It was 1995 when Fairfield music teacher Jon Noyes realized there were dozens of young vocalists in Fairfield County who loved singing but had nowhere to go for serious choral and performance training.

"I knew I needed organizational help, though," he recalled recently. So he put together a board of directors, adopted a mission statement and gathered some singers.

From that inaugural season with 90 voices, the Fairfield County Children's Choir has grown to about 300 vocalists in grades four through 12.

And it is preparing to wrap up its 16th season with it's spring concert, "All That Jazz," May 7 at the Norwalk Concert Hall. The 7 p.m. show will feature classical, jazz standards and a sampling of jazz vocal improvisations -- "scat" singing made popular by Ella Fitzgerald.

Choir members are drawn from throughout Fairfield and Westchester counties.

Its elite senior group, Chamber Singers, travels to an international music festival each summer, and last year went to Europe to perform in Prague and Salzburg, said Barbara Brauner, the choir's general manager.

Plans are under way for this summer's performance tour in Canada.

The choir comprises four musical groups based on the children's ages and abilities.

The youngest members begin by learning how to read music, sing on key and sing in harmony. Along with fine tuning their music-theory and performance skills, they also cultivate strong friendships, poise and self confidence, Noyes said.

"There are a lot of ancillary educational experiences the kids get by participating in our choir," said Noyes, a music teacher at Fairfield's Holland Hill and Riverfield Schools.

Board member Joanne Caolo and her husband Frank were on last year's European tour with their two daughters, Kristen, 14, and Courtney, 11.

Joanne Caolo said the singers learn "a wide breadth of music in multiple languages" and have the opportunity to work with renowned conductors.

Audiences in Prague were appreciative that the Chamber Singers performed a piece in Czech, she said. "It was an amazing experience," she said.

Frank Caolo attributes the organization's success to Noyes' direction and commitment. "It was his idea, his thoughts, his drive that got this going," he said.

Frank Caolo said he also is impressed with the young singers' commitment to their art.

On last summer's trip, the Chamber Singers began to rehearse their pieces in the Paris airport during a four-hour layover. "Other choruses who were also on their way to the music festival joined in," Frank Caolo said. "It was wonderful."

His wife agreed. "It's beyond music. It's about what it does to the kids' self-esteem. This is an amazing group of very talented students. They have developed lifelong friendships."

Rachel Philips, 18, and Max Rein, 17, of Fairfield have been in the chorus since fourth grade -- the earliest they could. Eight-year choir members, the two high school seniors initially auditioned because their older siblings had been in the program.

"The choir has been in my family for an eternity," Rein said. "I grew up going to concerts. The musical pieces are challenging and you learn a strong foundation of music."

Although Rein had performed in musical theater since elementary school, Philips had musical training but little vocal experience when she joined the choir.

Philips, who has been studying piano since age 5 and playing violin in orchestras since fourth grade, said she developed a passion for singing in the Fairfield County program.

"If you could see the looks on the kids' faces at the end of a performance," said Jack Farrell, a board member and the choir's photographer. He became involved with the organization when his daughter, Amanda, now 25, was a participant. "I always say that the kids don't realize just how good they really are." Farrell continues to volunteer his time because he believes in the group's mission.

Tickets to the choir's spring concert are $15 and $20 and will be sold at the Norwalk Concert Hall the day of the performance. For more information, go to or call 203-414-4292.