The Power of Song: Building a Vocal Community®

A Weekend Workshop with Dr. Ysaÿe Barnwell

November 10-12, 2017

Friday 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Saturday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sunday 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs

101 Spruce Street, Toronto



There is an awesome power in the human voice and when uncommon voices are blended for the common good, they become a ‘vocal community’ at its best. Masterfully led by Dr. Ysaÿe M. Barnwell, singers and non-singers alike will share the common experience of learning in the oral tradition and singing traditional songs from Africa and the Diaspora, and a variety of songs from African American culture including spirituals, gospels, ring shouts, hymns, and songs from the Civil Rights Movement. The historical, social, and political context will be provided as an introduction to the songs.


Explore from an African American worldview, the values imbedded in the music, the role of cultural and spiritual traditions and rituals, ways in which leadership emerges and can be shared by and among community members, the nature of cultural responses and influences on political and social struggle, and finally the significance of a shared communal experience in ones’ personal life. All that is required is a willingness to sing.

About Ysaÿe Barnwell

Dr. Ysaÿe M. Barnwell is a master teacher and choral clinician in African American cultural performance. Her workshop “Building a Vocal Community®: Singing in the African American Tradition” has been conducted for twenty-eight years all over the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Singapore and Australia, making her work in the field a significant source of inspiration and learning for both singers and non-singers, and a model of exceptional pedagogy for educators, cultural activists and historians. In 1979, Dr. Barnwell joined the world-renowned a cappella ensemble, Sweet Honey In The Rock®. She was a member of the group for 34 years, appearing as a singer on more than thirty recordings. In 1977, Barnwell founded the All Souls Jubilee Singers in Washington, D.C., where she currently resides. To learn more about Ysaÿe Barnwell, CLICK HERE to visit her website.

General Information

This workshop will take place over 3 days:

Friday, November 10: 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Saturday, November 11: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Sunday, November 12: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm


Adults: $140

Teens & Children Aged 10-17: $70


For cancellations, we are able to offer refunds up to one month before the event. After that, tickets are non-refundable.

We have a few scholarships and volunteer positions available. Please contact Mila to learn more.


This workshop will be held at the Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Clubs, in the historic “Cabbagetown” neighbourhood of Toronto. Kiwanis is a vibrant community hub where children and youth are supported and empowered to achieve their dreams. This location is wheelchair accessible. The address is: 101 Spruce Street.

Recording & Note Taking

Because this is a workshop that is based in the oral/aural tradition, participants will not be permitted to make audio or video recordings of the workshop. Additionally, note taking will not be encouraged.

Testimonials From Past Participants

This was one of the most exhilarating, restorative, and thrilling workshops I have attended. The combination of teaching about the psychological centrality of music for African and African-American peoples, and the experience of learning and singing such wonderful music as part of a group, was transformative!
Very educational! I thought I was just going to sing. No, no, no! I learned a great deal about song, African history and present, and the power of communal singing. A really excellent workshop and a lot of fun.
I appreciated Ysaye's skill and depth of knowledge. She had a wide variety of types of music for us to sing coupled with knowledge about the African experience from chants to spirituals and the Civil Rights movement. She's a master!
Ysaye is an amazing teacher and healer. She treats us all as consummate singers and with gentle prodding and exquisite skill, gets us all singing in beautiful and complex harmonies. It is uplifting, fun and renewing and I loved every second of it.

Ysaÿe Barnwell's Ted Talk

This workshop has filled. To be added to our waiting list, please contact Mila at

Workshop Hosts

This workshop is brought to you by Sing for Joy, in partnership with the Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Clubs. Sing for Joy is an all-inclusive community of choirs in the city of Toronto. We are a member of the Ubuntu Choir Network, a global community of singing groups who believe that the joy of singing is a universal birthright, and that together, regardless of musical background, we can help improve the world by joining voices in song.


Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Clubs is a vibrant community hub where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships, and develop confidence and skills for life.