Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 8, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SPENCER — Despite being younger than their seventh-grade audience, the African Children’s Choir were the teachers Monday when they took the stage at North Rowan High School.
The group of children ages 8 through 10 gave the Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG) students from the Rowan-Salisbury School System a glimpse into their culture, performing both African and English songs.
The African Children’s Choir, a program of the nonprofit organization Music for Life, is formed by children from poverty- and disease-stricken areas in Africa.
“Our vision is to help Africa’s most vulnerable children today so they can help Africa tomorrow,” tour leader Sarah Jordan said.
The children spend about five months training and attending school before touring throughout the United States and Canada.
When the tour wraps up, the students return to school and work toward a college education.
Jordan said the hope and joy the children exhibit despite their struggles offers not only inspiration, but perspective.
“It’s like no matter what they’ve come from, they’re still able to see hope and go for the future and not be held back by the circumstances they’re coming from,” she said.
Angie Fleming, the AIG teacher at North Rowan Middle, said Monday’s performance helped enrich the things her students have been learning in the classroom.
“Rather than just reading it out of a textbook or watching a video, they get so much more out of it when they experience it in person,” she said.
Fleming said the curriculum for her seventh-grade students focuses on a variety of cultures including Asian, Hispanic, Native American and African-American and how they “fit together in the world.”
Leading up to Monday’s event, students in Fleming’s class read a variety of poetry, short stories and novels by African writers.
“We’ve also looked at some of the stories of individual children who have been in the African’s children’s choir,” she said.
Fleming said she wanted her students to walk away from Monday’s performance with renewed gratitude.
“I hope they have an appreciation for just how well they do have it in their lives and how talented these children are and how hard they work,” she said. “I also hope they gain an appreciation for different cultures.”
Bailey VanCura, one of Fleming’s students, got to participate in Monday’s performance, learning the can dance alongside classmates Abby Blume from Corriher-Lipe and Joseph Young from Knox.
“It has been really fun to come out and see the kids sing and dance,” she said.
Blume said she enjoyed the hands-on aspect.
“It was awesome,” she said.
Blume said she was surprised to learn that the children are given both an African and English name.
“That was neat to find out,” she said.
Jasmine Richard, a student from North Rowan, said the performance provided a number of interesting tidbits of information paired with entertainment.
“I learned there are many tribes in Uganda,” she said. “I really like how the dancing reflected their culture.”
Mikayla Mather said she enjoyed learning about the physical features of African people and the geography of the continent.
“It backs up a lot of what we’ve learned in social studies this year,” she said.
But Mather said her favorite part was watching the choir in action.
“I think it’s cool how they used different parts of their bodies and a variety of instruments,” she said.
Find out more about the choir online at .
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.