Trenton Children’s Chorus (TCC) has inspired the creativity and artistry of young people throughout Mercer County since 1989. For over 30 years, the joy of children’s voices has illuminated the halls of local, state and national venues, whose leaders have ranged from church pastors to internationally-acclaimed musicians, to even President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama.
For many alumni of the program – including parents – TCC has served as more than a conduit for premiere performance opportunities. The trademark care and attention that the artistic and administrative staff offer to each child becomes an essential part of their growth into young adults. The legacy often comes full circle, with TCC alumni and parents serving as mentors, board members, staff, volunteers and Learning Coaches through the TCC Learning Academy.
Two such members of the TCC community who have returned to serve the organization include Dawana Richardson, Board Member (former TCC parent, affiliate since 2009) and Willy Rivas, inaugural TCC Alumni Coordinator (TCC alumnus, affiliate since 1995). Richardson, a well-known singer and musical leader of Trenton (together with her saxophonist husband, Roy Richardson, Jr.), enrolled her twins in TCC’s program in 2009. Rivas, currently an affiliate of Rutgers University, joined TCC as a chorister along with his sister, Marilu, in the late 1990’s.
During a time when choral music continues to be challenged by the ongoing pandemic, these two community leaders rejoined TCC in their official roles in January 2021. Familiar with the unparalleled experiences ensemble singing afford children, Richardson and Rivas offer their perspectives on the role of TCC in the Trenton community, their favorite moments, and why programs like TCC are important, especially now in the current restless climate.
How long have you been affiliated with TCC?
Dawana: Since about 2009, when my twins Tobias and Tabia became choristers.
Willy: I started my involvement with TCC in 1995. At the time, TCC did not have a high school program so my time as a chorister came to a close in 1998. During my time in high school, however, I remained a volunteer with TCC helping chaperone some of the younger ones and helping out during retreats and concerts.
What brought you back to serve TCC?
D: I want to give back to TCC because someone was there to give when my children were involved. I’m just coming “full circle”.
W: Up until recently, I really did not know how to give back to TCC. Encapsulating all of my prior experiences afforded me the opportunity to now serve TCC in a better capacity as Alumni Coordinator; which can possibly lead to the growth of the organization.
What is your favorite TCC memory?
D: When our twins performed at the White House for the Obamas under the direction of Patty Thel; and when they auditioned and became members of the national Peace Train in 2016.
W: One of my favorite TCC memories are the rehearsals at Bethany Presbyterian Church. Mrs. Page would always have a rubber band handy to remind us the shape in which our mouth would have to be when singing. It’s the little moments like these that have I have the fondest memories of.
Why is TCC important for Trenton, especially now?
D: Children in our city are lacking a music program with a rich and diverse experience. They should be able to broaden their horizons and learn more about the world around them and music is certainly that gateway!
W: TCC is an important organization for the city of Trenton. It fulfills several needs that the city, parents and students need. Music programs, and arts programs overall, have proven to be beneficial to students. TCC provides further resources to students to learn and fine tune their musical skills in ways that may not be offered to them at their schools. The parents get a safe place for their children to attend while getting a great musical enrichment program. These programs are essential for the city of Trenton because it creates options for parents for their children to participate in extracurricular programs that are affordable. As the prices of other sports and activities increase, having programs like TCC be available and affordable allows parents to put their children in a worthwhile program without putting too much financial hardship on the family.
What is your dream for TCC’s role in Trenton?
D: TCC has always been Trenton’s “Best kept secret”! It is my desire for Trenton Children’s Chorus to be that BEACON that we all know it should and could be. They will be the BOAST of the Capital City!!
W: My dream for TCC is to become synonymous with the city of Trenton. My dream is for TCC is become nationally recognized as a top tier organization that serves the youth in a manner that positively impacts their lives – making them better students, better musicians, but overall, greater citizens of Trenton.