New director has ‘a blast' with MC3!
Camden — Toki Oshima, the new director of MC3! — the Midcoast Children's Chorus — has been singing all her life and believes singing is “an essential part of life ... almost part of human development.”
She sang with her family as a child and attended an international music camp as a teen. As an adult, she has played with a variety of old-time, folk and bluegrass bands, she said. Now she belongs to a contra dance band, Henry Road, and a world music group called Redbird.
Oshima, who has a master's degree in music education, taught at the Ashwood Waldorf School for 12 years and currently is a co-teacher at the Morning Glory Garden School in Belfast, a Waldorf kindergarten school. She became director of MC3! last fall, about a year after the chorus was founded by Midcoast Community Chorus Artistic Director Mimi Bornstein.
Bornstein said she had wanted to start a children's chorus for a long time because “everybody has a voice that deserves to be heard” and she wanted to have a safe place that celebrates children's voices. She said she had met many adults who had been told as children that they could not sing, and she wanted today's children to get a different message.
MC3! has recitals in May and December, and sometimes shares the stage with the Midcoast Community Chorus at its January and June concerts. At its December recital, MC3! drew a crowd of more than 100 and raised money for PAWS, following the model of the adult chorus at its June concert, Bornstein said. Oshima said she would like to continue to have recitals benefit an organization chosen by the children, but a beneficiary had not yet been chosen for the May recital.
With responsibility for the 150-member adult chorus and her work as a composer and workshop leader, Bornstein found she did not have time to direct the children's chorus. She said Oshima is “a fabulous folk musician.”
Oshima said rehearsals are broken up into two sessions of 45 minutes each, with 6- to 9-year-olds in one group and 10- to 12-year-olds in the other, though there is some flexibility, depending on individual members' developmental ability. The group is made up of about two-thirds girls and one-third boys, she said.
The chorus sings mostly in unison, but also does some rounds and harmony. She incorporates plenty of movement, especially for the younger children, because “it's almost like they can't help it [moving].”
In selecting music for MC3!, Oshima likes to have a core of traditional American folk songs — she said “Home on the Range” is a favorite with the children. She also brings in music from other cultures, such as a Japanese piece with unusual rhythms the chorus learned for its December recital. Contemporary songs by artists such as Jack Johnson and Cat Stevens are included as well.
Oshima said she plans to work with the older children on sight reading and some music theory concepts, but it is important to keep it fun.
“I want to make it easy and welcoming,” she said.
She spoke about the special bond that is created among people who sing together, saying “Singing is such a wonderful way to create community … Together you're creating something.”
In a culture where almost everything can be purchased ready-made, people have a need to make things for themselves, Oshima said. Making our own music with our voices “is right at your fingertips all the time.” And as an early childhood teacher, she enjoys the enthusiasm of the children and the opportunity to share her love of music and music-making.
“I'm just having such a blast with it,” she said.
Spring semester start-up
Registration for the spring semester will take place Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Feb. 5 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 33 Chestnut St., with the first rehearsal running from 4 to 5 p.m. Registration continues through Feb. 19. Rehearsals will be held every Wednesday afternoon, with a recital in May.
Registration materials are posted online at mccsings.org for early registration by mail. Semester registration fees are $75 and annual MCC dues start at $5. Partial and full scholarships are available as well as payment plans. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 975-0582.
Sarah E. Reynolds is copy editor for the Courier Gazette and Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, ride her ATV and play word games.