Glee for Refugees: Meet the One Voice Chorus

Posted by Julie Ma

For a group of refugee teenage girls settled in Decatur, Georgia, learning the ropes of the English language is no easy feat. They hail from far-flung homelands including Afghanistan, Burma, Burundi, Ethiopia, Iraq, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. But the girls at the Global Village School have found a solution to the language barrier: music is their common tongue.

The Global Village School was a finalist in the Make Music challenge on GOOD Maker, and they've shown their tune hits the right note in forming unity. With artist-in-residence Elise Witt’s crafty songwriting, the girls of the Global Village School are gaining self-confidence and creating a musical voice for the school. 

Founded three years ago, the Global Village School was originally a home school that ran on grants and donations, exclusively serving teenage refugee girls. Now, it is in the process of getting accredited as a public school. The school’s mission is to see that these girls not just adjust to the U.S., but flourish here and Witt believes that musical education allow students to open up emotionally. Music education, though, is not officially part of the school budget, so they are seeking funding for the program in the upcoming year.

Witt began working with these girls as a music therapist, leading vocal improvisation once a week, which then expanded to a repertoire of original tunes with the students’ science, history, and even mathematic lessons set to music. Witt had hit on a value added curriculum: musical education and English lessons in one. 

“Singing is an outlet of self-expression. They all love music, and pretty much all of them are amazing singers,” Witt says. “They’re all from different countries; some are from ethnic countries that are at war with each other. It creates 'One Voice Chorus'—with all the diversity, but brings all of those voices together into one sound into this new place.”

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Photos courtesy of Elise Witt.