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Wednesday, April 17

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Performance Tue Nov 15 2011

Celebrating the Season: "Holliday for the Holidays"

For 30 years, Walt Whitman has led the Soul Children of Chicago, a gospel choir that is renowned for not only its soul-stirring performances but also its mission to use music to motivate and inspire youth. Here, he discusses the impact of the Soul Children in the community, as well as performing in an upcoming holiday concert with Grammy and Tony award-winning singer and actress, Jennifer Holliday.


Soul Children of Chicago

The Soul Children of Chicago has been around for decades, motivating children through music and the art of performing--talk about how you've sustained longevity, especially in a society where kids are easily distracted with so many other things.

We're driven by purpose. We tap into the spiritual side of kids and we create such a family atmosphere for kids to tap into their creativity and who they really are. Soul Children kind of brings the best out of a child and helps kids to become leaders--it's really a leadership development program--that's the best way to describe it--with music used as the medium for which we develop the leadership and potential out of every child that comes through the program.

How would you describe things now regarding kids and the arts as opposed to the early days of the Soul Children?

Soul Children came out of the church experience so a lot of times, we get kids who come from the church. When we first started it was a catholic school choir and we were very connected to a lot of churches; now, you have a lot of kids from various backgrounds who have heard about the program who don't have a church background. It's a different mindset that comes through now, especially with Facebook and the internet; it changes the dynamics of how they think, it affects their attention span and that whole thing of being committed to anything. We experience some of that but there's a heavy teaching piece to what we do which causes them to become more focused than the average child. What they experience in Soul Children takes them to another place which allows them to see the world, not just Chicago, in a different kind of way.

Would you say there are challenges today with keeping kids motivated about and interested in the arts?

All children really are the same--you give them a chance to experience what success feels like and you will keep their interest. They get a chance to experience something deeper and it becomes a real passion. We see the results of this from our alumni who are doctors and lawyers and teachers; when they come together, we can see that their experience with the Soul Children has helped shape who they are now.

The holiday season is upon us; tell us about your upcoming performance at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, where the Soul Children of Chicago will perform with the legendary Jennifer Holliday. How did that come about?

We've performed at the Harris Theater many times and I guess she was looking for a youth/gospel choir and they suggested to her team that we open up for and perform with her. We performed with her here in Chicago many years ago though, so a relationship was already somewhat established. We were told that her team was very excited about having the Soul Children sing with her and it was a pleasure for us to be called and asked to perform with her.

Thumbnail image for Jennifer_Holliday.jpg

Jennifer Holliday

What will the audience see at this show?

We're excited and glad to be back at the Harris Theater--it's going to be a real high energy performance! People will get to experience the full gamut of Soul Children of Chicago--a group who is an artist in its own right. There will be plenty of holiday cheer and we're looking forward to celebrating the season.

Celebrate the season with "Holliday for the Holidays," featuring singer Jennifer Holliday and the Soul Children of Chicago at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, for one night only, Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $35-$55 and are available at the box office and online. For more information, call 312-334-7777.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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