, retired


Alysia Lee, Director Music Teaching Artists: Kendra Balmer Ruth Noemí Belonni Rosario Anne Agresta Dugan Stefanie Eichmann Christian Kuphal Emily Rose Vite Emily Watkins Site Coordinators: Evyonne Fontroy Jacqueline Fox Sherray Graham Nalynn Edwards Shaheed McKee Finance: Hyska Consulting


Mission Statement: Sister Cities Girlchoir builds communities of music makers that empower girls to occupy their unique advantage in transforming our world.


About Sister Cities Girlchoir

Sister Cities Girlchoir (SCG) is the girl empowerment choral academy serving girls in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ. With a shared bottom line of musical excellence and positive youth development, SCG programming empowers girls to be leaders and to improve equity, visibility and access in their own communities. SCG supplies a long-term, deep investment into the most valuable resource in ailing communities: 




Season 4 Statistics Staff and  Volunteers  


performances for over



in Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Maryland!

Choir Sites

Over 400 hours of GIRL EMPOWERMENT & MUSIC EDUCATION programming!

Philadelphia, PA Daroff Elementary School, Universal First Presbyterian Church of Kensington Global Leadership Academy Camden, NJ Rutgers University, North Camden IGNITE Partnership 

Catholic Partnership Schools Sharp Elementary School 6

 of participants are on-track towards the following long-term goals: Based on most recent administration of the Youth Outcomes Battery, on-time grade promotion, community surveys, and internal music assessments.

ON-TIME High School



DEVELOP Visibility in Target Community.


Social Competence and Leadership Skills

21st Century Skills and Literacy Skill Development



Adolescent Pregnancy & Juvenile Delinquency

Musical Skill and Vocal Production


2016 sHero: MARIAN ANDERSON For the 2015-2016 Season, Sister Cities Girlchoir dedicated the entire season in honor of Philadelphia music legend, Marian Anderson. MARIAN ANDERSON LEGACY Events • Tribute Concert: Sponsored by The Presser Foundation and Penn Treaty Special Services District to share Marian's legacy with The Riverward community • Winter Concert:
 Mass choir concert at Union Baptist Church, Marian Anderson’s South Philadelphia childhood church home • Lincoln Memorial Performance:
 Reenactment of historic Lincoln Memorial performance in Washington, D.C. • Shero Day 2016: 
 Pre-Women’s History Month celebration and advocacy day with New Century Trust • Marian Anderson Birthday party:
 February 27th party for our 2016 Honoree • History and listening lessons: Teaching Artists presented lessons on Marian’s legacy and life highlights



Photo Credit: Brandon Lee

Marian Anderson Tribute Concert

The concert featured choral and spoken word performances of our Philadelphia and Camden Girlchoir ensembles. The musical program outlined highlights of Marian's life and cemented her legacy as an humanitarian and sublime artist. 10


Winter Joint Concert @ Marian’s Church This season, SCG produced the first Joint WINTER CONCERT for all singers in our Philadelphia and Camden Girlchoirs. In December, over 300 girls united for a mass performance in the sanctuary of the historic Union Baptist Church, Marian Anderson’s childhood church home. Girls perused the church’s artifacts and exhibits about Union Baptist’s rich South Philadelphia history and Marian’s formative years. Then at 2pm sharp, the choirs took the stage for an audience of families, community partners and school teachers and principals.


2016 sHero: MARIAN ANDERSON Lincoln Memorial Performance

This season, Sister Cities Girlchoir launched Sorors, the high-level vocal training and leadership track for older youth from the target communities. Previous choral training and experience is required and selection is based on a vocal audition, interview and an essay about their own leadership goals. Participants are offered a song-based curriculum that explores the themes of sisterhood, leadership and community. The musical study was paired with Sister Circle activities exploring the legacy of Marian Anderson and contemporary musicians/ activists like Janelle Monae and Kendrick Lamar, and….MARIAN ANDERSON. Sorors took a Spring Tour to the Baltimore/ Washington, DC area. The group had a guided walking Sight-SINGING tour of monuments and landmarks in D.C. that culminated with a performance on the Lincoln Memorial steps… retracing Marian Anderson’s journey from Philadelphia to her historic performance in 1939 by invitation of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.


2016 sHero: MARIAN ANDERSON SHEROES Day, Marian Anderson

Sheroes Day brought together 45 girls from three collaborative organizations: Sister Cities Girl Choir, the Alice Paul Institute and Camp Sojourner with support from New Century Trust. This event was planned by a committee of ten girls representing each of our organizations. Planning committee participants created the lessons to introduce our three historic role model women including Sojourner Truth, Marian Anderson and Alice Paul (pictured to the right). The girls also planned a lesson to teach participants about a contemporary issue they felt passionate about including police brutality, domestic violence and negative body image.


Overnight Summer Camp The first annual El Sistema New Jersey Alliance Overnight Summer Camp took place at the Princeton-Blairstown Center in Blairstown in July. One hundred students from across New Jersey participated, representing the six Alliance programs: NJSO CHAMPS (Newark), Paterson Music Project (Paterson), Union City Music Project (Union City), Sonic Explorations (Orange), Trenton Music Makers (Trenton) and Sister Cities Girlchoir (Camden and Philadelphia). In addition to music rehearsals led by teaching artists from each program, students participated in camp and teambuilding activities such as hiking, adventure courses and campfire s’mores and sing-alongs. On the final day of camp, the students performed a concert for parents and friends.

SPECIAL THANKS Harriet Young Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation

Click here for video!

“It was really amazing to see the kids face challenges [from rope courses to learning new music quickly] and have to work through them as a team. [It’s] about finding a different part of yourself and connecting with other musicians. We’re trying to express to them that when you’re a musician, you’re a part of a community that is so much bigger than yourself, than your school, than New Jersey. It may sound cliché, but music really is the universal language.” Theresa Kemp, CHAMP Teaching Artist


3rd Annual Sing for Peace Tour

2016 Tour Stops

A Reflection on the Day We ended the day joining a team of professional actors on stage after their dramatic and powerful reading of Dr. King's 'I Have a Dream' speech. The final words rang out to a packed Auditorium--"Free at last, thank God Almighty I'm free at last." The girls slowly walked on stage to join them while singing "We Shall Overcome." After the song the actors slowly disappeared to reveal our brave singers. They opened their mouths to sing Janelle Monae's Black Life Matters anthem, "What You Talking 'Bout?" They called out the names of lives they collectively decided to honor---'Sandra Bland, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, DR. KING!!' Then they held hands and sang Alicia Keys song "We Are Here"-- a song calling for human connection across all barriers. There was not a dry eye in the house. Before getting on the bus to go home we formed a tight circle on the floor. Each girl recounted what this day meant to them. Jaden, a second year said she realized today how grateful she is to Dr. King for his part in making our special purple sisterhood possible. "Sister Cities Girls of all colors have the right to sing together and be sisters no matter the differences we have."


New Camden Partnerships The fourth season highlighted NEW programming partners in Camden, NJ with Catholic Partnership Schools and the Camden City School District. The new Camden ensembles served 180 students. Teaching Artists led the ensembles in performances for Temple University’s Choral Department, RutgersCamden University, El Sistema New Jersey Alliance, and Union City Music Project.

Catholic Partnership Schools ensemble performing with Greater South Jersey Chorus at Rutgers University, Camden

Sharp Elementary School Girlchoir rehearses in the school cafeteria

Catholic Partnership Schools ensemble performing with focus and energy

Brendon Lowe of Camden City School District tweets a photo of can Sister Cities Girlchoir free community performance


2nd Annual Career GirlFest On March 19th, Sister Cities Girlchoir produced the 2nd Annual Career GirlFest for 70 girls from our Camden and Philadelphia sites. The girls gathered in northeast Philadelphia for two hours of rotating workshops on engineering, computer coding, team building games and self care.

Event Partners:

A team of Arbonne consultants, led by EVP Anne Agresta Dugan, presented hands-on sessions colliding self care, skin care and positive affirmations centered in the philosophy of Arbonne International. Each participant was gifted her own gift bag of Arbonne products. Super Volunteer, Kathryn Stewart organized the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workshops for the day. Community partner, TechGirlz is dedicated to reducing the gender gap in technology occupations. They designed a fun and educational workshop, Designing Mobile Apps, aimed to engage girls in technology. Kevin Lee led the girls in completing an engineering activity with MakeyMakey kits.


More Highlights

3rd Annual NJPAC Lobby Concert

Saturday May 21, 2016 @ 1:00PM 1 Center St., Newark, NJ 07102

Featuring SIx New Jersey El Sistema-inspired programs!

New Jersey Performing Arts Center
 El Sistema NJ Alliance Free community with our ESNJ collaborative partners

New Century Trust Concert NCT presented the Girlchoir Academy in their historic building for a Women’s History Month performance.

National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Baltimore Free community performance in East Baltimore

For the video of the performance:

For the video of the performance:

El Sistema New Jersey Alliance

Temple University, Philadelphia Joint concert with Temple University Owls; Rollo Dilworth conducting. 17

Super Fun Saturday A few times a year we gather girls from all of the ensembles for simple fun—rollerskating, water parks and more.

Crescendo, film premiere Girlchoir performed for special guest, Jamie Bernstein, daughter of music legend Leonard Bernstein.

Holiday Sing-Along In late December, girls performed at First Presbyterian’s Holiday concert and then stayed around for a festive sing-along.

Smithsonian Institute, performance The girls performed on stage at the Smithsonian Institute in our nation’s capital. 18

Celebrating our Conductors

Anne Dugan, 
 3 seasons

Ruth Noemí Belonni

Kendra Balmer, 

Alysia Lee, 

Rosario, 3 seasons

4 seasons

4 seasons

Kendra Balmer received the prestigious Presser Foundation Award to support her 2016 summer travels throughout South Africa to investigate choral opportunities in South Africa for cultural exchange and collaboration.

Chorus America assembled a hand selected group of America’s top choral leaders at Yale for a Symposium on the Choral Ecosystem. Alysia Lee was honored to be a member of the prestigious cohort. 19

Anne Dugan secured a generous monetary and product donation from the Arbonne Charitable Foundation in support of a team building Spa Day uniting Camden and Philadelphia girls. Billy Penn and the Knight Foundation honored Alysia Lee at a private ceremony as 2016 Top 20 Community Leader under 40.

Anne assembled a team of Arbonne VPs who led a day of activities on skin care, positive affirmations, and makeup application for stage performance.

Alysia Lee was selected as a Dodge Foundation delegate to the SphinxCon, the annual conference focused on diversity in the classical arts. She was also elected to the founding committee of Diversity/NJ, a cohort of arts leaders throughout the state exploring diversity, inclusion and race equity in the arts. Alysia Lee submitting her agenda item to the 1st Dodge Foundation Convening in October.


“The City of Philadelphia officially recognizes Sister Cities Girlchoir for providing the opportunity for Philadelphia’s young

women to find personal expression, build selfesteem, and expand their horizons through music.”

City of Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter



We Love The Girlchoir Hear from the Girls!

“Sister Cities is not just a singing group, but also a program to unite girls and show the world who we really are—young, beautiful, kind and respectful” Khadijah

“Choir is important to me because

"Choir is important to me because I get to express MY voice and it makes me feel good inside.” LaTisha

“Choir gives me a chance to meet new people and make friends. I’ve grown from this experience. It has made me a better artist and a better person.” Aariana

“In our songs, we spread a message to the world. To make the world work together better than we are now. Savannah

“All of these experiences have shown me that one day I am going to look back and say Sister Cities Girlchoir made me who I am today.” Chelsea

you will get to know new people and express your feelings over music.” Xyann

"Choir is important to me because I get to express my pain.” Mercedes


NEW Nonprofit Status When Sister Cities Girlchoir launched in 2012, it was decided to use a fiscal agent for three years and evaluate our success and place in the community BEFORE becoming a nonprofit organization. New Foundation for the Arts, a nationwide fiscal agent for emerging arts organizations served us for 3 seasons. Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, a program of the Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia matched us with Flaster Greenberg to take our case on PRO BONO. With their guidance, we applied for nonprofit status and were approved by the federal government as a NON PROFT on March 3, 2016. A deep thank you to New York Foundation for the Arts for three years of exemplary support as we built this organization from scratch. NYFA has been an invaluable resource to us and the entire arts community. Thank you to our amazing team of attorneys at Flaster Greenberg for answering every question and taking special care of our case with passion and expertise. Thank you to the Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia and Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts for working hard to provide valuable and mission critical resources for the arts community in the region.

Sister Cities Girlchoir is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization founded to build communities of music makers that empower girls to occupy their unique advantage in transforming our world. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.



Sister Cities  Girlchoir  is  a  501(c)(3),  tax-­‐exempt  organization  founded  to  build   communities  of  music  makers  that  empower  girls  to  occupy  their  unique  advantage  in   transforming  our  world.  All  donations  are  tax-­‐deductible  to  the  fullest  extent  of  the  law.    


Sister Cities  Girlchoir  is  grateful   to  the  community  organizations,   funders  and  arts  partners  that   support  the  work  of  girl   empowerment  through  music.    


Recent Media

“Sister Cities Girlchoir is one of a handful of newly established children and youth choral programs in the United States that have been inspired by El Sistema—Venezuela’s free nationwide classical music education program that aims to transform the lives of impoverished children.” El Sistema For Choruses by Kelsey Menehan

For the full article:


Recent Media

“Every social change movement in this country has been lead by song. These girls are optimally primed to combine the skills of girls leadership and music making and beautiful song� Alysia Lee Sister Cities Girlchoir

For the full video:

18 27

Recent Media

“It’s a way to give back and that’s what we’re all about; Using music as a tool to build confidence and their connection with each other and with their community. ” Joyful Noise Sister Cities Girlchoir performs Christmas Carols for the Community

by Natalie Piserchio For the full article:

14 28

Recent Media

“Before becoming its own nonprofit at the federal level, SCG was a NYFA fiscally sponsored project. In celebration of Women’s History Month, NYFA’s Madeleine Cutrona talks to Alysia about the amazing work of SCG and the critical role that women and girls play in the arts and communities.” Girl Power & Fiscal Sponsorship: An Interview with Alysia Lee New York Foundation of the Arts CURRENT by Madeleine Cutrona For the full article: 13 29 SisterCitiesGirlchoir/


@SCGirlchoir youtubescg

2015-2016 Annual Report  

Annual Report for 2015-2016 Season, 4th Season