Indianapolis Children’s Choir Nurtures Student Achievement Through Music Education

Writer & Photographer / Melissa Gibson

Since 1986, the Indianapolis Children’s Choir (ICC) has been inspiring youth and fostering a love for music throughout the city.

Despite their program name, throughout the past decade the ICC has been growing and expanding to areas beyond Indianapolis, and now leads several programs in Hendricks County.

They offer opportunities starting from 18 months old through seniors in high school. Preparatory choir is for grades first through third, and no one auditions at this level. It’s considered an introduction to choral music and allows youth to explore their interest in singing. 

Several auditioned choirs are offered for fourth through seventh grade, including beginning and intermediate levels. Lyric or intermediate-level choirs are designed for those students advancing in their skills, and include additional performances.

“In Hendricks County we have a Music at Play program for preschoolers in Danville,” says Leeann Starkey, director of the ICC. “We offer a preparatory choir in Avon and Brownsburg, two beginning-level choirs for fourth grade and up at Avon and Brownsburg, and a lyric or intermediate-level choir in Brownsburg for fourth grade and up.”

ICC accepts singers on every level and the process is simple. While auditions are typically conducted in April, students can enroll any time throughout the year. For those who are nervous about the thought of an audition, Starkey says not to be.

“For the beginning level and intermediate levels, the auditions are really more about getting to know the child and putting them in the best choir for them,” Starkey says.

The full season runs from August to May each year, and the time commitment is typically one evening per week for rehearsals and a few concert events throughout the school year. Rehearsals are held locally but the ICC groups across Indianapolis and surrounding areas join together for a few large concerts every year – a sight to behold for audience members.

When combined, the choir consists of 300 to 400 children of varying ages. They have the opportunity to perform on stages like the Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown Indianapolis, at a recent charity event at the airport, caroling throughout the holidays and much more.

Like many other children’s programs, it’s safe to say that they are getting more out of the experience than improving their vocals. They learn music reading skills, vocal techniques, and are exposed to several unique opportunities, but it may not be the music that participants remember the most.

“We say over and over again that this is so much more than singing,” Starkey says. “We’re a community that strives for musical excellence but we’re also learning teamwork, the benefit of working hard, accomplishing a goal together and even different cultures.”

The ICC gives children a community of others who also love music. They learn responsibility, professionalism and how to share their personal talent, while appreciating others.

Starkey has seen children overcome crippling stage fright, forming a close friendship for the first time, and opening up after years of shyness and lack of confidence.

“Whether you’ve sung in the choir for one year or more, our teachers are so great at bringing in kids and nurturing them through the process,” Starkey says. “The programs have worked out very well and proven to be an effective way to bring kids together to sing.”

In addition to the school-year program, the ICC also offers a variety of summer and school break camps.

Hendricks County resident Owen Smith became aware of the ICC while attending one of their summer day camps in 2021.

“The first time I went to ICC summer camp I really liked it, and I thought I’d like to try it out,” Owen says. “My mom loves music, so I must have gotten that from her because I really love singing.”

Owen’s mom, Annette, says Owen’s enthusiasm and joy for what he had discovered was evident.

“He was begging to keep going and would come home from camp super excited,” Annette says. “They would not only sing, but he had been playing the drums and the xylophones. They make it really fun.”

This year the theme for the ICC choirs is World Showcase, music from around the world. It’s a unique opportunity for Owen and his peers to learn about culture, language and music they might not otherwise be familiar with.

They’ve already transported audiences to the South Pacific for a concert featuring songs from India, China and the Pacific Islands.

The ICC will celebrate a European holiday with a candlelight performance and holiday classics in December. In March they are presenting “Crossroads of America,” beginning at home in Indiana and traveling through New York City’s Broadway scene, a jazz-filled New Orleans, and the Great Plains to include sounds of Native American music.

In late May, the ICC will perform the music of Africa and the Middle East, exploring the rich, musical traditions and the universal language of music.

In addition, as the children continue into advanced choirs in high school, their world traveling expands.

“We do day tours and trips throughout the year,” Starkey says. “The advanced choirs will travel domestically and internationally. An intermediate choir from Brownsburg will travel to Washington, D.C., this year and some of our most experienced singers will go to Italy.”

Belonging to a world-renowned choir might give families the impression that the experience is out of their budget, but Starkey says the ICC doesn’t want money to stop anyone from joining. Scholarships are offered for any student who needs additional funds to participate.

“We really want to make the programs available to everyone,” Starkey says. “We provide scholarships and monthly payment options.”

Annette agrees.

“I consider ICC very affordable and they do offer financial assistance,” Annette says. “I think it’s comparable to anything else Owen has done in the past like sports or other programs. They also allow kids to try it out once and see if it’s something they are interested in, because we know for a lot of kids, you might sign them up, but will they stick with it?”

Owen did stick with it, and has continued his journey with a love for music in school and through the ICC.

“I really liked the Unity concert we did last spring because I just loved the songs we sang,” Owen says. “We do a lot of extra concerts too and I’ve made a lot of friends at ICC.”

When asked if he would recommend the choir to others, Owen didn’t hesitate.

“I would say yes, give it a try, because there’s never a limit to what you can do,” he says.

To learn more, visit or call 317-940-9640.

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