African Children’s Choir | The spokesperson’s review

The African Children’s Choir is making several stops in Spokane and Spokane Valley this week as the group of artists spends several months touring the Western United States singing, dancing and drumming.

Choir director Tina Sipp said she was excited to bring the group to her hometown to perform. The choir includes 20 Ugandan children aged 7 to 11. The tour is sponsored by Music for Life, an international non-profit organization that raises funds to provide education to poor students in African countries.

“The goal of the organization is to provide education to orphaned and poor children,” Sipp said. “We’re really trying to raise a new generation.”

In Uganda, there are private schools which cost money, but public schools also require uniforms and school supplies. “They really can’t afford it,” Sipp said. “They’re just trying to get food for the day.”

There is an open audition process for children interested in joining the choir, but the focus is more on those who need help the most rather than talent, Sipp said. “There’s a kind of innate talent for singing and dancing with kids,” she says.

Children chosen for the choir are promised an education up to college level and work with tutors during their journey. But the fundraising tours also support even more students back home, 58,000 of them over the past 38 years, Sipp said. “The choir’s work supports hundreds of other children,” she said.

While the children are on the trip, they also have the opportunity to enjoy other experiences, such as visiting aquariums and going to the beach. “They just have a lot of opportunities to see and do and meet,” she said. “Then they go back to the school where they started.”

Sipp said she has worked for the organization for 20 years and loves seeing the pure joy children experience doing things that might be taken for granted here, including swimming in a hotel pool. “I really enjoy watching the kids grow,” she said.

The currently touring group left their country earlier this month and will return in January. In addition to Sipp and other volunteers, they are accompanied by four Ugandan chaperones, all of whom were members of the choir when they were children. They talk during performances about the impact of education on their lives, Sipp said.

“The repercussions continue,” she said. “The difference it makes in a person’s life is profound.”

Those who attend the shows can expect to see traditional African dancing and singing, as well as English songs set to African rhythms. “A lot of the show is in African languages,” Sipp said.

People are invited to make a love offering during the performances. Craft products such as baskets are also available for purchase at each performance, as well as T-shirts and CDs.

“We want people to come and associate with us,” Sipp said. “It’s not a small investment.”

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