Alumni hero


Formerly Chicago Children's Choir, Uniting Voices Chicago’s mission has an impact spanning generations as our network of over 50,000 alumni continue to inspire and change lives around the world.

Our alumni are global leaders who transform their industries with an emphasis on community, education and activism, representing excellence in every aspect of their work.

The international reach of our alumni advances opportunities for all as they amplify new voices and ideas across many professional fields including neuroscience, engineering, government policy, education, business leadership, impact investing, entertainment, technology and more! Our alumni continually engage with and support Uniting Voices Chicago through stewardship, volunteering, performance and connections with current singers and audiences.

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Thank you!

This spring, our Bridging America Tour will take singers to Lexington, Miami, Cincinnati, Michigan, New York, Philadelphia and Toronto! Singers will perform at some of these cities’ most iconic venues, including the Miami Beach Bandshell. These unmatched opportunities help expand the worldview of our singers as they forge new connections with youth across the nation. Perhaps most importantly, during these tours our singers serve as ambassadors for Chicago, reshaping the perception of our great city as they develop into global leaders of the next generation.

Thanks to the generosity of our alumni community, we raised nearly $7,000 this winter for the Alumni Tour Fundraising Initiative. With this support, we'll be able to send six singers on tour for virtually no cost to them! Thank you for your commitment to inspire and uplift our talented youth as they imagine and build a harmonious world.

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Sima alumni

"It's really special to return as an alum to this organization, because I know that it was such a big part of my life as a young person and it opened up not only opportunities but experiences that I could have never had any other way. And so to return and have that feeling again of voices at my back is really meaningful to me and it reminds me how important and how unique that life experience was."

Sima Cunningham Musician and Alumni

Lisa Arnold (Choir Years: 1995-2003 [singer], 2014-2023 [conductor])

”I am a better person, a more passionate ally and a much more empathetic teacher from my time in Uniting Voices."

Lisa Arnold started her musical journey as a singer in the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Choir and then returned a few music degrees later to become one of our conductors, working with many school programs and the Pilsen/Little Village Neighborhood Choir. One of the many highlights of her time with the organization was on tour in 2022, watching choirs beautifully sing her arrangement of Precious Lord in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Now, after a combined 17 years with Uniting Voices, she's on to the next chapter in her musical life as Curriculum Leader for Fine and Performing Arts with Detroit Public Schools.

Keanon Kyles (Choir Years: 1995-2006)

“[The choir] conditioned us to be world leaders, game changers, out of the box creatives and dreamers. It was not enough to just be a singer— we wanted to be examples of excellence and hope for the future.”

Before his musical prowess took him around the world and onto some of opera’s biggest stages, musician and bass-baritone singer Keanon Kyles spent ten years honing his voice in the choir. He has performed at Lyric Opera and Chicago Opera Theater, and collaborated with artists like Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. In 2023, he was honored by Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs with an Outstanding Achievement in Arts & Humanities award during Black History Month. Kyles also began work on an artistic project with other local Chicago artists celebrating the city, sponsored by the Reva and David Logan Foundation.

Sophie Hinerfeld (Choir Years: 2009-18)

"I feel that my time in [the choir] trained me to strive for excellence. This work ethic has shown up in all my work and I care deeply about bringing each project to its fullest potential."

Filmmaker Sophie Hinerfeld began her artistic journey as a singer for ten years, starting out as part of Lincoln Park Neighborhood Choir before eventually joining Voice of Chicago. She went on to college at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts where she studied Film and TV Production. Now, she's getting ready to direct her short film Yaretzi, which follows the story of a Jewish girl on Passover learning to stand up to herself.

Erik Charlston (Choir Years: 1971-78)

From the choir to the silver screen! Erik Charlston is a working musician who got his start with the choir in 1971 at the First Unitarian Church. At his first rehearsal, he heard the older singers performing some beautiful Renaissance motets—and he was instantly hooked on the music! Since then, he’s gone on to be part of the cast of Steven Spielberg’s award-winning remake of West Side Story. He currently works as a percussionist in New York, where he regularly plays gigs at the Metropolitan Opera and on Broadway and records scores for upcoming films like Rustin.

Bailey Haynes

Bailey Haynes has seen the power of Uniting Voices’ music education programs at every level, beginning in a Neighborhood Choir, touring with Voice of Chicago and now conducting for our school programs.

In 2014, Bailey was part of a tour to South Africa where the choir performed traditional South African songs, music from the Civil Rights movement and contemporary American music. The choir's ability to learn these traditional South African pieces let audience members know that not only is their music being studied across the world, but that young singers from all over can respect and acknowledge the beauty of their culture. Now, as a conductor with Uniting Voices, Bailey has continued to inspire young lives through music by creating spaces that allow singers to have world-expanding experiences just like her own.

Michael Preacely

Michael Preacely, DMA has received critical acclaim for his performances with major and regional opera houses from Kentucky Opera to the Cincinnati Pops and American Spiritual Ensemble. But amidst his successful and demanding performance career, Michael has stayed present for the choir. He performed at Red Jacket Optional 2019, joined virtual performance projects during the pandemic and welcomed Dimension, Bucktown and Beverly Neighborhood Choirs to University of Kentucky for their tour of the Bluegrass in 2021. Michael recognizes that the experience he had in the choir was so transformative that he wants to bring the same opportunity to young people in the Bluegrass region through Uniting Voices Lexington. Read more about our program expansion helmed by our very own alum in the Lexington Herald Leader.

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