As a child Ms. Kelly and the Marcy Newberry ensemble helped me become the great business woman that I am today. Ms. Kelly has gone above and beyond to inspire and up lift all the children involved. I am more than grateful for participating in the ensemble!
Marcy Newberry Association and more specifically Debra Kelly set up the meeting between myself and my destiny. If not for her tutelage through music in her choirs, I’m very curious how God would have shown me my path as a music maker. Being a member equipped me with so many of the lessons that I would need as a young adult, and as an entertainer. It gave me community, purpose, and confidence. The act of being able to stand with [an ensemble], and lift our voices together, was the very foundation and strength I needed and developed to one day, go in front of crowds to tell my story.
Not far from where Chicago Blues was born on the Near West Side, at the Marcy Newberry Association was where I joined the choir at the age of 7, and I am so grateful for the opportunities that it provided during my coming of age. Being a part of the choir, invited to sing uplifting, spiritual songs at churches, and nursing homes, and high schools, showed me early the impact that words and songs could have on people who needed to hear a loving and truthful word.
This choir was the catalyst for me to sing truth to power. Nearly 30 years later, I have incorporated the themes of not only black power, but black unity, love, spirituality, empowerment, struggle, and family into the original songs I perform. Those very songs have gotten my story told in publications like Billboard, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, and invited to tell my story in spaces like the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Institute, First Avenue in Minneapolis, and Steppenwolf to name a few.
Debra Kelly later established the Voices of Youth Choir, and her 30 plus years of hard work and dedication to the students and performers who have come up through her programs should be recognized as an institution. How lucky I was to have encouragement and support poured into me as a young person on Chicago's West Side, during the ’90s. I was truly in God's workshop, understanding myself, and filling my toolbox with tools that I would have access to in my present and future. I know I am not the only one with this story, but my gratitude is one of a kind. I know that it could have been different, and I am so grateful to Debra Kelly, the Marcy Newberry Choir, and later the Voices of Youth choir, for letting me know that my voice, as a youth, was not only important but essential in the building of a world that one day, I’d be an adult in.
Much love and a lifetime of gratitude to the Voices of Youth Ensemble Choir and Debra Kelly!
My name is Dakoby Valentin and I was a member of the Voices of Youth Ensemble from 2008 until 2018 when it was previously named “The Marcy Newberry Children’s Choir”. Ever since I was a kid I was always known to be very gifted musically, especially with singing and dancing and I feel like without the choir and the leadership of Ms. Debra Kelly I would not be as in tune with my artistic talents today. My role for the 6 years I was involved with the choir was usually the role of leading songs. Today I’m currently enrolled in SAE institute for Audio engineering located here in Chicago, Illinois and have been pursuing a solo career in music of my own for the past couple years now. The choir played a huge role in my development as a vocalist and a entertainer and I can’t thank Ms. Kelly enough for the amount of hard work and dedication she put in to not just help myself realize my abilities as an entertainer but other members of the choir as well.
The Voices of Youth Ensemble performed at one of our staff holiday parties a couple years ago and it was amazing to see a group of young people coming together in song. The youth are extremely talented and they made our event extra special!