By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Mar 15, 2017 at 2:03 PM

The United Performing Arts Fund launched its 50th year of raising funds for performing arts groups in Milwaukee, leading the way for the city's vibrant arts scene. UPAF is one of the most successful arts funding groups in the country and plays a crucial role in the development of attractions in the city. As part of the drive, OnMilwaukee will feature each of the 15 member groups per week during the 15-week campaign drive. This week: The Milwaukee Children's Choir.

So you gather a bunch of kids from all over Milwaukee, put them on a venerable and beautiful Downtown stage and, in front of those kids, you bring out ... The Four Tops!

Really? Those Four Tops?

Yes, those Four Tops, one of the greatest and most hallowed of groups from the legendary Motown music factory in Detroit.

And those kids were from the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, the premier youth choir in the state.

Since 1994, Milwaukee Children’s Choir has been delighting audiences and providing children, ages 5-18, with exceptional choral music education and performance experiences that foster creativity, personal expression and social growth.

As an audition-based, advanced children’s choral music program, Milwaukee Children’s Choir maintains six levels of choral education for children from first through 12th grades. The choir offers rehearsal locations throughout the whole of Southeastern Wisconsin.  

The choir also serves children during the school day at five Milwaukee Public Schools, providing music education through its grant-funded Harmony Program and through partnership with MPS. Through each of these mediums, the choir has an impact on the lives of over 1,000 children each week throughout the academic year.

"The Milwaukee Children's Choir would not exist without UPAF," said Darcie K.G. Warren, executive director of the choir. "We have affected the lives of thousands of kids in the Milwaukee area over the past twenty years. It helps us provide children quality music education – more than just learning notes, rhythm and vocal tone.

"More than that, it ensures all children can participate in the Milwaukee Children's Choir programming, regardless of their family's ability to pay our tuition and fees. We offer tuition assistance and free uniforms for our low-income choir members. More than 30 percent of our members identify as non-caucasian, and we're proud to provide all our members a diverse choir experience that reflects Milwaukee's communities, due in part to generous UPAF financial support."

The Four Tops concert earlier this year, hosted at The Pabst Theater on Feb. 23, was the work of the choir staff, and it couldn’t have happened without the support from UPAF.

"The Four Tops collaboration was the first performance of its kind for the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, and we were thrilled and honored to create this major concert experience for our students and members of the community. In addition to the evening concert, the Four Tops presented an assembly for select Milwaukee Public Schools.

"Almost 1,000 kids throughout the City of Milwaukee attended, free of charge. They listened to the Four Tops perform their hit songs, asked the band questions about the music business and their rise to fame, and listened to their sage advice about working hard and following their passion to a successful career. Both of these events would not have been possible without UPAF."

The choir has a collaborative relationship with area arts organizations while also supporting area music educators through clinics and workshops. The choir developed and annually hosts the Milwaukee Choral Conference, an intensive choral workshop for choral conductors as well as current and aspiring choral music educators, created to explore solutions for promoting and preserving the choral arts today and for future generations.   

The choir also utilizes Voice for Life, an internationally recognized advanced music education curriculum. From vocal development and musical literacy to leadership skills, the curriculum builds upon each chorister’s artistic excellence and character.  

Milwaukee Children's Choir also offers regional, national and international touring opportunities for students. Recently, the choir toured throughout the East Coast, culminating in a performance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall, and throughout the West Coast, culminating in a performance with the Grammy-winning Pacific Boychoir. This summer, the Choir will tour throughout Tennessee, Wisconsin and The Bahamas.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.