Elizabeth Woodhouse founded and serves as the Artistic Director of the Newport County Youth Chorus, which was established in September 2017. She has worked with community children’s choirs for more than 15 years in Denver, CO, Columbus, OH, New Haven, CT and most recently in Brooklyn, NY with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus from 2010 – 2016. We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.
RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.
EW: Yesterday was a DAY! It started by visiting Hathaway Elementary in Portsmouth to work with the 3rd grade chorus as they prepare to sing the National Anthem for the Newport Gulls game on June 17. From there I visited Common Fence Point to tour their new hall (still under construction) and learn more about the possibility of holding weekly rehearsals there. Yesterday was also the final rehearsal for the six-week NCYC “All That Jazz” program at St. Mary’s Church in Portsmouth. We presented the songs we learned to our families and friends and then celebrated with lots of sugary treats! From there I (safely, though swiftly) drove to ‘VUE in Newport to attend the Arts and Cultural Alliance’s “Raise Up the Arts” event! We celebrated our award winners of the new Artist Awards and the 3rd annual Tinney scholarship. It was a whirlwind of a day, but when I fall into bed after a long day like that I am grateful that I get to do what I love to do!
RISCA: What do you love about the art community in Rhode Island?
EW: What struck me the most when I started dreaming about starting the Newport County Youth Chorus in 2017 was that everyone I reached out to offered sincere and supportive advice and insight. Despite what some people say about Rhode Islanders, the arts community is open to new artistic ideas and programs. I felt and continue to feel truly embraced by the community.
RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
EW: My parents met in Providence and both of their families were in Rhode Island (Little Compton and Narragansett). Though I did not grow up in RI, we would spend every summer here and it always felt like “home” to me. It took many years and living in five states before I finally settled in Rhode Island in 2016, but I always knew I would!
RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?
EW: I love being able to provide a space for young people to explore their unique voice and experience how it impacts a collective goal, which in NCYC is through singing in a chorus. I feed on their curious and excited energy as they discover themselves through music.
RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?
EW: My biggest challenge in my art life is feeling isolated in my own work. It is easy to feel like we are alone when we are at the forefront of an idea or project that we are passionate about. I am consciously working on bringing people into the fold who can provide support in various ways: cheerleaders of the program, financial support, and community partners.