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Singing the Praises of

Youth Singers of Calgary

We are proud to work with the Youth Singers of Calgary on projects that ensure their continued success

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By Rennay Craats


n Indian guru once said “Life is a song – sing it,” and Shirley Penner and her team at Youth Singers of Calgary (YSC) have taken that advice to heart. For the past 30 years, their group of instructors and performers has been sharing their unique musical program with audiences close to home and around the world. The program began 30 years ago at Mount Royal Conservatory when Penner was asked to design a junior high choir for 26 students. Penner merged classically-based singing with dancing and acting, and the class soon took on a life of its own. Within a few years, this class grew to 80 students however the college was only able to accommodate one class. “I had to make a decision. I stayed on working on fund development at the college, but I took the Youth Singers out into the community,” says Shirley Penner, CEO of Youth Singers of Calgary. After relocating a few times, the fledgling company found a home in Victoria Park Community Centre where it remained for 12 years, growing into one of the largest not-for-profit choral organizations in the country. Having outgrown the community centre, and after countless volunteer hours as well as donations from their supporters, YSC recently renovated a warehouse and relocated to its new Performing Arts Youth Centre in the southeast.

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The 18,000-square-foot space houses four studios, a sound room, set and costume storage, and a priceless library of music titles. The space is simple, functional and solid, much like the organization itself. “The important thing is what happens inside the building,” says Penner. “It’s the young people! Building self-esteem and confidence and giving them all the opportunities to lead and grow.” Performers have fun while earning high school credits and learning important life skills: time management, organization

and teamwork. They learn to win with grace, work hard and make lifelong friends who share a love of music. And they’ve learned from the best. Shirley Penner was recently inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence for her contribution and impact on the arts and the community. She has had an impact on thousands of youth in the three decades YSC has operated. Today, the organization gives 500 performers in 15 divisions ranging from three years old to adult an inclusive place to perform. For 10 months per year, YSC performers work to perfect the group’s two main-stage productions at the

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“As a shy but talented teen, the course of my life was changed when I joined Youth Singers…. Yes, I got to train my voice and explore choral music and choreography, but my confidence and life skills really had a chance to develop and I found a group of core friends. It instilled


Youth Singers of Calgary for creating 30 years of opportunities for youth

a lifelong passion for the arts, and shaped the course of my career. I have now been contributing to the arts in Calgary as a director, choreographer and performance coach for over 20 years, including being part of the artistic staff of Youth Singers. By far the most amazing part of my life is now watching other shy-yet-talented teens beginning their journey with Youth Singers, and I see so much for their future. I would encourage every singer of every age in Calgary to join Youth Singers. It’s a success story for everyone.” ~ Chris Thompson

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Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium which showcase the talents of hundreds of singers on one stage. With original arrangements and thoughtful theme and music selections, the main-stage shows are a city highlight. Youth Singers performs approximately 100 shows each year including community events, corporate functions, malls, schools and charity events. The two semiprofessional 12-member ensembles SHINE & ONCUE are more mobile than the larger groups and are able to perform throughout the community year-round. Singers also enjoy the opportunity to take their shows on concert tours and enter competitions around the world. They have performed in more than 20 countries including Japan, China, Australia, Europe, South America and throughout USA and Canada. The high standards, talented performers and credentialed instructors means Youth Singers always comes home with trophies and awards including first place in classes they enter, best overall choir honours, and the Esprit de Corps award for congeniality and sportsmanship, an award that is important to Penner as the organization was built on tolerance and support of other performers and is dedicated to developing leaders in the community. One of Penner’s proudest additions to the roster of YSC programs is the STAR division (Special Talents in Arts and Recreation). STAR allows children aged eight to 17 with cognitive delays to discover the joys and benefits of music education in a safe, stimulating and fun environment.

From empowering a sense of community in Aboriginal and new immigrant youth to leadership programs and free sport leagues, YMCA Calgary - like Youth Singers of Calgary - is helping create a positive, healthy youth culture. Another way the YMCA is helping Calgary youth is through the Calgary Flames Grade 6 YMCA Program. Thanks to the support of the Calgary Flames Foundation, every grade 6 student in Calgary receives a FREE YMCA membership and active youth programming in their grade 6 year.

“We’re not here just to develop artists and musicians. Youth Singers is about producing wonderful young people,” says Penner. And for 30 years, Shirley Penner and her artistic, administrative and volunteer teams have produced both wonderful performers and wonderful people at Youth Singers of Calgary. 1371 Hastings Crescent SE, Calgary, AB T2G 4C8 Phone: (403) 234-9549 • Youth Singers of Calgary | 30 Years | 3

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