AUTUMN CRUZ / acruz@sacbee.com

Deja Westbrook, 9, is one of the 75 children in the Phoenix Park choir. "I'm a firm believer that choir teaches kids self-control," said director Kitty Griffin.

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Many sing praises of choir, which needs a sound system

Published: Monday, Nov. 28, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 - 7:10 pm

The phoenix, a mythical bird, is a symbol of rebirth.

At Phoenix Park in south Sacramento, the bird has a song.

Phoenix Park had a crime-ridden past – as Franklin Villa – before the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency revived it about 10 years ago.

Its new voice is the collective song of the 75 children in the after-school Kids Choir.

They are no older than sixth-graders, but they make a mighty sound, whether it's singing "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" or the African classic "Siyahamba."

"They sing three-part harmony beautifully," said their director, Kitty Griffin – "Miss Kitty" to the kids.

Griffin runs them through an hourlong practice at a pace that doesn't allow for boredom.

Children know the routine and sit with erect posture so naturally, you think that's how they always sit.

It's only when Griffin gives them a momentary break that they slump back in their chairs, relaxed.

"I'm a firm believer that choir teaches kids self-control," she said. "Parkway (Elementary School) teachers are amazed at the change they see in the students."

She tells her singers they need self-discipline and hard work.

"Because hard work … ," she said.

"Pays off!" The kids yell in unison.

They apply themselves to learn harmonies by ear, shape their mouths correctly and pay constant attention.

"It's easy to be good," said Ambrose Christain Lawrence, a fourth-grader, who was singled out by Griffin for his successful Grinch face.

This is already his third year in the choir.

"It's fun," he said. "You can do a lot of things."

They sing beyond Phoenix Park's community center, going to museums, colleges and other locations. Choir supporters have asked Book of Dreams readers to help the group purchase a complete sound system.

"We use choir as a carrot," said Jackie Rose, the arts program director.

Kids want to be in choir, so they must do their other duties to remain there.

Even some children who have moved away come back for choir. It's a sign that Phoenix Park was well-named.

Needed: Complete sound system for the Phoenix Park after-school Kids Choir.

Total: $3,000

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