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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Music is a healing essence’: Spokane youth, women’s choirs celebrates togetherness at concert

With the Spokane Area Youth Spirate Choir on stage and the Grazioso Choir in the aisles, Judy Pearson Hafso engages the audience to participate during a performance of Senewa Dedande, a folk song from Ghana, at the KPBX Kid's Concert on Saturday at Westminster Congregational Church in downtown Spokane. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The children of the Spokane Area Youth Choirs looked at their director, Judy Pearson Hafso, with rapt attention. All except for 13-year-old Kendra Steinauer, who swayed with the music.

“When I sing, I lose myself in the music,” Steinauer said.

Spokane Area Youth Choirs are for children ages 7 to 18 and provide singers training in vocal technique, musical theory and music history.

The organization, founded in 1987, practices at the Spokane’s oldest church, Westminster Congregational Church.

Their KPBX Kids’ Concert on Saturday with the Le Donne women’s choir followed Westminster’s 2019 theme of “open doors.”

The concert was hosted by Spokane Public Radio’s Verne Windham, who is also the choir director at Westminster.

“They’re our family in this church in a really nice way,” Windham said of the youth choirs. “They have such a good vocal tradition.”

For Steinauer, that tradition has brought her into a new family.

“Singing is a part of me. I love music, and this choir is like a family that I can have outside of school,” Steinauer said.

While her school doesn’t have a music program, Steinauer plays the drums and the flute, along with devoting her time to singing.

“My school does not have a choir for our middle school or a music program,” Steinauer said.

Over the past five years, Steinauer moved from the introductory Piccolini Choir to the more advanced Grazioso and now Spirare choirs, growing as a singer and a musician.

Sage Rabinovitch, 8, watched the choir director closely, following her every movement. Each new warmup was a task to be focused on and worked through.

“I like getting to meet new people and showing off my voice,” Rabinovitch said.

It’s Rabinovitch’s second year in the choir, but all that focus comes from the fact that he has been “singing forever.”

Mieka Birkland and Abby Gromlich have been singing since they were children. After high school, they both stopped until three years ago, when Birkland, 27, joined Le Donne, the organization’s womens choir.

“I had been doing choir for years, and then once I graduated high school I didn’t have it,” Birkland said.

One of her friends encouraged her to join, and she was hooked.

“I work this long shift on Wednesdays and we meet Wednesday nights and I’m always like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go. I’m so tired,’ ” Birkland said. “Then I always leave feeling happy and empowered and I always want to sing the whole way home.”

Birkland loves the choir so muchm she begged her friend Gromlich to join too. It was an easy sell.

“I just moved here five years ago and I have four little kids, so I don’t get out of the house much,” Gromlich said. “This is my one thing that I do for myself.”

Le Donne director Barbara Tappa and vocal coach Susan Windham chose music for the concert that focused on “belonging and bringing people together,” Tappa said.

The choir has other focuses, too.

“Just gathering together and sharing a need for community. A need for song, for joy. To share that out to other people,” Tappa said. “Music is a healing essence.”