New York City Housing Authority

Translate this Page Printer Friendly Format Sign-up for NYCHA Newsletter

NYCHA Youth Chorus
Q&A with NYCHA Youth Chorus Director, Larry Matthew

Larry Matthew (second from the top left in the above photo) joined the NYCHA Youth Chorus at its inception in 1997 as a consultant. After leaving to pursue a private career, he was asked to return in 2001 to prepare a performance for Mayor Bloomberg’s inauguration, and has served as chorus director ever since. With top notch musical training from New York’s Third Street School of Music, experience working with a number of choral directors and the passion to further develop skills in musical production and composition, Mr. Matthew has a wealth of talent and knowledge to share with the more than 800 chorus members who have learned under his tutelage since the program began.

Why was the Youth Chorus created?
We wanted to provide an opportunity for NYCHA’s youth to develop and showcase their talents. At the same time, the experience imparts qualities needed for their development, such as self-esteem, confidence and poise. Our demanding performance schedule brings the accomplishments of NYCHA’s youth to many communities.

What are the different aspects of your job?
Selecting and arranging songs that suit the chorus, composing musical arrangements, rehearsing, and performing are at the core of what we do. But my staff and I also recruit and audition youth, furnish uniforms, publicize events, and handle other administrative tasks. I even review report cards to make sure the youths are successfully handling their other responsibilities.

What qualities do you look for in chorus members?
We test for perfect pitch or at least a very "good ear." They must also have good voices. However, we are also concerned that youths be respectful and responsible. When I say "Hard work," the chorus answers "pays off." That is our mantra. More than 800 chorus members and thousands of other youth have participated since the program began. If you have a love for music, this is the place for you.

What professional skills do you need for your job?
In addition to my music background and training, which includes arranging and performing music, I handle many business aspects with the NYCHA Law Department that pertain to performance contracts and related areas. Technical skills are needed to set up the stage and oversee the sound system.

What personal qualities does the job require?
You need to be a "people person," someone who is kind and understanding to children, and a good listener. You also need a lot of patience to repeat directions and instructions as often as necessary. My staff and I also give the youth, and their families, a lot of emotional support.

What is your most memorable day at work?
Last January, Kevin Harris, who sings with Disney Voice of Liberty at Epcot Center, taught a master class here (at the Youth Chorus rehearsal space). He was very impressed with our group and gave us some good tips. He even offered to compose a musical arrangement for our tenor and bass section. I want to expose our youth as much as possible to the professional aspects of music and the entertainment industry as a whole.

By Howard Silver
February 2007