As we love to boast in this space, Mill Valley is absolutely chock full of incredible arts organizations, from the do-it-all luminaries (Sweetwater, Throckmorton, Marin Theatre Company, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts) and the blockbuster events (MVFF, MVFAF and now MVMF) to the unceasingly creative specialists like the Curtain Theatre, Chamber Music Marin, Mill Valley Philharmonic, the array of amazing galleries and many, many more.
But while those organizations draw the bulk of the accolades from patrons, the breadth and depth of another key sector of our arts community far outweighs the rest in terms of number of participants: kid-centric arts venues like PAAM, Marin Conservatory of Dance, Shakespearience and Happy Feet Dance School.
Now we can add the Marin Girls Chorus to the mix – it’s coming to Mill Valley.
The organization was founded in 1988 by Martha Wall, a widely acclaimed musician and teacher who worked with children’s choirs for nearly 30 years and was the director of music for First Presbyterian Church in San Anselmo for seven years. Wall was inspired to create Marin Girls Chorus by the San Francisco Girls Chorus, seeking to build on that chorus’ success and provide a range of opportunity for Marin-based students, particularly a treble-voice chorus that encompasses well over 100 finely trained singers in five levels.
The group’s foundation is chorus, but it’s also grounded in a crucial, interdependent principle, boasting that they are “so much more than singing!” “We believe that the experience and discipline of group singing forms lasting skills and confidence in young people that serve them throughout their whole journey in life,” Corbett says. “We believe that what we do is a crucial element in building and nourishing the whole person.”
The organization accepts any school-aged girl who has the desire to sing with others. There is no audition process for admission and previous musical experience is not required. Their teaching methodology seeks to ensure a fulfilling, engaging experience for novice and experienced singers alike, with pathways for growth and development across a range of musical experiences. Financial aid is available to ensure that no aspiring artist is denied life-changing experiences due to their economic needs. “We don’t turn any girls away based on ability or financial ability,” Corbett says.
While Corbett joined the Marin Girls Chorus’ board of directors in December 2021 and became its business director in 2022, the organization recently landed a big fish in hiring Cole Thomason-Redus, a two-time Grammy Award Winning choral artist and a 5th-generation San Franciscan with 24 years of experience teaching music to young minds.
Corbett says traveling to choral to perform is another significant benefit of the program. In recent years, the girls have sung at the Crescent City Choral Festival in New Orleans (2016), Pacific International Children’s Choral Festival in Eugene (2017), The First International Texas Choral Festival (2018), Disneyland and Hearst Castle (2019). Earlier this summer, the chorus performed at the legendary Carnegie Hall in New York City.
So why, after decades of success in central and northern Marin, has the Marin Girls Chorus decided to expand its footprint in Mill Valley and southern Marin?
“It’s been a goal of ours since before the pandemic,” Corbett says. “But it’s largely in response to the level of interest we’ve seen from students and families in Mill Valley, so we’ve decided to really invest into expanding into southern Marin. Since the pandemic, there’s been such a influx of new families into Mill Valley, and that turnover means that many families don’t know about us and our programs. We’re thrilled to be able to perform at a number of great events in southern Marin over the next several months. There’s a real need here now.”
Corbett says the biggest caveat is timing. Registration is now open and classes start Sept. 12, which will be here before you know it. She emphasizes that Marin Girls Chorus students aren’t prevented from participating in choral programs at their respective elementary and middle schools.
“The girls have such an opportunity to develop leadership skills, independence and confidence by gaining their voice, particularly as our upper girls mentor the younger ones,” Corbett says. “Learning how to sing in a harmony and read music are essential, but so is the opportunity to have a lifelong bond with friends.”