Diane Latour grew up in Cloquet, but had never heard of the 26-year-old Lake Superior Youth Choir until her son's music teacher recommended he audition for the choral training group.
Two years later and Preston Latour, a sixth-grader at Cloquet Middle School, has been singing with the choir ever since. He's required to practice at home everyday and often does so by singing to his cat.
The group meets every Sunday in Duluth, a time he said he looks forward to because they have fun and everyone's accepting.
"He could be having a bad day, then just those two hours with the choir and he's happy," Diane Latour said.
The LSYC serves about 115 young choirists in the Northland. They travel from as far Moose Lake and Two Harbors, said Executive Director Jenna Kelly.
Confidence, self-efficacy and dedication are values they aim to teach the young choirists through music, Kelly said.
"We value a holistic education," she said. "One of the things we aim to do is provide more than just music education. We use music as a way to educate these students on some character development qualities as well."
The LSYC consists of three resident choirs divided by grade level and age. The singers audition for their placement, but Kelly said no one is turned away completely. If, for whatever reason the young singer isn't quite ready for one of the LSYC resident choirs, they're offered the option to participate in an outreach program.
One option is Prelude, an eight-week program available to grades 3-10 in the spring and fall. The program is hosted at different schools each semester. Five to six schools in Duluth, Superior and Hermantown will host these hour-long after school courses in the spring.
Kelly said LSYC is interested in bringing it to Carlton County schools.
"We definitely would love to get more participants involved from that community in our resident choirs," Kelly said. "One of the ways we can do that is by building those relationships through those outreach programs."
Eighth-grader Delilah Nilsson from Cloquet Middle School, ninth-grader Sam Remus from Cloquet Senior High School and sixth-grader Harper Mears from Esko School also sing in LSYC.
LSYC has its Holiday Reflections Concert at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, in the Marshall School Fregeau Auditorium, Duluth.