While other toddlers were smearing yogurt in their hair and coloring on the walls with crayons, Leandra Strope at age two was learning to play the violin. “My mother was committed to the idea that my brother and I would be musically literate,” said Leandra.
By the time she was in elementary school, she had added piano and guitar to her play list. It was during middle school that she bonded with her dream instrument – the flute – and she stuck with it through college and to this present day.
“I love music and I think making music is healthy – physically, emotionally and spiritually,” said Leandra.
“My own true art, however, is teaching. My primary focus is on making music with groups of kids and particularly on empowering girls to use their voices well.” So she turned to graduate school to study choral conducting and literature.
She has since added an ensemble of 2nd and 3rd grade girls, also based in Pittsboro, and two ensembles in Chapel Hill. Simply stated, Sisters’ Voices is “a community for girls who love to sing.”
They indeed do a lot of singing, practicing each week throughout the academic year and performing two main concerts – one in January and one in May. They also sing for community events and to support other local organizations. And in the process they learn a lot more than how to carry a tune.
“I believe that a chorus is an excellent place for a person to explore her voice, to take the risks involved in contributing fully to the community, to figure out the differences between making sound alone and making sound with others, to learn to balance focus on self and focus on the community, to learn to support others and to accept others’ support,” said Leandra.
“I want the Sisters’ Voices experience to empower girls to use their voices, even when they’re terrified. These are skills that will see them through their entire lives, even if they choose not to continue with music later,” she added.
Sisters’ Voices is gearing up for summer camps and next year’s ensembles: Community Camp, for girls in 3rd-9th grade, will be held July 25-29 in Chapel Hill and August 8-12 in Pittsboro. The only requirement is a desire to sing!
Registration (for Sisters’ Voices-One) and Auditions (for Sisters’ Voices-Two) have begun for the 2016-1017 season and will continue until ensembles are full.
Leandra also offers private lessons at her Wrensong Workshop. “I teach flute and singing and especially enjoy working with people – young and old – who are learning to match pitch and find their singing voices,” she said. Email or call at (919) 619-3438.
From the Artist:
Full name: Leandra Merea Strope
My childhood in a nutshell: I was born in Rochester, New York, and my family moved to Chapel Hill when I was five. My father was a pediatric pulmonologist at UNC. My mother went to divinity school when I began first grade, and she served in several Chapel Hill churches when I was in upper elementary school and older (including Pittsboro Presbyterian Church).
I thought my mother was a radical feminist – indeed, she was pioneering in the field of church ministry. My father was always working hard and always supportive of his family. They both had very high expectations of themselves, each other and their children.
My family includes: me and my daughter, our dog Willow and a hamster named Shamrock. My closest friends and my daughter’s godparents, Caryl and Wayne, also share our home and our family time.
I describe my work with Sisters’ Voices as: empowering, enchanting, moving, important.
Some jobs I’ve had are: music teacher, conductor, private teacher, camp entertainer, painter, nanny …
When I’m at home I like to listen to: Nature. National Public Radio. My daughter singing to herself.
When I’m not creating music I like to: spend most of my time being a mom! (And I love being a mom.) Someday I will find time to read, to sleep, to draw, to write, to be more attentive to my friends and companions. I also enjoy calligraphy, inventing and drawing knots, sketching, making mandalas from various media, playing in sand, observing nature.
Most people don’t know: I didn’t really learn to read until I was in my mid-twenties. I was a great impostor throughout my school years, and although I could certainly string words together (apparently even transmitting them with great meaning), I often read without retaining anything and I certainly never understood that I was supposed to make friends with the characters. Oh!
I’m still a very slow reader.
I came to Chatham County because: I love the creativity; the community-centered atmosphere and willingness to struggle to create community with people who are different; the generosity and easy-going-ness of the people; children’s connection to nature, curiosity and sense of awe and gratitude.
Ten years from now you’ll find me: Wow – who knows?! I can’t plan that far ahead …
Go See This article: chathamartscouncil.org/go-see-this-sisters-voices
Triangle Sings post: trianglesings.org/sisters-voices
Article: Singing in a chorus changes your brain