"The San Diego Children's Choir continues to emphasize fostering resilience at every opportunity".

By Ruthie Millgard, Artistic Director, San Diego Children’s Choir February 24, 2021

Resilience is commonly referenced in child psychology rhetoric as an essential characteristic for young people to develop in order to become successful and well-adjusted adults. One might argue, however, that the culture of child-rearing has been leaning further away from allowing for resilience building opportunities. In our desire to save our children from experiencing discomfort or frustration, are we perhaps not allowing for the development of this essential characteristic?

As a music education organization, the San Diego Children’s Choir proudly provides resilience-building opportunities for our choristers, primarily through performance experiences, even in the time of COVID. One perfect example was this year’s San Diego Symphony’s Noel Noel, the symphony’s annual holiday series.

Premier choristers look forward to performing in Noel Noel every year, so much so that several identify it as the highlight of their holiday season. It is one of the primary SDCC-provided opportunities that leaves a lasting impression on our choristers into adulthood. Performing on stage at Copley Symphony Hall with the SD Master Chorale and SD Symphony with audiences of thousands after working hard to perfect repertoire is thrilling each and every year.

This year, of course, was much different, and we were incredibly grateful to be invited to participate in the Symphony’s COVID adjusted concert.

A small group of our choristers were asked to perform several songs in an independent recording session at Copley Symphony Hall. Prior to our committing to the event, we were reassured that all those in the building would be tested for COVID the day prior (including our choristers and chaperones), and that everyone would be wearing masks and staying distanced throughout the process. We also knew that the orchestra would record several days earlier to keep numbers in the building low at any one time. One parent chaperone noted afterward how impressed she was with the Symphony’s ability to stick with and maintain these precautions.

One week before the scheduled recording date, the recording session was moved up five days, anticipating a state-imposed COVID lockdown. Not only did choristers and their families have to adjust their schedules, but suddenly choristers had five fewer days to learn their music.

Despite the schedule change, chorister energy was palpable once we arrived at Copley Symphony Hall on recording day. The overall mood was one of cautious excitement, but once we started rehearsing in the lobby (the first time the choristers heard each other singing their repertoire), they relaxed and quickly settled into their pre-performance routine.

Almost immediately, additional challenges arose, as we have all become used to during the pandemic, and the Symphony did an exceptional job of managing the myriad of moving parts, including a delay onstage by almost an hour, which resulted in some of our choristers singing on stage after their bedtime on a school night. That, combined with standing onstage for an uncomfortably long period of time challenged their ability to perform with energy take after take after take, which they did brilliantly!

One final challenge was perhaps the most difficult one. We learned only shortly before stepping on stage that choristers would be recorded while singing a long medley of songs without being able to hear the pre-recorded orchestral accompaniment. For those of you who aren’t aware of why that might be a challenge: hearing the accompaniment while singing is how we stay in tune and in time. For many other groups, it might have been a disaster. Our choristers took the news in stride, never once complained, and performed beautifully, thanks in part to a few choristers who happen to have perfect pitch, and to all of them for reacting with pinpoint accuracy to the guest conductor’s gestures. In the final product, with compliments to the Symphony's post production team, even my discerning ears couldn’t tell.

There is no doubt that chorister resilience was tested through this process, and our young participants passed with flying colors.

Upon reflection, one chaperone for the event (and SDCC’s Family Association president), Lyz Boltz, had this to say:

“[My chorister’s] ability to adjust on the spot is a true testament to the talent you’ve fostered.”

This experience is just one example of the resilience that choristers have displayed in the past year, during which all SDCC choristers have been faced with challenges requiring adaptability in every facet of SDCC participation as well as elsewhere in their lives. Even after the challenges of COVID wane, SDCC will continue to emphasize fostering resilience at every opportunity.

The San Diego Children’s Choir is the county's oldest and largest choral music education and performance program for youth (ages 4-18), choristers in the SDCC represent more than 145 San Diego County schools. Last year, the SDCC celebrated its 30th anniversary! To learn more about the organization, including how to get involved, visit

Support the San Diego Children's Choir by donating HERE

San Diego Choir

1620 5th Avenue, Suite 300

San Diego, CA 92101


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