Dream big: Detroit Youth Choir helps kids “let their musical talent shine”
TV viewers will find out Monday, February 27, whether the Detroit Youth Choir comes out on top in the “America’s Got Talent: All Stars” competition on NBC.
For Black History Month, Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition team asked Joielle Speed’s journalism class at Detroit Renaissance High School what they wanted listeners to hear about.
Brandon Hill is a senior in the class, and a member of the DYC. He wants you to know more about the choir and its director, Anthony White.
For more than 20 years, the Detroit Youth Choir has provided a platform for African-American kids in Detroit to let their musical talent shine, giving kids a community where they can bond. From its humble beginnings of just a few kids, DYC has become a 125-kid choir. We placed second in the 14th season of America's Got Talent. The choir is also one of the few groups to earn two “golden buzzers” on the show.
Singing is a state of mind
Anthony White has spent half his life with the choir, and has been singing since childhood.
“Singing is a state of mind,” White said. “I've actually been into music since I was 10 years old at the Greater Grace Christian Academy... So after singing in school and all that stuff, I studied the Boys Choir of Harlem and what they did in the community and how they gave back to the borough of Harlem and how the director, Walter Turnbull, was a big influence on the city and the borough. So, I kind of adopted that philosophy into my own teachings with the Detroit Youth Choir. The Boys Choir of Harlem is not a choir anymore, but I look at it as we're carrying on their legacy, discipline, and routine.”
White has put his heart and soul into the choir, but it’s paid off. We were on America's Got Talent Season 14, where we won the “golden buzzer.” That sent us directly to the finals, bypassing the earlier stages of the competition.
“AGT really catapulted our fame and our notoriety,” White said. “When the confetti came down, it was like, ‘Oh, I guess we did something good.’”
Singing makes people feel good
The Detroit Youth Choir has a lot of fun, and White says part of the magic is discovering members’ individual strengths.
“We take those young people that have the desire for learning and loving music. We take them and create this big ball of music,” White said. “Most of these kids never performed before, and I mean, just having everybody together like that – that’s what makes the Detroit Youth Choir, the Detroit Youth Choir.”
The DYC didn’t start out in big competitions. Most of our performances are for the community in Detroit.
“We look at most of the performances we do as community service, but we are the community,” White said. “These kids come from every walk of life, and each one of these young people represent their community.”
White took over direction of the DYC at 20 years old, after former director Fleming Ivory moved to another state.
“At 20 years old, I'm into video games and basketball and things like that,” White said. “So I went on ahead and said, ‘Yeah, I'll do it.’ I didn't really know about business and it was frightening when I took it over…. Everybody else quit when I took it over, we started with seven kids. And building it up over the years. If anything, I taught my young people to dream big and accomplish your goals.”
Editor's note: Quotes have been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the full interview at the top of the page.