Earlier this year Indianapolis Children’s Choir founder and artistic director, Henry Leck, stepped down after 30 years at the helm. We spoke with his understudy Joshua Pedde, who will be filling Leck’s shoes as the new artistic director, about what’s next for the Indiana arts stronghold.
NUVO: You have been with the ICC for a long time. How have you seen it change?
The growth has been amazing. I have been with the ICC for sixteen years now and during that time we have grown from 1600 singers in our program to nearly 2,500. The program also expanded into new areas of central Indiana. We now have regional choirs located in Boone, Hendricks, Johnson, Hamilton, and Henry counties. In addition, each location offers Preparatory Choir programs for 1st-3rd grade singers.
Because of our growth in singers, we had to grow in other ways too. In the early 2000s, because of our community’s financial support, we were able to be part of expansion at Butler University that saw a new office and rehearsal rooms for the ICC. We are so fortunate to be part of such a supportive community.
We strive to support school choral music programs. By establishing our Teacher Advisory Board and strengthening our Innovations Program, that provides free workshops, clinics and concerts in schools, we have seen our impact on music teachers and young signers grow throughout central Indiana.
However, through all of that, ICC never lost focus of why we are here. We are here to nurture and inspire singers through amazing music education, all in the pursuit of excellence in the performance of choral music.
NUVO: Leck’s legacy is a big one to carry. What elements of his leadership will you continue?
Henry’s legacy is big. He established the choir to bring people together in the community. That will never change and we will do that through sharing our music with our audiences. Music is the vehicle that fosters leadership, a sense of self-worth, teamwork and pride. The ICC changes singer’s lives, and we will continue that.
He is also one of the most talented musicians I have ever met. I hope to continue that high level of artistry in all we do.
He also built an organization that has become a leader in choral music education for youth not only nationally, but internationally. We will strive to continue to be a leader and advocate for choral music education.
NUVO: What things do you want to change or shake up?
That is a big question. We have already given our offices a make-over, so that was the first step. My goal is to show how entertaining and exciting a children’s choir concert can be. Choral directors across the United States are talking about how the old form of choral concerts (choir on, sing, choir off) is dead. The audience wants something more. They want to not only be entertained but to be moved. We are going to do that. We are going to take our audiences on a journey whether it be at our Angels Sing concerts in December with this year’s theme of “Believe”. We will the transformative power of music to explore all the things we believe and hold important in our lives during the holiday season. When they enter Hilbert Theater at our concerts in March they will hear the sounds and see the sights of the 1940’s big band era and listen to the music of the Greatest Generation. The audience will walk away feeling something more than “that was a nice concert.” They will come away from it changed in some way.
NUVO: How did working with Leck impact you as a conductor?
Henry was my only conducting teacher. He really helped mold me into what I am today. However, our natural styles were very similar and so it became easy for me to implement his directions - so much so that I was called “mini-Leck” while I was in college. However, he became more than just my teacher and mentor; he became one of my closest friends which is where he left a greater impact. He helped fuel my passion for working with young singers and showed me that they are capable of great artistry. He always said the only person that stands in the way of how far the singers can go is the person standing in front of them (their teacher or conductor). That stuck with me. So I always bring my best to the table, and I expect the same of the singers I work with.
NUVO: What kind of mark did he leave on ICC?
The ICC is for everyone. If you love to sing, then we have a place for you. ICC is seen as the largest children’s choir in the country, but the reason we are the largest is because Henry wanted any child who wanted to sing to have that opportunity, so we made that possible by growing the program.
NUVO: How will you ensure the integrity of an institution—that is so synonymous with one person—is maintained when that person has retired?
Never losing sight of our mission is our goal. That is why I come to work every day. I come to fulfill that mission and to serve the singers, families, and teachers of central Indiana to the best of my ability.
NUVO: What impact do you hope to make on Indiana?
Any child that wants to sing, should be able to. Every child has a gift, and I am here to help each one of them discover that gift. I hope that will be my legacy.