September 22, 2017

Jeremy Harrison, 13, a Trenton resident who has been singing with the Trenton Children’s Chorus (TCC) since kindergarten, said the program taught him teamwork and to “take opportunities and run with them.”

Malachi Stewart, 9, of Ewing, who also drums, would recommend the program to his peers.

Nadir Roberts, a student at The College of New Jersey, says the four years he spent at the chorus taught him life lessons, including the public speaking skills that will serve him well as a political science major.

“It felt like a real family,” he said. “It made me feel at home.”

The story of TCC is a story of collaboration. The program was created through a collaboration of volunteers and it grew, in part, because of a collaboration among funders, including the Princeton Area Community Foundation.

The chorus was founded in 1989 at Nassau Presbyterian Church, with some help from Trinity Church, a few volunteers and 11 youngsters. TCC now serves about 150 children in grades K-12, through seven choirs, a drumming program and a weekly learning academy. The program also employs teens as rehearsal assistants.

Choir officials credit some of that growth to funding the organization received from a local funders collaborative: the Community Foundation, the Bunbury Company, the Harbourton Foundation and the Mary Owen Borden Foundation gave a significant, 3-year, capacity-building commitment to the chorus. Those funds were followed up with a 2-year bridge grant from the Community Foundation. Those grants allowed TCC to:

  • Receive technical assistance from expert consultants to facilitate the strategic planning process
  • Grow and diversify the Board of Trustees
  • Provide intensive training for new development staff, resulting in a 156% increase in income over five years
  • Review and revise organizational policies for mission match, relevance and transparency
  • Hire its first full-time Executive Director and full-time Director of Development
  • Build a sizeable cash reserve to support future expansion
  • Create financial checks and balances systems, and improve accounting functionality
  • Expand its capacity to include the position of a full-time, visionary Artistic Director

The choirs perform at various locations, including nonprofit and corporate events. Choir members performed for the Obamas at the White House. They also sang at the inauguration of Gov. Chris Christie and the swearing-in ceremony of former Congressman Rush Holt.

“Our children are rich with experience,” said Executive Director Linda Helm Krapf, adding that the program provides young people with the tools needed to succeed in academics, social settings and the workplace.

Besides music instruction, students attend a weekly Learning Academy for tutoring, homework help, SAT Prep and college application assistance. Mercer County’s high school graduation rate is below the state average, but all of the choir’s graduates have completed high school and enrolled in college.

Madison Miller, 17, a student at Lawrence High School, joined the chorus in 9th grade. Now, she also works there, as a rehearsal assistant.

“TCC brings so much to the table,” she said. “TCC is a place where kids can come to make friends. If you love to sing, you can sing. If you want to make friends, you can just make friends. …I was actually thankful that my parents put me in here – in an environment like this.”

She wants other children to know about the program.

“They can come to TCC with a passion if they have one,” she said. “They can come to get a friend if they need one. They can come in knowing they are in a safe environment. They can come in and be themselves, and sing, and embrace their true colors.”