February 23, 2022

Two Trenton Musical Institutions Join Forces to Make Music Together

LIFE-CHANGING: Since Cindy Lorenzana began studying viola with Trenton Music Makers in 2018, she has attended Camp Encore/Coda in Maine on full scholarship and continues to make music a major part of her life. Trenton Music Makers and Trenton Children’s Chorus have merged to form Capital Harmony Works.

By Anne Levin

Trenton Children’s Chorus and Trenton Music Makers have merged to form Capital Harmony Works, which will serve as home to the two organizations, along with Trenton Music Makers’ program Music for the Very Young.

The merger of the chorus, which was founded in 1989, and the youth orchestra program, which began a decade later, comes nearly 10 years after it was first considered as a way to focus musical instruction and participation for Trenton youth under one umbrella.

“Our missions are so well aligned,” said Carol Burden, who has been with Trenton Music Makers since 2015 and will serve as Capital Harmony Works’ president and CEO. “But the timing was never quite right. But we’ve come to the point where we are two strong organizations and two strong programs, and we really think this is the time.”

Trenton Music Makers brings together young people from kindergarten through high school into one youth orchestra, at Trenton’s Westminster Presbyterian Church. At West Trenton Presbyterian Church, the Trenton Children’s Chorus operates choirs, drumming, and the Learning Academy, which provides help with homework, tutoring, and other academic services. Trenton Music Makers’ students also participate in the Learning Academy.

Both organizations strive to make music a platform for better self-expression, self-discipline, and dedication. “We have been very much aligned on those fronts,” said Burden.

The two organizations have faced similar challenges in dealing with COVID-19.

“One of the many things we have had in common was that we have been reimagining what is possible in the wake of the pandemic,” Burden said. “Before COVID-19, Trenton Children’s Chorus had more than 200 children. Trenton Music Makers was a little over 100 at its largest. Now, we are positioned to grow both programs. We both have the staff we’ve been working for years to build, and we both have great teaching artists. But we do understand that we have families with various levels of concern. As a parent, I understand that.”

Among Trenton Music Makers’ success stories is Cindy Lorenzana, who has studied viola since 2018 and had the opportunity to perform at Richardson Auditorium as part of famed conductor Gustavo Dudamel’s residency that year at Princeton University. At Trenton Children’s Chorus,  Azhaneet Blackwell — the youngest child to ever enroll in the chorus — went on to sing for the Obamas at The White House in 2014, and is now a learning coach with the Learning Academy. She plans to graduate from Westminster Choir College of Rider University this spring and make music education her career.

Right now, choral and orchestral activities will continue where they are while the newly formed organization searches for a permanent home. “We’re looking for a place that is large enough for all of us, and has parking,” said Burden. “It’s not an easy thing to find. We need a few large rooms so a chorus and at least a small orchestra can rehearse, plus smaller rooms. We are talking with some potential partners in Trenton, but it is too soon to say anything.”

In an ideal world, the facility would serve hundreds of children who would be able to overlap between chorus and orchestra. “We hope there is a way for kids to choose their own adventure when they come in,” Burden said. “But in the meantime, we’ve decided that even if we can’t find another place, we’ll be fine where we are — for another year. We are optimistic. Things will only get better from here.”

Capital Harmony Works will host its debut concert on Thursday, May 19 at 6 p.m., in the Social Profit Center in Trenton. RSVP at musiceverywhere.givesmart.com.