A Parent’s Perspective: Alice Minnick shares how FWCC impacted her daughter

When our founder, Jocelyn Basse, created this organization, it was to supplement the music education that children received at school. Today, more than ever, as budgets are reduced and arts programs are cut, our programming is essential. While our mission statement reflects our commitment to music literacy, involvement in the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir provides singers with valuable life lessons. We help singers find their voice—as musicians, leaders, and positive community members. Students are changed for the better, but don’t take our word for it. Alice Minnick’s daughter, Grace, was a member of FWCC for eleven years, and Alice shared her experience with us:

Grace’s involvement with the FWCC changed her life and ours, and I cannot imagine that her education would have been complete without the influence of this organization.

My daughter began her involvement with the choir in early elementary school. During that time, she developed exceptional musical skills, an amazing ear for singing harmony, and a tremendous ability to sight-read music. The musical skills learned there have manifested themselves far beyond the FWCC. They enabled her to be a leader in her own school’s choirs and ensembles, to have a Worship-Leader role in our church, to advance more quickly in her own private music lessons, and are apparent in her own singing and songwriting endeavors. She has developed a warm, yet confident, stage presence that began on the FWCC risers as a member of the Apprentice Choir.

In addition, the FWCC has given Grace the opportunity to work with a variety of gifted clinicians and to meet a variety of kids from many other regions and organizations. It has provided a wealth of cultural experiences too numerous to list and has given her the opportunity to travel, both domestically and internationally.  These travel opportunities have allowed her a degree of independence, while still being in a safeguarded environment.

The friendships she developed through the choir have been a tremendous addition to Grace’s life. The choir has given her an identity far beyond the walls of her own school. As a mother, I especially appreciate this aspect. As she moved from early elementary school to middle school and high school, and began to experience the additional drama that always seems to manifest itself at this age, the FWCC not only provided a refuge for her, but it also served to protect her from much adolescent angst and isolation. Because of the FWCC, she didn’t have all her eggs in one basket socially. Grace could navigate the halls of her school much more confidently, because her acquaintances and friendships went beyond the walls of her school. It gave her a confidence and a resilience that I know I didn’t have at that vulnerable age.

Grace is now in college and she has had many opportunities and even scholarship awards that can be traced directly to her involvement with the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir. The organization has offered her a stage to perform, opportunities for leadership, and the ability to demonstrate long-term commitment to an organization. It’s been our experience that these are qualities that colleges and universities are looking for.  We can’t imagine that as many doors would have opened for her without her involvement in the FWCC.

We will always be grateful for the opportunities provided to our daughter through this organization and for the countless individuals who give of their time and talent to make the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir what it is today.

Grace’s experience is like many others from the FWCC – the story of music and the positive impact in the lives of our singers.

  Amber Bouthot   Dec 08, 2017   Blog   Comments Off on A Parent’s Perspective: Alice Minnick shares how FWCC impacted her daughter Read More

Meet the Board- Justin Shurley

Meet Justin Shurley. Justin joined our board of directors in 2013. He is the Director of Development and External Affairs for IPFW Athletics. Prior to joining IPFW, he was with the TinCaps for 9 years. He also serves on the YLNI Foundation board, City of Fort Wayne Parks Board and Commissioners, Fort Wayne City Planning Commission, and Big Brothers Big Sisters Real Men Read. He and his family attend Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, where he sings in the festival choir. Originally from Paducah, KY, Justin grew up in choir. His mother was a high school choir director, as well as their church choir director and organist. He has been surrounded by music his entire life.

1- Why did you get involved with FWCC? I had helped FWCC put together a fundraiser with the TinCaps, singing the National Anthem before games. The director at the time knew I had a music background and talked to me about joining the board.  It seemed only fitting that I should support something that meant so much to me when I was growing up.

2- What were you most surprised to learn about FWCC after getting involved? I was surprised by how much the organization does– and with such a lean and dedicated staff. The staff does not get the credit they deserve for how hard they work.

3- Why do you think FWCC is important to the community? An education in the arts, and specifically in music, is extremely important in the development of a child– in the way they think, act, and problem solve. It opens up a mind to learn in different ways. With so much focus toward STEM, the arts are being forgotten about in public schools. Therefore, the FWCC is a vital part of this community, teaching children how to read music, music theory, and how to be part of something bigger than themselves.

4- What is your favorite FWCC memory? Our first Do Re Mi event. I got to see community members witnessing the FWCC and then reaching into their pockets to support the organization even though they had no direct tie to it.


  Amber Bouthot   Dec 07, 2017   Uncategorized   Comments Off on Meet the Board- Justin Shurley Read More

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