Meet the Board- Mitch McKinney

Meet Mitch McKinney, this week’s featured board member. Mitch is a sergeant with the Fort Wayne Police Department and President of the local Fraternal of Police. He was born and raised in Fort Wayne and graduated from Bishop Dwenger High School. He received his BA in Criminal Justice from Indiana Wesleyan University. He also serves as a state executive officer for the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police as a trustee for northeast Indiana. Mitch has served FWCC as a volunteer for 5 years. He also has a son who sings with Youth Chorale.

1- What were you most surprised to learn about FWCC after getting involved? I was most surprised at how professional the children were on and off stage. That is the sign of true leadership behind the scenes.

2- Why do you think FWCC is important to our community? There are not many organizations that offer such an opportunity for talent to be displayed like you can in the FWCC. By exposing these children to various events and performance opportunities it allows the community to see those kids that aren’t always featured in the paper for the ambassadors that they are. These children are the true ambassadors of Fort Wayne.

3- What is your favorite FWCC memory? I would have to say that my favorite memories were made on tour this summer when I was able to chaperone the trip to NYC and Washington DC. I had a picture taken of my son and I at our nation’s Capitol and I will cherish it forever. We had a great bonding trip and look forward to the next!

I look forward to many years of service to this organization. It is this kind of non traditional police work that helps mold our youngsters to have positive relationships with law enforcement. My son has only three years left in the organization and I plan on serving to the fullest!!!

  Amber Foster   Nov 16, 2017   Uncategorized   Comments Off on Meet the Board- Mitch McKinney Read More

Meet the Staff- Jonathan Busarow

Photo: Andy Pauquette

Meet Jonathan Busarow, our Executive Artistic Director. Jonathan grew up outside of Dayton, OH in a rural town. He attended Valparaiso University where he majored in Voice Performance. It was there that he met his wife, Nicole. He attended The Ohio State University where he earned a Master of Music in Choral Conducting and education licensure. His summers were spent at Capital University where he studied the Kodaly Methodology (how to use solfege on steroids). He had the chance to go back to Valparaiso University where he served as the university choir director while his teacher was on sabbatical. It was after this, in 2012, that Jonathan and Nicole moved to Fort Wayne so that he could work with the FWCC. He also works for IPFW in the music department, teaching choral music education, as well as directing the choir at Emanuel Lutheran Church in New Haven.

1- What do you like best about working with FWCC? Rehearsal time is how I end my work day, and it is always a highlight. The opportunity to work with students who work as hard as our students do, and then to see the rewards of them learning a new skill, having an incredible performance, or watching the friendships emerge from kids who otherwise wouldn’t have met – it’s a pretty incredible thing!
2- What is your favorite FWCC memory? Now THAT is a hard question! How to pick a favorite… Every tour has had its own incredible moments and every Holiday Pops performance has been memorable and unique. If I could just pick one performance to stand above the rest, it would have to be the Concert Choir performance at the American Choral Director’s Association conference in Chicago. It was a special moment for all of us on the stage, and a performance that our audience of choral musicians rose to their feet in appreciation of (not something that happens very often at those conferences).
3- How would you describe the culture of FWCC? It is my hope that the FWCC has a “family-like” culture. Our students, parents, and staff support one another in ways that are nearly impossible to quantify. I’d like to share one story about how this organization demonstrated that in my own life. Almost four years ago, our oldest son Simon was born. He arrived five weeks early, which meant a lengthy stay in the NICU at Lutheran Hospital for our family. The staff was incredibly supportive and allowed me the time I needed to be with my wife and son. When I came back to rehearsals, students had created not one, but two books for Simon. “A Few of My Favorite Things” which played on the Sound of Music, and a picture book of our solfege hand signs featuring our singers. Today, both of our boys use these books, and it’s a reminder of the supportive and caring place that is the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir.
4- Why should a child consider joining FWCC? Any child who likes to sing should be here! We help children learn to use their voices in a healthy way while we also instill a music reading ability so that members of the FWCC have a life-long skill. What could be better than singing for your ENTIRE LIFE?!?
  Amber Foster   Nov 14, 2017   Uncategorized   Comments Off on Meet the Staff- Jonathan Busarow Read More

Meet the Board- Skip Balkenbusch

This week’s featured board member is Skip Balkenbusch. Skip joined our board last year, but his family has been involved with FWCC for many years. His son Corey, a member of the Youth Chorale and Chamber Singers, has been in the choir for 8 years. Skip grew up in Fort Wayne and attended Northside High School and IPFW. He was a member of the All City Choir, an organization that preceded the FWCC. He did a short stint on the trumpet and cello, followed by absorption into the football collective, but he remained active in all high school singing opportunities, including choir, barbershop quartet, folk group, a Chamber Choir equivalent, rock group and others. He sang in such famous venues as his shower and the car.

1- How long have you volunteered for FWCC? I joined the board formally last year, and prior to that I volunteered every time my wife or Jonathan told me to.

2- What first got you engaged with FWCC? As I said at one of the Do Re Mi events, I think my son has been in the choir for about 21 years now. Hopefully he will graduate soon. 🙂

3- What were you most surprised to learn about FWCC after getting involved? The upside to the technical quality of the music has been very cool.

4- Why do you think FWCC is important to our community? Any youth organization that teaches team play, reaching for excellence, a dab of leadership and reinforces self-esteem is incredibly important as a broad set of values relevant to society.

5- What is your favorite FWCC memory? Hearing music enjoyed by my father, sung by myself when I was a young adult, then sung by today’s choir in incomparable quality. Often this evokes tears.

Our involvement with FWCC has been a cool way to watch our children grow up together and spawn such healthy relationships

  Amber Foster   Oct 19, 2017   Uncategorized   Comments Off on Meet the Board- Skip Balkenbusch Read More

Meet the Board- Kevin Christenson

This week’s featured board member is Kevin Christenson. Kevin has been a member of our board since 2014. He has two kids, Colin (16) and Katy (12).  He and his family moved from Stratford, CT to Fort Wayne, IN his sophomore year of high school.  His parents enrolled him in the high school marching band, and it was one of the best decisions they ever could have made for him. After graduating from Homestead High School in 1992, he immediately started teaching at area high school marching band programs. Something he is am still doing 25 years later!
Kevin attended Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington and after moving back to Fort Wayne, graduated from IPFW with a degree in music education. He has been a band director, a music academy director, a music sales manager, and a private clinician. Kevin also serves on the board for FAME and volunteers at numerous music events each year.  He has had a lifelong passion for music education and its undeniable positive impact on the human condition.
1- Why do you volunteer for FWCC? I became a board member of the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir after being asked by a FWCC board member, Justin Shurley, to serve on a committee for the FWCC Annual Do Re Mi Fund Raiser. I am currently still a member of that committee and we are already well underway planning the next Do Re Mi event taking place on February 3, 2018.
2- What were you most surprised to learn about FWCC after getting involved? After getting involved with the organization, I was surprised to learn how well trained the young voices of the choir become throughout the year.
I always knew the level of excellence the choir consistently displayed in performances but the overall curriculum is well thought out, proven, reinforced through performance, and built upon month after month, year after year. It is not just rote teaching; it is building a skill these students can use their entire lives, while making memories of singing that will stay with them just as long.
3- Why do you think FWCC is important to our community? I think the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir represents Northeast Indiana’s commitment to quality music education. What sets apart the FWCC is their long standing dedication to the craft of making music with voices at the highest level.  The FWCC represents Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana in all of its travels
4- What is your favorite FWCC memory? My favorite FWCC memory is performing with Smooth Edge 2 at ChoralFest 2016 at Follinger Theatre. The choir members and the rest of the audience seemed to enjoyed the performance and our group was very honored to be a part of the evening’s festivities. Since I unfortunately was not a member of the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir, I did not sing but, I do make a lot of percussion noises with my mouth! Beat Boxing was pretty popular on the East Coast in the 80’s!
  Amber Foster   Oct 12, 2017   Uncategorized   Comments Off on Meet the Board- Kevin Christenson Read More

Meet the Staff- Donna Hartleroad

Photo: Andy Pauquette

This week’s featured staff member is Donna Hartleroad, accompanist for the Lyric and Treble Choirs. Donna graduated from Cedarville University with a degree in Piano Performance and a minor in  Music Theory. She did  a year of graduate  studies at The Ohio State University. She grew up on a farm in Northwest Ohio, about 30 miles northeast of Fort Wayne. At present, outside of FWCC, she is working in local schools, helping middle and high school students in their musical endeavors. she and her husband are very active in their church in many different capacities. They also have 2 adorable grandchildren, one here in Fort Wayne, one in Missouri, and another on the way, here in Fort Wayne, that keep them unbelievably busy and on their toes at all times.

1- What do you like best about working with FWCC? There are so many good things to say about FWCC. One of the things I like about working with FWCC  is their passion for education, growth, and development of the children in our choirs. It’s not all about performance, though that is emphasized. We speak to musical literacy, musical expression, and personal development of each child. It’s  a joy to watch our young singers as they mature and develop and make their way through each of our choirs.

Another thing I like about working at FWCC  is the camaraderie and like mindedness between all the conductors, accompanist, and staff that I have worked with. Always professional, always caring, always the same expectations no matter which choir I attend, yet like one big family.

2- What is your favorite FWCC memory? I have many wonderful memories from FWCC.  Some of the early ones when Mr. Meads was directing the choir I accompanied to more recent. I guess the latest was when we were on tour last summer and Youth Chorale did an impromptu song at the 9/11 museum, outside at the infinity pool. It was a somber moment, but I was  very proud of how our young adults sang and also understood the significance of that particular place. 

3- How would you describe the culture of FWCC?  I consider the  culture of FWCC as that of a nurturing environment. I’ve seen shy young students blossom and come out of their shell. No one is forced to speak or sing, yet every opportunity is given, and supported. I think that is probably why I sing the praises of FWCC wherever I go and suggest it to families with children who are of the age to be in FWCC. The Nurturing environment. Also the variety of repertoire the children sing along with the many languages they learn.  Also, children will get to know and make many friends with children their own age from other schools, and home schooled. With that common bond of music, it is amazing to watch friendships start that will last maybe a lifetime. I can even say for myself I have met new people at FWCC whose friendship I now treasure.


  Amber Foster   Oct 05, 2017   Uncategorized   Comments Off on Meet the Staff- Donna Hartleroad Read More

Concert Etiquette

As our Harvest Concert on Sunday, November 5, approaches, we thought we’d post this friendly reminder about concert etiquette. Our singers have worked hard to prepare. We want them to be successful and we want all of you to enjoy the performance.

–  The cardinal rule is to not do anything that distracts from the music itself.

– Arrive at least fifteen minutes early for the concert. Even if the lights haven’t gone down, it can be disruptive to make your way to your seat when most people are already seated in your aisle.

– Please turn off your cell phones. Checking email or reading news, etc., on a smartphone during a concert makes no sound, but the bright light may be distracting to others in a darkened room.

-Be respectful of your fellow patrons. If you are wearing a hat, remove it; if you have glasses on your forehead, remove them. If you have a large purse, place it on the floor under your seat.

-Please refrain from talking during the performance. The slightest whisper can be disrupting.

– Plan to eat before you arrive, as no food is allowed in the venue.

– Remain seated during the performance unless it is an emergency.

– Remain in the concert hall until the applause ends and the lights come up.

  Amber Foster   Sep 27, 2017   Uncategorized   Comments Off on Concert Etiquette Read More

Meet the Board- Megan Ryan

This week’s featured board member is Megan Ryan. Megan is a FWCC alum and serves as our secretary on the board of directors. She is a special education teacher at FWCS Towles Montessori and is entering her 8th year of teaching. She was born and raised in Fort Wayne and graduated from Saint Mary’s College in 2009, with her undergraduate degree. She obtained her masters in Special Education at The University of Saint Francis in 2014. In between her undergraduate and graduate work, she spent a large amount of time teaching in Ghana, West Africa. She is also a member and volunteer at the Southwest Conservation Club, and co-owner of Southwest Honey Company, where she gets to spend all of her free time caring for honey bees and managing their pollinator education programs for the community.
1- Why do you volunteer with FWCC? I have been associated with the FWCC since I was in 5th grade! I was overjoyed when I was asked to be a part of the board 4 years ago. I first got engaged with the choir because of my music teacher in elementary school. She encouraged me to audition, and I never looked back.
2- What were you most surprised to learn about FWCC after getting involved?  I have always known, all these years, that the adults who work with FWCC work hard. But man oh man! Once I joined the board, I really got an inside look at what it really takes to make such a phenomenal organization find the success that it has. Kudos to all the staff, directors, board members, and volunteers!
3- Why do you think FWCC is important to our community? The FWCC is essential to our Fort Wayne community for three simple reasons: educational excellence, fostering of cultural appreciation, developing relationships (the music is the tool used to do all three of these-and beautiful music at that). These are three things that every child should be exposed to and assisted in developing during their childhood.
4- What is your favorite FWCC memory?  My favorite FWCC memory is our tour trip to England when I was in 6th grade. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I was lucky enough to have my mom and my grandmother along for the trip, and I got to room with my good friend, Becky Caywood. In one short trip, my life was forever changed- my love for travel, the world around me, and soaking up different cultures would never be the same!
  Amber Foster   Sep 21, 2017   Blog   Comments Off on Meet the Board- Megan Ryan Read More

Meet the Staff- Laura Dallman

Photo: Andy Pauquette

This week’s featured staff member is Laura Dallman. Laura is our Boychoir accompanist. She has worked with the FWCC in some capacity for the past three years. First she was a guest artist, and then she joined permanently as the Boychoir accompanist.

Laura grew up in Terre Haute, Indiana, and has lived all of her life in Indiana, save a short summer stint at a music festival in Vail, Colorado. She currently teaches music appreciation, class piano, and music history at IPFW and Ball State University. Laura earned a Bachelor’s of Music (Piano Performance) at Ball State University, a Master of Arts (Musicology) Indiana University, and a Doctor of Philosophy (Musicology) Indiana University.

1- What do you like best about working with FWCC? I like the positive atmosphere that the FWCC creates and encourages, both for the students and the staff.

2- What is your favorite FWCC memory? I was just tickled when the Boychoir sang “Johnny Schmoker” at a dress rehearsal and the rest of the FWCC gave them thunderous applause. The boys looked so excited!

3- How would you describe the culture of FWCC? I would describe the culture of FWCC as inviting and caring.

4- In your own words, why should a child consider joining FWCC?  I think children should consider joining FWCC because they will meet other children of all ages that love music and singing. From a more educational standpoint, I know they will receive quality music education, too.

  Amber Foster   Sep 14, 2017   Blog   Comments Off on Meet the Staff- Laura Dallman Read More

Meet the Board- Tony Strickler

This week’s featured board member is Tony Strickler. Tony has served on the board for 4 years, 3 as our Treasurer. By day he is the Vice President of Credit at Sweetwater and he has been there for 23 years. He also serves as treasurer on the Board of Director as his church where he has attended for 16 years. He grew up in Decatur and went to Ball State University. He and his wife, Jill, have been married for 27 years. They have two daughters: Allison, a 2016 Purdue Graduate who is now working at Lutheran Hospital, and Cassidy, a freshman at Purdue studying chemical engineering.

1- Why do you volunteer with FWCC?  I got involved many years ago when our daughter Allison was part of the FWCC. She was a member for 5 years. Jonathan and his staff do fantastic work, both with the kids and building FWCC for the future. I feel honored to serve as a board member.
2- What were you most surprised to learn about FWCC after getting involved? Just how large the Choir is and the focus on education. Teaching the underlying concepts, education, and discipline of music transfers over into so many areas that will benefit our singers well into the future.
3- Why do you think FWCC is important to our community? The Fort Wayne arts community is growing right now, and I believe it’s important that a program as unique as FWCC is part of that.
4- What is your favorite FWCC memory? As a Parent, seeing my daughter grow and mature in the choir, both musically and as a young women. As a board member, when Jonathan tried to teach the board to play the chimes. Let’s just say it’s a good thing we didn’t have to perform anywhere.  We will leave that to the professionals– our singers!
  Amber Foster   Sep 07, 2017   Uncategorized   Comments Off on Meet the Board- Tony Strickler Read More

Meet the Staff- Susie Peirce

Photo: Andy Pauquette

This week’s featured staff member is Susie Peirce, Communication & Grants Manager. Susie has been with FWCC for 6 years. She was originally hired to fill a nine-month interim position and was invited to stay. We are glad she did!

Susie grew up in Goshen, Indiana, and moved to Fort Wayne to attend Parkview-Methodist School of Nursing. Upon graduation, she worked a year as evening charge nurse in the Parkview surgery and for 11 years with Orthopaedics Northeast as a hospital rounding nurse. Once she and her husband started a family, she chose to stay home with their children until they were in middle and high school. Upon returning to employment, she has worked as a church administrator, elementary school media clerk and TV producer, educational outreach coordinator, literacy initiative assistant, and consultant.

When she is not working, she enjoys traveling to visit with friends and family, spending time with their grandgirls, reading, needlework, bicycling, and walking. This October, she and her husband will take their second long bicycle trip. Last year they biked 150 miles from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD, and this year they will bike the Katy Trail (260 miles) across the state of Missouri.

Here’s a little bit more about Susie:

1- What do you like best about working with FWCC? I appreciate working with an incredibly talented and committed staff. They are extremely knowledgeable and possess an incredible work ethic. Although I really have limited contact with the singers, I do have the opportunity to interact with their families. I really admire the commitment from the parents/guardians to their children and our organization.

2- What is your favorite FWCC memory?  I will never forget the Concert Choir’s performance at the ACDA conference in Chicago. Compared to the size of the other performing groups on their program, the Concert ensemble was small. And then they sang…incredible! Their level of intensity and passion was heard in their voices. The audience’s response was confirmation that everyone there had witnessed an extraordinary performance.

3- How would you describe the culture of FWCC? The culture of the FWCC is supportive, encouraging, and caring. This is present in the administrative and artistic staff and their interactions with the children and their families, as well as the singers and their contact with other FWCC members.

4- In your own words, why should a child consider joining FWCC? I believe it is important for children to participate in activities that interest them. But I also realize that there are some extra-curricular choices that can impact a child’s life. Singing in the FWCC is one of those choices. Children have the opportunity to have extraordinary directors, meet children from communities throughout northeast Indiana, perform for thousands of people in unusual venues, and at the same time, receive a music education that is second to none. This combination of intellectual and physical experiences is extraordinary.


  Amber Foster   Aug 31, 2017   Uncategorized   Comments Off on Meet the Staff- Susie Peirce Read More
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