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Silent Voices

A yearlong musical journey that gives voice to those who have been silenced in communities around the world.

The Latest Update

Silent Voices Final Project Update

Posted on July 25, 2017 by Brooklyn Youth Chorus

Silent Voices (promo above) premiered at the BAM Opera House on May 12-13, 2017 to rave reviews. The New York Times hailed the work saying, “The music expresses at the most cellular level a process of voice-finding and courage building.”

With works by Caroline Shaw, Jeff Beal, Shara Nova, DJ Spooky, Nico Muly, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Kamala Sankaram, and Toshi Reagon the full version of Silent Voices “let the singers’ voices be heard in a new way” using “personal testimonies of the choristers to connect musical works” (Classical Voice North America).
In preparation for the premiere, choristers participated in human rights education workshops with Speak Truth to Power, the education arm of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights. Students explored social justice issues including race, sexual objectification, inequity and social disparity, and how those issues were discussed in the music.
Students also had the opportunity to spend intensive periods of time collaborating with composers and participating in personal interviews about their experiences creating the production with host Helga Davis and members of the NY Public Radio and WQXR teams.
The Chorus is also proud to share that we are re-envisioning Silent Voices as an expanded four-year initiative that will include new commissions each year. We look forward to keeping you informed of the progress and themes for the next phase of the project and continuing to present Silent Voices during the 2017-2018 season.
Brooklyn Youth Chorus thanks New Music USA for its continued support and helping make Silent Voices a resounding success.
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Posted on December 13, 2016 by Brooklyn Youth Chorus

Brooklyn Youth Chorus is proud to announce that the first previews of Silent Voices have begun. 

As Artists-in-Residence with New York Public Radio/ WQXR/ Q2 Music this season, Brooklyn Youth Chorus presented a 25th Anniversary Kick-Off Concert at The Greene Space in October. This stunning performance included a preview of a few of the works in development commissioned as part of the Silent Voices project.

Check out the link above to hear the first ever performance of Blind to the Illness from Silent Voices by Shara Nova, previewed at The Greene Space and broadcast live on WQXR/Q2 Music. This exciting piece pays homage to the #blacklivesmatter movement and makes a powerful statement about ending racial discrimination.

The Chorus also presented a “first look” concert of Silent Voices on November 20 at National Sawdust. The concert focused on the themes of gender, sexuality, and age, and featured music by Ellen Reid, Nico Muhly, Jeff Beal, Alicia Hall Moran, Ellis Ludwig-Leone and Caroline Shaw.

Audiences were moved as our young singers gave life to the rich personal stories of women and girls around the world. The program also highlighted the often untold stories of the elderly and highlighted the idea of memory as something that links past, present, and future.
We look forward to presenting another “first look” at Silent Voices at The Florence Gould Hall the Prototype Festival on January 14-15, 2017. The concert will focus on the voices of African-American and immigrant men and women in America today, and include commissioned music by Sahba Aminikia, Jeff Beal, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Toshi Reagon and DJ Spooky.
Brooklyn Youth Chorus is very thankful for the continued support of New Music USA for making this project possible. We look forward to premiering the full Silent Voices production on May 12, 2017 at BAM.

Silent Voices Update

Posted on October 11, 2016 by Brooklyn Youth Chorus

Brooklyn Youth Chorus is excited to report that Silent Voices is underway and we look forward to premiering the production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Opera House on May 12, 2017.

We are already making progress with the production. We have commissioned a final group of 12 composers to create works that will harness the power of youth to create change on themes including gender, race, and sustained inequity. Composers include:  Sahba Aminikia, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Ellen Reid, Caroline Shaw, Nico Muhly, Kamala Sankaram, Jeff Beal, Rhiannon Giddens, Paul Miller/DJ Spooky, Toshi Reagon, and Alicia Hall Moran.

We have also engaged several new writers to help us generate content including, Hilton Als (New Yorker), Claudia Rankine (Citizen), and Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow). BYC is excited to be offering 2 “First Look” previews of Silent Voices at National Sawdust on November 20, 2016 and at the Florence Gould Theater (FIAF) during the Prototype Festival January 14-15, 2017. 

Check out the link to hear so quietly by Caroline Shaw. One of the newest pieces created for Silent Voices, so quietly explores the process of finding your voice and gaining the courage to speak.

Brooklyn Youth Chorus is very thankful for the continued support of New Music USA for making this project possible. We look forward to posting another update soon.


Brooklyn Youth Chorus (BYC) seeks support for “Silent Voices,” a year-long project encompassing a series of live music theater and radio performances on the themes of self agency, empowerment, and developing one’s individual voice as a foundation of identity. Silent Voices is being developed by BYC’s Founder and Artistic Director Dianne Berkun Menaker, and directed by Kristin Marting, co-founder and Artistic Director of HERE Art Center, working with a team of composers and artists who are diverse both in identity and in genre. Committed composers include Iranian-American composer Sahba Aminikia, Armenian-American composer Mary Kouyoumdjian, Ellen Reid, Caroline Shaw, Nico Muhly, Kamala Sankaram, and Jeff Beal. The work will be performed by BYC alongside a range of guest performers. Lyrics and other texts will be drawn from original writings, interviews, radio archives, historical texts, and material generated from story slams hosted with The Moth and workshops with Speak Truth To Power, a human rights education program. BYC will engage its whole community – including choral training divisions and all three ensembles – in the process of creating and performing Silent Voices.

Silent Voices will share the stories of individuals who have been silenced or diminished by cultural, social, religious or familial circumstances. The project’s songs and stories will draw on the rich personal lives of ordinary individuals, cultural icons and historical figures, interpreted through the visions of contemporary artists and composers. Each concert will focus on issues that are relevant to the diverse young people of our chorus—race, sexual objectification, inequity and social disparity.

Silent Voices will premiere in a series of concerts throughout BYC’s 25th anniversary season, beginning in October 2016 and culminating with a final concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Opera House in May 2017. Additional venues will include New York Public Radio’s The Greene Space, National Sawdust, and Merkin Concert Hall, as well as community-based venues.

Amplifying the project’s impact, BYC will be the Artist in Residence at New York Public Radio/WQXR for the entire 2016-17 season. The WQXR residency will give BYC a citywide platform for sharing Silent Voices with a broad public. Each concert will be broadcast on New York Public Radio/WQXR, and BYC and collaborators will take part in a range of on-air programming that links to the project.

Project Media

Black Mountain Songs/Anni’s Constant by Caroline Show
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“Anni’s Constant,” by Caroline Shaw, was one of 14 sections of Black Mountain Songs, co-commissioned by Brooklyn Youth Chorus and Brooklyn Academy of Music with support from New Music USA and premiered at BAM’s Next Wave Festival in November 2014.

This sample demonstrates the production level planned for Silent Voices, which will also be a fully staged production with costumes and stage elements, and will be performed at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House among other venues.

Become Who I Am by Mary Kouyoumdjian
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“Become Who I Am” addresses confidence, insecurity, and gender inequality, with audio interviews and a libretto comprised of the words of the choristers themselves. Kouyoumdjian’s composition for Silent Voices will draw upon this work, and will present conflicts that girls around the world face – life as a child refugee, leaving home for better opportunity, early marriage, living in a culture that discouragesyoung girls from going to school, living amid gang violence, etc.

Black Mountain Songs/Fielding Dawson in Franz Kline’s Studio by Nico Muhly
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Brooklyn Youth Chorus performs Nico Muhly’s “Fielding Dawson in Franz Kline’s Studio” from the groundbreaking production, Black Mountain Songs. Recorded live in concert at BAM, Nov 20-23, 2014, as part of the BAM Next Wave Festival.

This sample provides a sample of work composed for BYC by Nico Muhly, who is also composing work for Silent Voices. As with Anni’s Constant, it also demonstrates the production level planned for Silent Voices

Start and End Dates



New York, New York

3 updates
Last update on July 25, 2017

Project Created By

Brooklyn, New York
Brooklyn Youth Chorus is a collective of young voices led by Founder & Artistic Director Dianne Berkun Menaker. “A polished ensemble of miniature professionals” (The New York Times), the world-class chorus performs fluently in multiple musical genres. Achievements include a 2005 Grammy® for a recording of John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls; annual performances…

In Collaboration With

Brooklyn, New York
San Francisco, California
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
Bronx, New York
New York, New York


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