Chapel Hill women’s chorus uses music to help deaf children

When Lisa Park proposed the idea of singing for children with hearing disabilities, her peers responded with overwhelming enthusiasm.

As a member of the Women’s Voices Chorus, Park and her fellow vocalists will perform Saturday to benefit the Center for Acquisition of Spoken language Through Listening Enrichment (CASTLE), a sub-service of UNC’s School of Medicine.

The center works to improve its patients’ speech and communication skills and empowers parents to act as teachers and participants in their children’s development.

“CASTLE’s role is to provide two things,” said Hannah Eskridge, the center’s program director. “Part of our role is to train specialists and teachers how to help kids listen and speak. The other part of that is a direct services component — the implants and the therapy.”

The center, with its specially trained educators, provides a classroom environment for the children that uses music as a key part of its curriculum.

“It just seemed like a natural partnership,” said Park, who has also worked with CASTLE as an audiologist for five years. “We have kids who sing, who play the violin or the piano, and we want to get the word out about what these kids can do now, as far as music goes.”

In past years, the WVC has performed for the benefit of groups like the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the animal welfare group Paws4Ever.

“We always like to do a benefit concert in the summer,” said Allan Friedman, the chorus’ musical director. “It’s usually a pretty low-key event, but around 200 people usually show up.”

Park said that while the group normally focuses on filling its repertoire with music by or about women, Saturday’s program has been fitted to the cause at hand.

“All of our pieces will deal with the senses in some way,” she said. “We’re also singing a couple of premier pieces, one of which is about sight, from (Lana Walter’s) poem ‘On His Blindness.’”

The show, “A Musical Feast for the Senses,” will take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday at the United Church of Chapel Hill on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Admission is free. Donations are welcome.

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