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Local Youth Choirs Merge to Become Lumina Youth Choirs

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Tampa Bay Children's Chorus

The final concert for the Gulf Coast Youth Choirs and the Tampa Bay Children's Chorus is this weekend. They perform at the Straz Center in Tampa this Sunday (May 17) at 4. They will close the chapter on what once was and move forward, together, as Lumina Youth Choirs, beginning July 1.

For decades, Dr. Lynne Gackle led the Gulf Coast Youth Choirs and Dr. Averill Summer led the Tampa Bay Children's Chorus. Their missions were not the same, but with the retirement of both longtime leaders, the groups met to talk and decided they were finally on the same page.

Mark Rains, a geologist and president of the Tampa Bay Children's Chorus Board, said the time was right for the two groups to sing in harmony.  "It just seemed to make a lot of sense that if we had two choruses that were substantively the same, then we should stop competing with one another and merge to form one. So it just came together organically," Rains said.

Rains also said in the past, once boys' voices cracked, there really weren't the numbers for the boys to keep singing with TBCC, but as they join forces, there will be. And, he said, Lumina Youth Choirs will be better equipped to bring in children and their families who are underserved in the community because they cannot afford to sing with the choirs.

Deah McReynolds, the Musical Director of Gulf Coast Youth Choirs, will be the Artistic Director of Lumina Youth Choirs. "I cannot imagine not having an organization like this to meet the needs of the kids in this community that really love choral music. Because I have always been that kid."

"For me, singing is like breathing and I know that these children feel that way as well. And to be able to provide experiences here in the community, taking them abroad, being able to open their eyes to how they can use their music to touch other people's lives, to me, that is priceless," she said.

Van Howard serves as president of the Gulf Coast Youth Choirs Board. He enrolled his musical daughter, Abigail into the choirs when she was in Kindergarten. "This is a very necessary organization for our community, with the decline in music education in public schools and with providing an intense choral music education for students and a sense of community for students, it meets the needs of students in a way that the public schools really can't," he said.

So how does his daughter, Abigail, now a high school senior, feel about her choral experience?

She said, "As I went through the choirs my love of choral music grew and grew. And I've made so many great friends through this program, it's just been a really important and amazing part of my life."

Like Howard, Rains got involved with the choirs because of his daughters. "And my kids sang poorly. And so," he said with a laugh, "their mother and I told them, if they wanted to continue to sing in the back of the car, they would need to get instruction."

That is how the Rains family began working with the Tampa Bay Youth Choirs. 

Lumina Youth Choirs will continue to be based at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where Rains said they have access to a "world class" facility.

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