You may best know local musician Aaron Nigel Smith from his work on the PBS show Between the Lions. But this Lake Oswego father of two does so much more! His most recent project is a new CD entitled Welcome to the Village, which we review here. Welcome to the Village features One World Children’s Chorus, a group of over 300 children from across the United States (including right here in Portland!) and the children of the Cura Rotary Home in Kenya. A portion of CD proceeds go to support the Cura Rotary Home. Check out what Aaron has to say about this CD, music, education, and his favorite spots in Portland in this exclusive interview with PDX Kids Calendar.
PDX Kids Calendar: Welcome to the Village has a great mix of songs from across the world. How did you narrow down which songs to include?
Aaron Nigel Smith: Choosing the music for the CD was a very fun and organic process. I chose some, my wife Diedre chose others, and my sons also helped to choose music. Mother Nature’s Son was my oldest son Zion’s idea. It’s one of my favorite moments in the CD, just having the opportunity to sing with my boy.
PKC: What is One World Chorus and how did you decide to start it?
ANS: One World Chorus is a not for profit organization committed to building bridges for children internationally through music. Diedre and I co-founded the chorus in 2009 hoping to use our talents to make a difference in the lives of children both in the US and foreign locations. During our 2011-2012 season we collaborated with over 300 children from Portland, OR; Brooklyn, NY; Los Angeles, CA; & Nairobi, Kenya on our debut CD release, Welcome to the Village!
PKC: How can interested kids become involved in One World Chorus?
ANS: We are holding auditions for Portland’s division of One World Chorus on September 11 from 4:30-6:00pm at Tabor Space in Portland and September 12 from 4:30-6:00pm at The Mountain Park Recreation Center in Lake Oswego. Children ages 8-12 who love to sing are encouraged to audition. To schedule an audition you can call 503 305 6710 or email das (at) oneworldchorus.org.
PKC: What are your most vivid memories from recording the album?
ANS: I have great memories from all of the recording sessions in New York City, LA, and Portland. Having the opportunity to record the children in Kenya was probably my most vivid memory simply because it was so different from what I am used to. It was amazing to witness the talent and resilience of the children of the Cura Rotary Home. They have no parents. Some had no shoes, but they sang with joy and hope, from their hearts. Really amazing.
PKC: Tell us a bit more about Cura Rotary Home.
ANS: Thirty of the kids on the recording were from the Cura Rotary Home. Cura is an orphanage and school for children who are left without parents due to the AIDS crisis in Kenya. It is our hope that we can raise funds through this recording to have an ongoing positive effect in the lives of the children at Cura by helping to provide for some of their basic needs as well as enrichment programs.
PKC: How did you become interested in music and music education?
ANS: My introduction to music came through The American Boychoir School in Princeton, NJ. I was accepted into the boarding school when I was 11 and began to study, perform and love music immediately. It gave me such a wonderful creative outlet. I had the great fortune of knowing from that early age that I wanted to be a professional musician. I started teaching preschool music classes in order to spend more time at home when I had my second child about 10 years ago. I had been touring as a classical singer, performing choral, oratorio and light opera, which I will always love, but I found that my true calling is as an educator. From the first class I taught, I knew that I would never look back.
PKC: What drives you to continue your involvement in music education?
ANS: In addition to the calling as an educator, I feel it is my responsibility to share music with the next generation. One World Chorus is really a way for me to come full circle and share the rich legacy of group singing that was introduced to me 30 years ago and completely shaped my life.
PKC: Can you tell us about an experience where you felt that you made a difference to a particular child or group of children through music?
ANS: It’s hard to pick one experience. I feel like a get to make a difference almost every day. I recently had a parent tell me that her child could not even look people in the eye when she spoke and after a year with One World Chorus she seems to have blossomed and come out of her shell. It’s always great to get feedback like that.
PKC: Do you have any tips for getting kids interested in music?
ANS: Most kids like music. I think it’s about finding your child’s personal musical interests. Not all children like the same kind of music as their siblings, friends, or parents. It’s a really personal preference. Some kids love to bang on drums, others hate that type of stimulation. So above all I would say gently and respectfully introduce children to different musical experiences, both hands on musical instrument play and simple listening and you’ll be able to gauge musical preferences.
PKC: What are some of your favorite places to see music in Portland?
ANS: Although I’ve been here for one year now, I still feel pretty new, so I’m sure there’s a lot yet to explore. Thanks to PDX Kids Calendar I have been able to dial into some cool events. So far, my favorite musical hangs have happened at Mississippi Pizza, The Oregon Zoo concerts and I’ve seen some cool shows at the Portland Children’s Museum.
PKC: What do you do for fun in Portland?
ANS: My family and I have a ton of fun fishing on the Columbia River and hiking in Tryon Creek State Park.
Aaron’s CD, Welcome to the Village, which we review here, will be out later this month. You can check out his CD release concert at Mississippi Pizza on August 25 at 4. $5 per person or $15 per family. You can also see him at Music Millennium on September 22 at 3 and A Children’s Place Bookstore on September 29 at 1. These two shows are free.