2016 Lifetime Achievement: Henry Leck

30 years, thousands of kids served

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It was 30 years ago this summer when Henry Leck, a new music professor at Butler University, began what is now an artistic and educational institution in Central Indiana. The very idea of the Indianapolis Children' Choir (ICC) was borne out of the observance of another city's children's choir. Leck's intentions began as fact-finding mission to Chicago to see if the Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis would be a good fit for hosting the Chicago group during their tour stop in Naptown.

Not only was Leck able to confirm his church's role in hosting the children for their concert, but — and probably more importantly — Leck saw an opportunity for Indianapolis to have something similar. The idea to bring children from all over the city — particularly from schools and neighborhoods where music education was minimal at best — and expose them to a world of opportunity began to develop. Music and its instruction became a way to build unity, foster creativity and encourage friendships among kids from all different races and socio-economic backgrounds.

Thirty years later, Leck's vision has surpassed everyone's hope of what the ICC could become. The choir has grown beyond the city limits to Central Indiana with numerous regional choirs in nine counties, workshops and other music education classes that span the ages. ICC has opportunities for musical learning from birth to high school graduation.

Leck's dedication to student learning and world exposure has led the choir around the world multiple times. ICC has performed all over the United States and on every continent in the world with the exception of Antarctica. The choir has sung for mayoral and gubernatorial inaugurations, presidential visits, dedications and ceremonies and much much more. In its first year the ICC sang for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Pan Am Games. When Super Bowl XLVI was held at Lucas Oil Stadium the choir sang the National Anthem with pop star Kelli Clarkson. And the choir most recently celebrated the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 by singing "Back Home Again in Indiana" with Josh Kaufman and "God Bless America".

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With a decorated resume full of accomplishments it's no wonder that the ICC has become an artistic ambassador for the city. But of all of the travels and all of the performances, Leck says his fondest memories of his time with the ICC come from rehearsals, bus rides and other non-performance interactions with the kids. For Leck his favorite moments come when the kids are excited about a certain piece of music or when their eyes glistened from the realization of their own accomplishments.

The reputation of the choir is renown based on its own merits as well as the reputation of Leck himself. Numerous composers from all over the world have written music specifically for the ICC. When Leck informed the choir's administrative board that he would retire from his position as artistic director in the 30th anniversary year, composers were contacted to gauge interest in the creation of an original piece for Leck's farewell concert. (Leck gave 2 years notice for his retirement plans.) Out of 15 composers contacted, 13 responded with the intent to write. As a result, all of the music performed in the final concert was original music, written specifically for the occasion.

RELATED: A personal tribute to Leck, by News Editor Amber Stearns

In 2008 NUVO named ICC and Leck the recipients of a Cultural Vision Award celebrating the choir's contribution to the music culture of Indianapolis. This year we honor Henry Leck for his vision in the creation of the ICC, his commitment to the children of central Indiana and the cultural integrity he has brought to Indianapolis.

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