Young singers return from overseas tour

MAKING MUSIC—The MUSYCA Melody ensemble sings at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on March 29. Young singers from ages 4 to 21 comprise the MUSYCA ensembles.

MAKING MUSIC—The MUSYCA Melody ensemble sings at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on March 29. Young singers from ages 4 to 21 comprise the MUSYCA ensembles.

For children, teens and young adults who know how to belt out a tune, a choral program called MUSYCA (Musical Youth of California) Children’s Choir provides an opportunity to perform in front of crowds and at professional venues.

The children’s choir recently returned from an international tour to Austria and the Czech Republic.

The touring choir sang in Vienna, Salzburg and Prague, said Mikhail Shtangrud, director of the children’s choir.

Shtangrud said the children in the 2014 tour performed to standing ovations at venues such as Haus der Musik and Karlskirche in Vienna, Kirche St. Blasius in Salzburg, and St. Nicholas Church and St. Vitus Cathedral, both in Prague.

The choir program, founded in 2010 by Dr. Anna Krendel, is open to children in Los Angeles County and neighboring communities in the Conejo Valley, Simi Valley and Moorpark. The program provides music education to children, teens and young adults age 4 to 21 of all religious, ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds, said Shtangrud.

Katie Fein, an incoming 10th-grade student at Agoura High School, has been singing Soprano II (a cross between soprano and alto) in the program for two years.

“There were really a lot of great moments,” Katie said of the trip overseas, her first time visiting Europe. “ What was really fun was learning about the language, culture and food. We were immersed in different cultures.”

Katie said that although she has participated in music camps and sung in school choirs, the experience with MUSYCA’s harmony group has provided more in-depth study. She said she has developed a new appreciation for classical music, especially Mozart, since the group visited his home in Vienna.

Katie says she may pursue a singing career as an adult, if she doesn’t land a criminal science or psychology job after college. The European trip gave her a good idea of what it would be like to tour as a professional singer.

“It’s exhausting but it’s really fun,” she said.

Katie’s mother, Karen Dola, said the singers meet once or twice a week in West Hills or Granada Hills.

The drive from Agoura Hills to the San Fernando Valley is worth it, Dola said.

“I do it because I discovered Katie loves to sing,” she said. “At the risk of sounding corny, the (choir) program really brought the music out of her.”

Emily Gilmartin, a 12-year-old Calabasas resident who attends St. Mels School in Woodland Hills, has been singing since she was a tot. When she auditioned for a spot in the choir she sang “Happy Birthday” and a few scales.

“It’s been amazing, the whole experience. . . .” Emily said. “Traveling to sing is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”

She was particularly thrilled to visit Salzburg since it is the backdrop to her favorite movie, “The Sound of Music.”

“All my life I’ve wanted to be a singer when I grow up. I just loved it very much,” she said of the trip.

Sophie Burnstein of Calabasas is a 10-year-old singer who recently graduated into the choir for older children. She also performed in Europe and said she particularly enjoyed the dinner cruise in Prague.

“Performing was pretty fun,” Sophie said. “We performed in cool places.”

The 2014 performance year also allowed younger choral students to perform in the U.S., including at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Shtangrud said the children sang “The Man” with Aloe Blacc. The program was seen in more than 375 million households around the world in more than 25 languages, Shtangrud said.

MUSYCA singers also collaborated with the Grammy-nominated producer-songwriter Alexander Palmer this year on a soon-to-be-released song and recorded music with music producer and hip-hop artist DJ Mustard at the Encore Studios in Burbank.

Choir members also sang and acted in “Black Friday Orphans: The Musical,” a short film produced by the creators of the musical “Funny or Die.” The singers also appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The young singers also performed at Disneyland and Universal Studios this year.

“This has been a very exciting year for MUSYCA, full of amazing performances,” Shtangrud said in an email.

There are five ensembles in MUSYCA, starting with the Kinderchoir for 4- to 6-yearolds. The other four ensembles include Melody (ages 7 to 12), Opera Workshop ( 10 to 18), Harmony Choir (10 to 18) and Chamber Choir (16 to 21).

A nonprofit group, MUSYCA is supported in part by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles Arts Commission.

For more information on the ensembles, visit

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