LANSING, Ill. (March 28, 2023) – The first weekend in May will be a melodious one in Lansing, as students come to sing and dance in the village as part of the America Sings! festival hosted at Fox Pointe, and as part of the Lansing Good Neighbor Day Parade.
America Sings! is a nonprofit organization that was created by John Jacobson and his friends and family in 1988. The organization has a long history of hosting festivals around the country that allow school choirs to showcase their work in a non-competitive setting, serve the local community, and participate in choreographed group songs.
More celebration than competition
Choir and dance competitions abound, but Jacobson wanted to create something different.
“I always tell kids, figure out what you like to do the most, and figure out how you can do that to help other people,” Jacobson said, who took his own advice and put his experience as a choreographer to work creating a singing festival for kids.
“What I do — and have done for my whole career — has been a choreographer, and a stage director. I’ve spent a lot of years working with Walt Disney Productions and other organizations like that staging shows,” Jacobson said. “The idea was, I need to practice what I preach here and still do my job — which is choreographing and staging shows — but use some of that energy towards the philanthropic side of my life.”
That philanthropic conviction led to America Sings!, a nonprofit organization that hosted its first event in Washington D.C. in 1988, and has traveled the country organizing youth-focused festivals in the decades since.
America Sings! comes to Lansing
Last year saw America Sings’ first in-person festival return after the COVID-19 pandemic. That festival took place in Washington D.C., and the next one, scheduled for May 5 and 6, will take place in Lansing.
Jacobson said America Sings! was eyeing locations in the midwest for 2022 when the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau contacted them.
“When they contacted us when we were looking for a place, it really fit well,” Jacobson said. “And then when they talked about the community parade that happens every year, I thought, ‘Well this would be great, it’ll give it a real fresh and new flavor. A flavor that is unique to Lansing and the Fox Pointe area.’ I think it’s going to be a really wonderful event because it will be like none other.”
The south suburbs hosted America Sings! 30 years ago when the organization came to Park Forest in 1993.
Andy Ritter, Director of Public Relations at the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “In our ongoing efforts to bring visitors, events and meetings to the region, and knowing the Village of Lansing had recently opened Fox Pointe, our VP of Sales Mary Patchin reached back out to America Sings! They viewed our Thresholds 360 video on Fox Pointe and booked the event.”
Five schools will participate in the weekend: Heritage Middle School from Lansing, Memorial Jr. High School from Lansing, Hoover Elementary School from Calumet City, St Nicolas of Tolentine from Chicago, and Academy of Music of the Paderweski Symphony Orchestra from Chicago. Just over 100 total students will participate overall.
Schedule of events
Friday, May 5
Students will rehearse the group songs and choreography they’ve received in advance from America Sings!, choreography Jacobson created himself.
The rehearsal may be historic in it own right, as it will take place in the Ford Hangar. Though records of such things don’t exist, Friday, May 5, might mark the most voices ever raised in song inside the 96-year-old building.
Saturday, May 6
On Saturday, participants will participate in a service project before showcasing the first group performance at 11 a.m. at Fox Pointe, a performance of a few musical numbers written and choreographed by America Sings!
After a lunch break, participants will then join many of Lansing’s businesses and organizations and march in the Lansing Good Neighbor Day Parade, which steps off at 2 p.m.
After the parade, the Heritage Middle School choir will perform some of its prepared songs at 3:30 p.m. on the Fox Pointe stage. Heritage’s is the only choir that opted to participate in the individual showcase.
At 4 p.m., the group choir will mass again to perform an encore of the 11 a.m. performance.
“The best way the community can participate is to come and cheer on the young people that are doing the singing, dancing, and service projects,” Jacobson said. “It will be a really enjoyable day for everyone who does come. … I think most people will go away quite inspired but the great image of youth in America doing great things.”
Lansing’s Director of Venue Operations Ken Reynolds said the Village believes using Fox Pointe in this new way will highlight its versatility.
“America Sings! will benefit Fox Pointe and Lansing by introducing new guests to the venue and showcasing the versatility of Fox Pointe to be a location where groups and organizations can hold community and civic events,” he said.
Good Neighbor Day Parade – America Sings!
The theme of the 55th annual Good Neighbor Day Parade is the same as the name of festival: America Sings!
Reynolds said, “[The Village of Lansing] met with the Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce to suggest that “America Sings” be the theme of the 2023 Good Neighbor Day Parade, with all participants in the America Sings! event also being involved in the parade. The Chamber liked the idea and adopted the theme for this year’s parade.”
The Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce organizes the annual parade in Lansing, which has been a Lansing tradition for 55 years.
“We wanted to partner with the Village for this theme because we are thrilled about America Sings coming to Lansing,” said Ernst Lamothe, Vice President of the Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce. “Whenever the chamber chooses a theme, our goal is to pick something that everyone in the community can rally around. We believe the community will flock to the America Sings! weekend and our chamber parade.”
Participants in this year’s parade are encouraged to dress in music-related clothes, and dance, sing, or otherwise perform as they walk through Lansing.
The parade steps off at 2 p.m. following the same route as last year — traveling west on Ridge Road from Wentworth Avenue, then heading south on Burnham Avenue and ending at TF South.
The deadline to register for the parade is April 28. A registration form is available online at the Chamber’s website.