When she and her husband retired to Milford from the Baltimore-Washington area, Sharon Starling wanted to do something for the community and felt tapping into her background of music education and performance was the best option for her. She learned that the only children’s chorus in the area required families to pay for membership and she decided to start a free chorus on her own. She had experience in forming such chorus as she had done so in Washington DC.
“I went to the Boys and Girls Club to ask if they would be willing to give me access to children who may be interested in participating in the chorus,” Ms. Starling said. “Tod Van Eyken the director of the club, did more than that. He gave us space to practice and allowed us to have members who were not members of the club join the chorus.” With that, the Mispillion Children’s Community Chorus was born, requiring no auditions or fees to join. Students in Kindergarten through 6th grade are welcomed into the chorus, regardless of singing ability.
Ms. Starling says that she uses music to teach a story, including wide ranges of music genres, from pop to classical to spiritual. She said that all the music chosen has a theme based on helping people who are weaker, friendship and community. The logo for the group is the Mispillion Lighthouse and the motto is “teaching children to stand strong in the storm – one song at a time.”
“We don’t just sing songs because they are pretty,” Ms. Starling said. “We talk about the meaning of the song. Each song chosen is chosen because of its meaning. In fact, recently, two of the girls heard a song and brought it to me asking if it could be included because the words talked about friendship and support. It is moments like that when I realize they really are getting it.”
According to Ms. Starling, many doors have opened for her to make the chorus a success. Not long after they moved to the area, they met Lucius Webb. She said that they were out to dinner at Abbott’s Grill one night when Mr. Webb came in with a group of people that included Bob and Rosemary Connelly.
“Lucius told them that I was starting a chorus, even though I hadn’t taken the first step to do it,” Ms. Starling said. “It was then that I realized this was something that Milford needed, so I decided to make it happen. Bob Connelly was so wonderful, helping us arrange to hold our first concert at the Riverwalk Theater. The funny thing is that I held a children’s concert in Italy many years ago. When I mentioned it to Bob and Rosemary, Bob asked me where it was. When I told him, he smiled and said ‘I was at that concert.’ It was during the time that Bob and Rosemary lived in Italy.
Ms. Starling said that the chorus is made up of a diverse group of children in both age and culture. She said that she is always surprised at how much they take to her lessons and the music she uses. Ms. Starling said that since she started her first children’s chorus at 19 years old while a student at the University of Maryland, she is always amazed at how quickly children understand how music can speak to them.
A piano was donated to the group by the man who tunes her piano at home and as long as the group is performing, he tunes it for free. Ms. Starling said that one of the obstacles to the chorus is that children often do not have transportation to and from rehearsals or performances. She said that they are able to utilize the Boys and Girls Club van sometimes, but because many of the children in the chorus come from low income families, getting them to the locations can be difficult. She said that she is enticing families to get children there by offering meals and pizza parties. Although she could not name the business, she said a local pizza restaurant offered to donate pizza for rehearsals.
Because the Second Street Players now have more events, including movies on some weekends, Ms. Starling said that they were unable to hold this year’s spring concert at the theater. Avenue United Methodist Church has provided them a location for the concert which will be held May 14. The concert begins at 7 PM and it is open to the public. There is no admission fee.
Anyone who wants to volunteer to assist the chorus or who has children who may be interested in joining, can learn more by calling Ms. Starling at 302-422-2785 or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Monetary donations may be made through the Greater Lewes Foundation and are tax deductible. Donations may be mailed to the Greater Lewes Foundation at PO Box 110, Lewes, DE 19958. Checks can be made payable to the Greater Lewes Foundation with the Mispillion Children’s Community Chorus in the memo.