For Aimee Stewart, founder of the Chandler Children’s Choir, music has always been a major part of her life.
“I come from a very musical family and a lot of solo performers,” the Chandler resident says.
Growing up, she studied both violin and voice. In addition to solo work, she also sang in a number of choirs around the country, including the Phoenix Symphony Chorus.
She’s such a fan of choirs, in fact, that when people approached her about private voice lessons for their kids, she would suggest they join a local children’s choir. After moving to Chandler 10 years ago, however, that advice fell through.
“People said, ‘There isn’t one nearby,’” she recalls. “But then they would ask, ‘Why don’t you start one?’”
So, in 2008, with just 27 singers, Stewart and her husband founded the Chandler Children’s Choir.
“I love teaching groups and love teaching children. And I love choral music too,” she says. “Directing a children’s choir was a combination of all the passions I had.”
Nine years later, the Chandler Children’s Choir boasts more than 140 auditioned singers who range in age from 7 to 18. Participants come from Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Ahwatukee, Tempe, and a few as far away as Maricopa and Phoenix.
That number also includes three of Stewart’s four children, all of whom – unsurprisingly – sing and play instruments. This is actually the first concert for her youngest, and she admits he has a little stage fright. Asked what her kids think of being in a choir conducted by their mom,
she responds jokingly, “I think they’re proud their mom is the one in charge bossing everyone around.”
The choir performs four major concerts during its August-May season, as well as special events, festivals, honor choirs and other opportunities. There are also regular tours around the state and country.
The choir’s final concert of its ninth season takes place at Chandler Center for the Arts on Saturday, May 13. The theme is “Fields of Gold” and focuses heavily on Americana, spirituals and spring. Expect to hear familiar works like “Simple Gifts,” “America the Beautiful,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and “Homeland,” along with lesser-known works like “Stand Upon the Rock,” and the titular “Fields of Gold.”
Accompanying the choir on several pieces – and performing a few solo works – will be classical guitarist Erik Sloyka.
“It doesn’t get more Americana than an acoustic guitar,” Stewart observes.
“I think it’s really going to be a beautiful concert and something different,” she says. “I think it’s going to lower [the audience’s] blood pressure and give them a relaxing night of music.”
After the concert, Stewart’s plate only gets fuller. In addition to planning the choir’s milestone 10th season, she was recently elected president of the Arizona chapter of the American Choral Director’s Association. According to its website, the ACDA represents more than 1 million singers across the country.
Stewart’s goal as president will be to “grow our successful programs, support and expand our membership, and reach out to underserved areas.” In that mission, she feels like Arizona is a good place to be.
“People take their choral arts seriously here,” she says, “and I love it!”