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Song as a Second Language

The most fundamental goal of this project is to encourage children to become aurally literate.
While this wide phrase includes all manner of classical music, the  specific goal of Joy in Singing would be
to introduce the international art song to the school aged child.  The value we place on this effort is based on our belief that art is an inestimable tool for self discovery and growth and that the art song, in particular, is a passion that brings joy, beauty and insight to the human soul. We want to ignite that passion in children.
We locate classical singers on a professional basis who can create programs that will be strong enough to engage the deep attention of children as they hear songs sung mostly in a foreign language. If and when it is possible, we augment the singer’s presentation by the use of dancers, actors, puppeteers and mimes. We use dramatic vignettes or lectures communicated by film, video or live performance. To inform, entertain and hopefully to bond with young students will take creativity, craft, skill, research and deep dedication.   We want to create the art song lovers we have all become.


“My heart sang all the way back to Manhattan."

When I read about Song as a Second Language, the brainchild of Joy in Singing's  Eunice Poulos,

I thought “ Can you really engage grammar school children with art songs in a foreign language”?

I recently took the ‘N’ train out to 18th Ave. in Brooklyn, where I found a cozy public school, humming with activity and a dated, but immaculate facility. Two classes filed into the auditorium, then were seated ‘boy girl, boy girl’ by their teachers, who obviously had them under tight, but benevolent control.


The session was led by Angela Dinkelman, a blond soprano with an easy smile, and Anna Vasilyeva,
a Russian born pianist. They began with ‘what is art song’? talked about the marriage of music and poetry and then performed  Puccini’s ‘L’Uccellino’. Soon the children were identifying bird motives in the music, singing back the odd phrase ( exactly and in perfect tune), repeating words and phrases in Italian. The discussion led to Italian  words we use daily like pizza! pasta!, to foreign languages they could name and then did anyone speak, for instance, Chinese? Many hands up with smiles, Spanish? The same.

They and the teachers were interested in Angie’s classically trained voice: the reason she didn’t use a microphone, how she had developed her skills. Then they all went to the front where they moved to the next lively song, improvising their own choreography and also mirroring Angie’s moves. It looked like a fun break from sitting at a desk all day.

This was a life affirming experience for me. The children were so involved, willing to do new things, not at all resistant. One hears so many negative ideas about “children today who are shut off, only interested in their phones”, the exact opposite of what I saw. Or “how terrible the NY public schools are” not at all what I found at P.S. 48 which reminded me of my childhood school in Quincy, Mass. At the end I kept on saying to the teachers and leaders: “I WAS BLOWN AWAY!” by these children, their receptivity and the Song as a Second Language program. 


                                           Kate Hurney

Board of Directors

Joy In Singing


For more information, or to inquire about scheduling a  Song As A Second Language event at your school, please contact Eunice Poulos, Song As a Second Language program director, at

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