LTYC Performs with Matthew Morrison


38304005_1510651389040584_2558378204226125824_oOn Wednesday afternoon, I received the following message from the new Great Lakes Center for the Arts. “Please call me ASAP about LTYC singing with Matthew Morrison Friday night.”

FYI, Matthew Morrison was Mr. Schuster on the CBS television series “Glee” he performed on Broadway in “Footloose,” originated the role of Link Larkin in the Broadway hit “Hairspray”, starred in the revival of “South Pacific” at Lincoln Center and starred as J.M. Barrie in the musical “Finding Neverland.”

Here was the situation we faced – on Friday evening, six of our members were singing in the final concert of the Young Americans summer camp at the Harbor Springs Performing Arts Center, two were in southern Michigan at band camp, several
others had jobs and our director, Kevin Wells was downstate with his seriously ill father so what could we say other than “YES.”

With Kevin’s blessing we got on the phone and contacted the remaining choir members and found that most of the boys (young men) could attend a Thursday evening rehearsal, a Friday rehearsal and sing in the concert. We then expanded our search to recent alumni members and found seven of our recent choir alums who would be able to change their work schedules to join us. Also, Heather Russell our founding choir director, who is Education Director at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts, agreed to rehearse the choir and prepare them for the concert.



38485819_2249459701737541_4948828452808556544_nTo make a long story short, they learned and memorized the music it two short rehearsals and did a beautiful job and were loved by the sold out audience. There was also much excitement after the concert when the choir members had a short session for a chat and photos with Michael. He was most gracious and complimentary of their performance.

A great job was done by Heather Russell, Mikayla Cerrudo ( former choir member and intern at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts), Amy Rhudy (former choir accompanist and now on staff at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts), Brenda Bell (VWB President), and Kim Cerrudo (VWB Executive Director).

~ Jack Kukuk, VWB Artistic Director


Moments. Now that we are back in Michigan, moments are what I remember. Moments such as singing in Sterling Castle where history has been made for hundreds of years.

Moments like joining with over a hundred singers and presenting a concert full of challenging and beautiful music in front of a large crowd at Christ Church Cathedral. Then there was the moment when I felt like our choir was too exhausted to perform but they dug deep and sang like angels in St. Gile’s Cathedral!

There were so many moments of breathtaking visual beauty and gorgeous music. There were moments of meeting new people and gaining new friends such as the lovely lady from Beijing, China, who’s e-mail address I now have in my contacts. There were surreal moments such as singing and realizing that were were literally being recorded by people from all over the world. I can’t even imagine how many facebook feeds we now appear on and in how many countries.

All of those moments, and more, were great. However, what really made this trip special was the people. Wonderful, caring chaperones who did everything in their power to keep our kids safe while offering them the opportunity of a lifetime. The talented and friendly group of dancers from Maryland that we met and became friends within one week.

The tour guide, the coach driver, and Jack Kukuk that gave their all to keeping us on schedule. And finally, an amazing group of 19 singers that spent their time living in the moment, smelling the roses, and bonding as a true family.

I have had a lot of great moments in my life, but this tour is near the top. I will always be thankful to the many people, who in many ways, made this transformaitonal experience possible.

Voices Without Borders was organized to increase peace, understanding and bonds throughout the world. I am humbled and honored that I was able to serve as choir director on such a huge mission. I am thankful for the people and the moments that brought us to achieving that goal. Being a part of this is huge and something that I never expected for myself. Now, I am excited for more adventures, singer and opportunities to come!

Kevin Well, LTYC Director

Reflections, Favorite Memories and Quotes

As I’m sitting by the window seat of the airplane, I’m looking back at the last 8 days. They were for sure memorable.

I don’t know as if I could say enough thank yous to the people who did this for me. I’ve learned a lot about singing and was fortunate to be able to sing in three different cathedrals!

Before I wrote this, I was looking through my photos and lightly cried, realizing all that I had just eclipsed! I met so many new people, bonded with the ones I already knew and saw amazing things.

I don’t know as if I could say a highlight for the trip because it was all amazing, but if I did, it would have to be either hearing the echo of a good note ring throughout a cathedral or the farewell dinner.

I was told by my family, “Enjoy it while it lasts,” and for me that can be hard at times. I tend to look ahead, but while sometimes my arrogance got the better of me, taking it in was the best choice!

Ireland and Scotland are truly photogenic and places I would like to come back to.

The sad part about all these things is that they eventually, no matter how hard you try or cry, they must close. When we unloaded the bus this morning, Martin (the driver) looked at me after I helped him unload the last case and said, “Have a good one, lad.” 

Amongst the rush to get in the airport, I shook his hand and thanked him. Now when I think, I’ll probably never get to see that man again. The same goes for when Jack left… I’ll see him, but we still left him… Then we split with the dance group on our final flight home. Together we formed great friendships in a week and now we all hope to meet again at the next festival.

After it all, I’m glad for the experience and I want to shout out to Brenda Bell and Sara Kukuk. These two ladies worked their rears off to get us here, and yet they didn’t go! THANK YOU!!!

After all went down, that was by far the best week of my life!



Singing is… an athletic event. 

There’re no such things as problems. Just creative solutions. ~ Sterling Castle attendant’s words to Martin

When I first heard that our choir was going to Ireland and Scotland, I was very excited, but then again, I was thinking how much work it would take to make that happen. But after all the hard work was done, we headed to Ireland and Scotland and also a dance group was going to join us on tour and I think everyone was very excited to hear this. So as we were in Ireland and Scotland, I learned a lot of life skills and it was an all-around awesome experience for every kid.

One of my favorite things about the tour was meeting new people and the new people got to know were very outgoing, funny and always happy. And also I became closer to my friends I already had and I really improved my social skills which was a great thing to do. I am also very thankful for all the parents’ hard work, because without them, none of this would have happened.

One thing I can tell you is that singing is a very tiring event. But all the hard work definitely paid off and it was all worth it and this tour was definitely one of the best eight days of my life!! It is sad that it is over, but I hope one day we can do it again. 

One of the best memories was basically every time we all ate dinner together. Every moment that we got to get to know new people was so much fun.

Shopping and walking around town, the buildings and shops were so cool. The architecture everywhere made for a great picture shoot! I really enjoyed meeting all the new people. The dance kids from Maryland are sweet and I’ll miss them all. Met just a couple of the Dublin Choral Concert kids. They were very nice, as well, and we connected with a couple of them on Instagram. 

The castles were absolutely amazing. All the churches had great accoustics. All around, the trip was memorable. I’ll say it went by pretty quick, but at the same time, every day seemed long and I took in every moment. We should definitely all meet up again sometime in person in Europe. Dance Unbound and LTYC will meet again! I’ll get emotional thinking too hard, but I’ll never forget this. I LOVE EVERYONE ❤ ~ Abigail

The trip, to start out with, was absolutely amazing. My favorite part of the entire trip was being able to spend so much time with the people that have become important to me. The actual place was so beautiful and the architecture of the buildings was something that I could not stop admiring. It was truly an amazing trip and I would like to go back some day. ~ Maya

Honestly, this trip was so phenomenal! My favorite part was being able to experience all these things with the choir. We grew as friends, and as a singing group. Being able to see new and beautiful things was exhilarating, but the fact that I could be with y’all made it so much better. Love ya and I can’t wait to sing next year.

“And until we meet again…”~ Avery ❤ 🙂

An amazing moment for me was seeing the view from the Wallace Monument, but I think my favorite part of the trip was getting to know everyone and connecting with everyone in a real way. ~ ❤ Amy

An unforgettable experience for me was that I got to tour places I have never been to with some pretty cool people, and I got to learn a lot of new things about the way of life over there.

Never been out of the state you said. Look at you now, holding up a castle! ~ Michael Hughes to Thomas at Trim Castle

Sometimes the best therapy is a long drive, good music and good company. We’ve had all three for the past 9 days and it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. Thank you, everyone. ~ Beverly

On our first day in Dublin, we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. We had only just met each other when we decided to have a flash mob in the courtyard. As we congratulated each other after the performance, I was shocked at how well the two groups mixed. We had only known each for a day, but in that moment, we made it seem like we had been touring together for months. ~ Olivia

My favorite part was the castle in Trim… no, the Edinburgh Castle… no, the Stirling Castle…no wait, the Harry Potter shop… no, singing in Dublin… I loved all of it… and yes everyone, I got a kilt! ~ Thomas

“Can you please hurry up. Come along now, hurry up.” ~ Harvey, our wonderful tour guide

Some of my favorite memories were the simple gifts like the feel of the wind in my face and the sound of waves below as Scotland came into view,

our first steps on Scottish soil,

a rainbow in Dublin,

a sunset and sunrise from the air just hours apart, the sound of your beautiful voices as they floated through a cathedral, your smiles, time with friends old and new and your gift of song. I am so grateful.

~ Kim

Simple Gifts

The last few days have been a whirlwind of priceless memories, beautiful music and precious time together! I think it is safe to say, all would like to return someday!

Edinburgh was quite magical with Edinburgh Castle sitting above the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site. It is the most besieged place in Britain, and has been home to many of Scotland’s kings and queens. The tour of the Royal Palace was quite stunning and the view spectacular!

J.K. Rowling wrote much of The Sorcerer’s Stone from an Edinburgh coffee shop and its not hard to see where she received her inspiration. Winding shops down cobble stone streets had the feel we were shopping in Diagon Alley with Edinburgh Castle, home to Hogwarts.

In Edinburgh, the Little Traverse Youth Choir’s voices soared and resonated to the top of St. Giles Cathedral. Breathtaking and beautiful.

St. Giles’ (pronounced Jile!) iCathedral is the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.The present church dates back to the late 14th century and is sometimes regarded as the “Mother Church of Presbyterianism”. The choir performed for an hour to an audience, as well as people wandering through the cathedral who paused to listen.

Later that afternoon, Dance Unbound performed at the base of the hill below the castle. It was so fun to see their total show. Check out their video at Mid-Maryland Performing Arts Center on Facebook.

The following morning we traveled to Stirling Castle for a joint concert in the cathedral with Dance Unbound and Lexi. Here’s a clip of Simple Gifts from The American Folk Rhapsody.

We traveled to the National Wallace Monument, built to honor Sir William Wallace, Scotland’s national Hero, before heading into Glasgow for our last evening in Scotland.

Heartfelt gratitude to Martin, our driver, Harvey, our tour guide, Jack Kukuk, VWB Artistic Director, Dance Unbound, our chaperones, Brenda Bell, Sara Kukuk and our VWB Board Members, our fantastic parents, all the donors who helped to make this possible and Petra, Sara and the staff at Music Celebrations International and the staff at Air Bear Travel for an incredible experience!

A view of Glasgow.

A Message from Jack Kukuk

Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist who describes a peak experience as a “rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experience that generates an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the person experiencing that moment.” In my own experience, it is a moment when you reach a state where the experience becomes a permanent part of your being, a lasting positive moment of your life.  In my fairly-long life, I have been fortunate to experience a precious few of these moments.

I experienced such a moment on Saturday, June 16, 2018 in Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland when the Little Traverse Youth Choir from northern Michigan joined five other choirs and the festival orchestra to perform a beautiful concert as a part of the Dublin Choral Festival. These young singer’s voices soared to the heavens that evening in the church very near where George Frederic Handel’s Messiah was premiered so many years ago.  The parents and others of our entourage were connected in spirit to these young singers who, most certainly had a life changing moment themselves. Did they have a sense of what they had achieved? Possibly not at the moment, but they did reach down into the depth of their being to let their voices soar into the heavens. My spirit soared with them.

Jack Kukuk

VWB Artistic Director and Co-Founder

Sounds of Spirituality

On Friday, June 16, the Little Traverse Youth Choir joined members of the Campbell Union High School Choir from San Jose, CA, the Coastline Arts Community Choir from the Central Coast of Florida, the Dodge City Community College Choir, the Rhodes Singers from Rhodes College and the Skutt Catholic Concert Choir from Omaha, Nebraska to present Sounds of Spirituality at Christ Church Cathedral, a glorious stone cathedral nearly 1,000 years old. Handel’s Messiah debuted at this same cathedral in 1742.

Sounds of Spirituality was a glorious reminder for a world divided, of the need for peace. The mass choir surrounded the audience opened with Ross C. Bernhardt’s “Prayer of St. Patrick.” The music spun and reverberated as it soared up past the organ through the sacred space. It was incredibly moving.

It is difficult to put into words the magnitude of what we experienced. There were so many incredible moments. We can hardly wait for the official DVD to share with you and know you’re equally anxious to listen!

Tears flowed as I looked at each singer, thinking of the courage, determination, sacrifice and synchronicity that brought them all together to share this gift with the world. I watched composer, Timothy C. Takach perform with the choir. I listened in awe as Darius Brubeck brought his father’s music to life on piano. The concert concluded with “Hands” written by festival accompanist and composer, Jocelyn Hagen. It is a piece without words so voices of all languages may come together in peace and love. Jocelyn Hagen and her husband, Timothy Takach’s duet supported by the choir, made “Hands” Irish debut that much more remarkable.

The concert was given in aid of The Irish Hospice Foundation. This was especially fitting for our choir director, Kevin Wells, whose father is supported by the loving care of hospice in the U.S.A.

Yesterday we bid Ireland farewell grateful for the gifts of friendship, music and memories. We are thrilled to be able to announce that the fantastic director we have learned so much from here at the Dublin Choral Festival, Dr. William Skoog, of Rhodes College, will be rejoining us as the Festival Director for the 2019 Children of the World in Harmony Festival in Northern Michigan from July 16-21, 2019!

We feel so blessed for the support and sacrifice of all who saw the incredible opportunity and worked together to make this miracle happen for nineteen young singers from Northern Michigan.

I’m tearing up with emotion as I think of the life-changing gift you have given to all of us so that their voices may be shared with the world and their eyes see far beyond the shores of Lake Michigan, to Dublin and beyond, including the shores of Galloway, where we took our first steps in Scotland.

Within the hour, we will depart for Edinburgh Castle. Today will bring a concert by LTYC and a performance by Dance Unbound, new memories to last a lifetime. Wishing you the most special day wherever you may be!

New Friends in Trim

At about the time Voices Without Border’s Harmony newsletter was released announcing an invitation to the Dublin Choral Festival, Gerry Meade of Meath County, Ireland reached out to Boyne City mayor, Tom Neidhamer, about a possibility of twinning Trim, County Meath, Ireland with Boyne City, Michigan, USA. Boyne City had hosted a concert for VWB’s 2017 Children of the World in Harmony Festival of which the Little Traverse Youth Choir is the host choir. As the date of the tour approached, so to did the excitement on both sides of the Atlantic for an opportunity for ambassadors from Northern Michigan to be welcomed by the people of Trim.

On June 15, the Little Traverse Youth Choir and Dance Unbound were welcomed in Trim by Michael Hughes and a friendly knight from Trim Castle. The afternoon began with a picnic at the base of the castle’s walls, followed by a tour of the largest Cambro-Norman castle in Ireland, rich in history and also featured in the 1995 film, “Braveheart.”

Michael Hugh’s recognized one of our singers from the 9 and 10 News broadcast of our departure. “Look at you now, holding up a castle!”

After the tour, we headed to the Stockhouse restaurant, where we were met by a number of dignitaries, friends of the community, local school children and a representative from EJ’s foundry in nearby Birr, for an exchange of proclamations and gifts between the two cities.

Little Traverse Youth Choir member and Boyne City resident, Kira, read the proclamation from Boyne City. Here she is pictured with Tom Kelly, Cathaoirleach of Meath CC, and Caroline O’Brien of EJ. You may see much of the official ceremony here.

Kira, Michael Hughes and Tom Kelly hold the flag presented to Boyne City on behalf of the Boyne Valley.

LTYC’s Amy and Jacob presented plaques of appreciation to Gerry Meade and David Gorey. The presentations were followed by by a concert by Voices Without Borders’ Little Traverse Youth Choir and Mid-Maryland Performing Arts Center’s Dance Unbound. Lexi performed a soft shoe dance and Karlee, an Odawa Fancy Shawl Dance.

Dance Unbound has a new fan! You won’t want to miss the ending of the above clip!

Afterwords, we enjoyed a delicious dinner.

img_1324-e1530560042421.jpgWe’re looking forward to meeting our new friends in June, 2018, when a group will travel to Boyne City, MI. A special thank you to all who made us feel so welcome! We had a wonderful time!


serendipity – (n) good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries

William Skoog of Rhodes College and Artistic Director for the Dublin Choral Festival opened rehearsal describing several serendipitous events that led to an amazing festival. Jocelyn Hagen, musician and composer, is the accompanist for the festival. The choir will perform one of her compositions, Hands. Her husband, musician and composer Timothy C. Takach, is singing in the choir. The choir is performing Takach’s Neither Angels Nor Demons. We had the pleasure of hearing them sing together at the welcome luncheon. So talented! Their band is called Nation.

While LTYC rehearsed, Dance Unbound had a great Irish dance class. So exciting! Check out the Mid Maryland Performing Arts Center on Facebook!

The welcome luncheon at Taylor’s Three Rock was so much fun! We were treated to delicious food, Irish dancing and music by Coscan.

In a bit of our own serendipity, Coscan performed The Rattlin’ Bog with special guests, the Little Traverse Youth Choir while Dance Unbound danced in the back.

We attended Evensong at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the National Cathedral of Ireland and was built in honor of St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint.

We returned to St. Patrick’s College for an evening rehearsal. The final notes took my breath away. We are taking the advice of William Skoog to live in the moment and savor every experience. Today was a most definitely a collection of amazing moments to savor!

A Day in Dublin

What a fabulous day, with fantastic memories and growing friendships! We landed in Dublin at 7:30am and met our tour director who took us on a panoramic tour of Dublin. We saw so many colorful doors! We passed St. Stephen’s Green, Marrion Square, Liffey Footbridges, Grafton Street, Temple Bar neighborhood, O’Connoll and Phoenix Park. We passed St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the national cathedral of Ireland, where we will be rehearsing in the morning and Christ Church Cathedral, the Church where the festival gala concert will be held on Saturday.

After a delicious lunch near Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university, we visited the college to observe the Book of Kells. Dating back to AD 800, the calligraphy and artwork were incredible and among the oldest books in the world.

Nothing could have prepared us for what waited at the top of the stairs. The Long Room housed the most breathtaking of libraries! Imagine floor to ceiling ancient books!

We completed our time at the campus with our first flash mob with Dance Unbound. So special!

I’ll leave you with one of the best parts of traveling with a choir and dance group! How fun is this?!

Greetings from Dublin!

We’ve watched the magic of a sunset above the clouds and the sky brighten with a new day. We’ve arrived be landing in Dublin at 7:34am, 2:30am Eastern Standard Time Zone. Everyone did their best to rest on the flight.

It was a long, fun first day of travel that included over 4,000 miles and began with a joyous send-off and included bus rehearsals and karaoke, a flash performance before boarding, first flights and new friendships. We’re so excited to have been joined by Mid-Maryland Performing Arts Center’s Dance Unbound!

Enjoy some favorite moments from our first day. We’re so excited to see what today will bring!

Greetings from Dublin!!!