Opener: March 2018

Custodian With a dry mop in a hallway

Posted on 03.21.18


Few things are as heart-warming or inspiring as listening to children sing. A nonprofit group, Chords of Courage, is elevating that experience to include children writing their own songs. Called the Step Up! Frederick Student Songwriting Contest, the winning music by local high school and middle school students will be performed in concert at Frederick Community College’s Jack B. Kussmaul Theater on April 6. The project will continue after the performances with students encouraging the community to “Step Up!” and emulate the people written about in the songs.

“I’m beside myself with the project and I’ve really gotten to know Frederick. What a great community,” says Caron Dale, CEO and founder of Chords of Courage, which is based in the Washington, D.C., area, but will be hosting the inaugural contest and concert in Frederick. Students are required to base their songs on people they consider courageous. “It’s a great way to empower teens to be active members of their community and an incredibly profound experience for everyone. By creating socially conscious songs today, we help to create socially conscious citizens for tomorrow,” Dale says. She adds, “Chords of Courage is changing the conversation from the demoralizing and cynical to the hopeful and inspirational—one song at a time.”

“Chords of Courage is changing the conversation from the demoralizing and cynical to the hopeful and inspirational—one song at a time.”—Caron Dale, CEO and founder of Chords of Courage

Dale says several workshops will be scheduled in the weeks leading up to the concert as students write their songs.

The initiative has attracted numerous partners so far, including the Delaplaine Foundation, the Ausherman Family Foundation, Student Homelessness and Initiative Partnership, Boys & Girls Club of Frederick County, New Spire Arts and Frederick Acoustic Music Enterprise. Additionally, Dale says the school system is helping get the word out to students.

Marlene Young, president of the Delaplaine Foundation, says she reviews hundreds of grant applications, but what initially set the Chords of Courage request apart for her was how it fit three of the six pillars of giving that comprise the foundation’s mission statement—education, art and human service. The project provides “a trifecta benefit to the students directly involved as well as for those in their schools and community through service projects,” Young says.

“I’m personally pumped by this organization and project because music has had such a profound and lasting impact on my life. It’s a well-known fact that the arts—visual and performing—prepare students for success in education, in the workplace and in life,” Young says.

Young, who is a songwriter, says she participated in a Chords of Courage workshop and “witnessed first-hand the enthusiasm, the creative thinking and the outright celebration in song when the kids were able to take what they had learned and transform it to music. It will be a powerful way for student expression and creative talents to align with community service.”

Frederick Magazine