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San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus Hires First Black Managing Director
By Kimberly Shelby, Contributing Writer
Published July 28, 2022

Kyla Page Williams has worked in the performing arts since she was a child. (Courtesy photo)

The San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus, a Canoga-Park-based organization that has been guiding young people in developing musical skills since 1992, has hired Kyla Page Williams as their first managing director.

Over the previous decades, duties were handled by devoted board member and chorister parent, Sue Saper. Now the torch has been passed, and Kyla Page Williams, who assumed her position last month, is just the woman to light things afire for the foreseeable future.

“I feel I am uniquely qualified for this position because, not only do I have experience running my own business, but being a musician myself, in a choir since I was seven, I can bring that experience to the job as well,” says Williams. “I’m also a graduate of Westminster Choir College, so you could say, I love choral singing!”

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A classically-trained mezzo-soprano who studied in Florence, Italy, Williams has performed for the U.S. Army, the American Cancer Society, L.A. City Hall, and has appeared in such venues as Second City Los Angeles and Upstairs at Vitello’s.

As an example of the kind of range Williams will bring to the chorus, as a performer, she’s delighted audiences as a soloist in a musical tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein, commanded the stage as an opera singer in Bizet’s “Carmen” and Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte,” recorded vocals for Sony Thailand’s #1 Hip-Hop act Thaitanium, and sang lead alongside experimental rock band Unpoppable.

Outreach, community building, and youth work have also been an integral part of Williams’ journey, as she has worked with the Los Angeles Outreach Program, participated in Ann Baltz’s Los Angeles OperaWorks, and developed her own early childhood music classes. Thus, it’s fitting that she should find herself in an environment that aims to use choral instruction, community outreach, and choral music performance to help young people grow personally and artistically.

The 30-year-old institution began as the Angeles Chorale Children’s Chorus. Today, as the San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus, the organization offers its youth the opportunity to participate in one of three distinct choirs, grouped by age: Kinder Choir (age 3 through 1st grade), Concert Choir (2nd grade to 12th grade), and Advanced Ensemble (by invitation).

All students receive education in ear-training, vocal technique, theory, and history. Tuition ranges from $100 to $175 per semester, depending on the choir. Payments can be made in installments, and financial scholarships are available for those who qualify.

“We welcome all who have a passion for singing,” says Williams. “We are a non-auditioned choir, and no one is turned away due to lack of musical talent or ability to pay. About 60% of our current families receive tuition assistance.”

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The Chorus’s winter and spring concerts are open to the public. Choirs rehearse on Sundays at First United Methodist Church, which is located at 22700 Sherman Way in Canoga Park. Williams hopes the upcoming year will find the choir performing around town more frequently, in which case extra rehearsals and performance times may be added. Most recently, they performed at the Madrid Theater. This was one of several successful post-pandemic outings after a difficult couple of years.

“Rebuilding the choir membership [has been a challenge],” Williams notes. “Covid has been very challenging for musicians, but we are finding our way back. We follow the up-to-date CDC guidelines, as our members’ health is of utmost importance to us. The choir has been around for 30 years! We are celebrating that and also looking forward to the future of the chorus.  It’s been so exciting to go see live performances again!”

A new artistic director has also just been hired.  “Her vision aligns with ours,” Williams says. “She has a passion for all types of world music. I believe it’s important for our kids to experience a wide range of music. The chorus members have gotten a taste of all types of musical genres. From pop to classical to jazz.”

Williams is aiming for the membership to be just as diverse. “Our goal as an organization is to provide music education to all,” she says. “I want the chorus to look like our community. The San Fernando Valley is rich in culture, and it’s my goal to attract people from all walks of life.”

Diversity shows up in a lot of ways for Williams. With a board and staff composed mostly of working parents, lots of hats are worn. “My biggest accomplishment right now is the balancing act I do on a day-to-day basis,” says Williams.

“I’m proud to be raising two amazing children—twelve-year-old JT and ten-month-old Joelle—alongside my supportive and talented husband, Jim Titus. Running my own business, teaching voice lessons, performing with LA Opera Chorus in their upcoming season, and working with the choir. All of these things fill my cup in many ways, the creative in me, the helper in me, the manager in me. I feel grateful to be able to do it all. I’m proud of the work that I do.”

For the San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus, Williams is focused currently on outreach to local schools and music teachers to raise awareness. Fall registration is live on their website. The first rehearsal is September 11th. In the meantime, the Chorus is partnering with Muse-ique to offer a Summer Jam on Sundays, a new program combining different art forms. The future for the Chorus may be similar. Looking long-term, Williams’ vision is expansive.

“We’d love to give our choristers experiences to last a lifetime. We’d also like to raise money to fund other programs. I see a musical theater program in our future.”

Learn more at valleyyouthchorus.org and facebook.com/ValleyYouthChorus

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