By Dr. Jack Kukuk, Artistic Director


Voices Without Borders, Inc. (VWB) was founded in Michigan in 2008 as a 501. (c), 3 non-profit organization. VWB was based on the International Society for Children’s Choral & Performing Arts and carries on the work of that International Society. The mission of Voices Without Borders, Inc. is to promote, support, and sponsor choral music, dance, and other related activities for young people in our schools and communities throughout the Greater Northern Michigan and to offer similar opportunities for children from around the world who are invited to participate in VWB programs. VWB has developed four major programs during the first nine years of operation. 

The first program, developed in 2009, the Children of the World in Harmony International Youth Choir & Dance Festival, (see www.vwbchoir.com ) has attracted some of the world’s finest youth choir and dance ensembles to Michigan.  Participants have come from Argentina, Mongolia, Vietnam, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Finland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Mexico, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, and the USA.  Most of these groups have toured extensively to competitions and festivals worldwide and have won many prizes for their performances.  Most have been in existence for many years and represent a tradition of excellence and serve as models for younger choirs.  Each festival brings from 150 -250 young singers from around the world to Michigan for a six-day period.  VWB also brings internationally renowned choir conductors and composers to conduct the VWB International Festival Choir during the Festival. The Little Traverse Youth Choir has participated in five of the six Children of the World in Harmony International Youth Choir & Dance Festivals.

The second program, developed in 2010 and supported by VWB was the Little Traverse Youth Choirs (Youth and Treble Choirs) which became the Great Lakes Youth Choirs (Youth and Treble Choirs) in 2019.  See the choir website at www.greatlakesyouthchoir.org  These year-round community-based choirs serve the needs of young singers from throughout Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Antrim, Emmet and surrounding Counties including public, charter, private and home-schooled students.  LTYC offers a well-established and well-respected music education and performance program to young singers ages 6-18 years. LTYC is now in its eleventh year.   

     In addition to its regular concert season, the Youth Choir was greatly honored to have been invited to join the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra and Chorus on their December Messiah concerts and in its Spring Concerts. They have also performed with the Northern Michigan Chorale and the Little Traverse Choral Society. Also, the LTYC has been invited to perform at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts Community Open House on July 8, 2018 as a part of the Center's opening celebrations. 

International Touring Program The choir has presented four tours in Michigan.  In 2013, the choir presented a 10-day tour to New York State, Ontario and Quebec.  In June 2018, the choir will participate in a 9-day tour to Ireland to participate in the Dublin International Choral Festival and to Scotland where they will participate in the American Music Celebration in Scotland. Upon returning home from the June 2018 tour, the choir and dance ensemble present “Our Americana” on the stage of the new Great Lakes Performing Arts Center of Bay Harbor, on July 8, 2018.  This program was part of the Grand Opening of this significant new northern Michigan arts center. In 2020 the newly renamed Great Lakes Youth Choir was scheduled to perform in a major choral festival at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Unfortunately, a worldwide COVID -19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the festival.

The third program is an in-depth cultural exchange program with a single country.  In 2016, the Vietnam National School of Music -Sol Art Children’s Choir from Hanoi, Vietnam participated in this program. During the six-day period, the participants shared mutual language and cultural exchange programs.  The goal was to get to know more about each other’s culture through homestays with LTYC choir members, picnics, cookouts (campfires etc.); song and dance rehearsals; and by presenting performances on Mackinac Island, at the Music in Mackinaw Summer Concert Series, at Crooked Tree Arts Center and other locations for each other and the public. 


The Fourth program uses the performances and special events of the season to expand educational opportunities by offering a series of Workshops, Master Classes & Symposia to the community.  These offerings promote and support ongoing musical training activities for young singers and others in the community.  As of May 2017, VWB has presented eighteen master classes, workshops or seminars designed to improve the musical skills of our young Northwest Michigan students.  Samples of workshops presented are:  

 Creating a Musical Theater Portfolio - The workshop helped the singers create a musical theater portfolio.  They have included sessions on auditioning, selecting music for the auditions and what to wear to an audition.  Participants developed their written resume and had a “headshot” photo taken to include in their resume.          

Learning to Audition for a Panel of Judges - consisted of an audition with three local music and musical theatre directors.   At this audition, three singers plus one alternate were selected to participate in a Master Class to be taught by Broadway and film star Franc D’Ambrosio and Michael Tully, pianist, conductor, Music Director for Franc D’Ambrosio and currently voice coach at the University of Illinois School of Music.              

Master Classes presented by outstanding Performing Artists – Winners of the audition participated in a master class presented by Broadway and film star Franc D’Ambrosio. D’Ambrosio is Broadway’s longest running “Phantom of the Opera.”   Mr. D’Ambrosio focused on the student’s audition performance and presentation.  The Master Class also addressed the "Business" part of show business, including: auditions, appropriate dress, publicity photos, and appropriate music choices.  The master class was followed by a concert for the public by D’Ambrosio. This workshop will be replicated with other professional singers and or singing groups.