The Boston Children's Chorus is a talented group of young musicians who have delighted audiences across the country. But this chorus is actually much about much more than just entertainment.
The chorus is a place where racial harmony is as important as musical harmony. A place where children learn to be just as concerned about social change as they are about a change in key.
"Being in the Boston Children's Chorus has allowed me to meet many new friends and to see many other races so I will be more open to the world, because when I see cultures of others it makes me think, Hey, this is interesting. Maybe if I look into it more, I can make myself become a better person," said David Levinsky, a seventh-grader in the choir.
The chorus' mission is to bring together children who are not always exposed to cultures and races different than their own. The program targets children from Boston and its suburban areas and works to foster community-development in underserved areas.
It is all because of the vision of one man. 77-year-old Hubie Jones, a professor, social worker and social activist who has lived in Boston for more than 50 years.
"When our diverse singers walk onto a stage and sing, Boston sees what it can become," said Jones.
Jones started the group in 2003, and has been the guiding force behind the choir, even though he cannot sing or play as musical instrument himself.
"I got into this for reasons of trying to have some social development, authentic social integration of young people across these divides. And to use a musical organization like this for social healing," said Jones.
Even now, 40 years later, the school system in Boston has racial divides. Most of the white children in the Boston area attend schools that are predominately white. Most black and Latino children attend schools where they are the majority.
The Boston Children's Chorus helps to blend those lines, many of the children who participate had never even met a children from different ethnic groups.
"I definitely think I've improved being more accepting of people and it's just brought me and other cultures together," said Alissa, a member of the choir.
Over the years the chorus has grown to nine different choir groups, with children from ages seven to 18. The groups meet up to four hours a week, practicing and performing from September to June every year. Many of the children have been in the program for several years and think of it as almost a second family.
And while the program has grown in size, the head of this family is very much Hubie Jones. Jones still comes to most of the performances and is often the friendly face that first greets children who are new to the choir.
"I remember meeting him the first day I came here when I was 8, and he was nothing but smiles," said Brendan Miles, a 15-year-old sophmore in the choir. "He's kind of like a grandfather to me because he's always around, always smiling, asking me how I'm doing."
"My vision is that when these young people are 40 years old and 50 years old, they look back and say that my experience with the Boston Children's Chorus was the most important part of my development as a young person growing up," said Hubie Jones.