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Meet the Staff: Mary Christ

Mary Christ has been with the Denver Children’s Choir for nearly 20 years – first as a parent of singers, then as a volunteer, an accompanist, a conductor, and since 2010, the Office Manager.

Born in New Orleans, Mary’s early childhood memories are full of music with her father at the piano leading jazz jam sessions and her mother and siblings playing records spanning many genres from musical theater to jazz to classical music. Mary learned to play piano at an early age and still enjoys playing a variety of music. Her first memory of singing a solo was sitting on the edge of the stage singing “Do You Hear What I Hear?” at her elementary school holiday program, but she says, “I was very shy when I was little, so didn’t sing much for others until later.” In middle school, she continued piano lessons and was going to take up the viola because “it wouldn’t sound as bad as the violin”, but a family move from Colorado to California intervened. Although Mary’s family moved frequently during her childhood, music was always a constant in her life.

When her family moved from Houston to Denver while she was in high school, Mary realized her love of choral music, specifically the friendships and sense of community it brings. At Cherry Creek High School, she took a music theory class taught by the choir director, Dr. Michael Mendoza, who encouraged her to sing in the Girls 21 choir and “I’ve been singing ever since”. She traveled on her first (of many) choir tours. Inspired by her experiences in high school, she successfully auditioned for the Glee Club and College Choir as a freshman at Pomona College. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and then continued to study music at the University of Denver, where she earned a master’s degree in Vocal Performance.

Mary has sought out new musical endeavors her entire adult life. She helped start the women’s singing group Impromptu, performed several recitals on her own and with DCC’s Music Director Lisa Cameron, sang and toured with the choral group Kantorei for many years, plays in a neighborhood rock band, and continues to sing with the choir at Wellshire Presbyterian Church.

What initially drew you to the DCC?
“I knew of the DCC (then the RMCC!) through my friendship with Leslie Britton and Jane Ripper at church choir. My daughter, Allie, started in Summit in 6th grade and sang with the choir all through high school and is still close with her choir friends from Fourteeners and Altitude. My son, Drew, sang with the Mountain Aires and Altitude for a few years as well. I offered to play the piano for the beginning choirs and then conducted the entry level choir at three elementary schools across Denver. When Allie graduated high school and went to college, I was happy to accept the Office Assistant position at DCC!”

What has been your biggest surprise at DCC?
“DCC keeps going, growing, and adapting. I’m so happy with how well we weathered the COVID storm given that choirs could not practice or perform in person for an entire year. We were able to quickly adapt to this challenge, especially with Lisa’s leadership and creativity, and maintained a lively and vibrant community for our singers. Figuring out how to host online rehearsals and keep the singers engaged was daunting at first, but I was pleased that we managed to do so well with such a good response from the kids.”

What is the most important thing DCC does?
“The DCC brings kids from all over Denver together and allows them to realize they have a lot in common with many people – not just in Denver, but around the world. Everyone in the world can connect through music. Music allows children to learn about different cultures because it is a language that we all understand. The DCC gives children the opportunity to meet people they would never meet otherwise.

How does DCC create an inclusive environment?
“DCC treats people with an infectious kindness and respect for one another. I always feel respected, and I love hearing the conductors say, “that was fantastic!” to the kids. You get a better response from respect and love, especially when you’re sharing your voice – such a personal, vulnerable part of ourselves!”

Why is inclusivity so important?
“Inclusivity makes people feel important and valued. It teaches tolerance and understanding of other cultures, people, perspectives, and life experiences. More importantly, I hope we teach younger generations to be more inclusive than those generations before us.”

What makes Mary, Mary?
“I love doing things with my family, like skiing together or enjoying a fun night out at a restaurant or show. Both of my children recently moved back to Denver, and I am very happy to spend more time with them. My days are usually filled with music – rehearsals, singing at church, going to or performing in concerts, or seeing a musical theater show, not to mention the constant songs going through my head!

“Choir has been a vehicle for so many things in my life and has given me so many opportunities for education, travel, professional experience, and life-long friendships. While choir has always been fun for me, it has also taught me many lessons in preparation, self-confidence, event planning, and public presence. I think that people can draw from the experience and lessons in the performing arts and apply them to any profession, not just professional performers. Choir allowed me to travel all over Europe from Paris to Leipzig (when it was a part of East Germany!) to Bratislava, Budapest, Montreal, the southern U.S., and Guatemala. Similarly, choir allowed my children to travel, experiences that helped them gain confidence and the ability to make decisions on their own.”

Favorite time/event for DCC:
The May concerts when all the kids sing together. Amazing to see them all on the stage together!

Favorite Music memory:
Recording jazz standards with my dad, including several he wrote.

Favorite Ice cream:
Chocolate

Favorite vacation spot:
A beach or a ski slope

Favorite performance attended:
Any concert at Red Rocks, including James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, CSNY, and Chuck Mangione at sunrise!

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