Catching up with Dominican Associate Angela Belsole and the Songcatchers

Amityville Dominican Associate Angela Belsole has been involved with a not-for-profit called Songcatchers for more than two decades! She is currently the interim director of the program. The organization provides affordable access to music education and enrichment for families in New Rochelle, NY. Most recently, she, her son Christopher and members of Songcatchers were part of a special effort to call attention to those suffering in the Ukraine. In April, the Songcatchers partnered with the Episcopal Churches in New Rochelle to record a "Ukrainian Prayer" writer by John Rutter.  So far, this new composition has been performed by more than 8,000 choirs to support the Ukraine. As the composer said, "How can a composer respond to a global tragedy? By writing music is the most obvious thing." 
Here is an interview with Angela about her work with the program!
How did you get involved with Songcatchers?
"I have been involved with Songcatchers for the past 25 years. My son, Christopher, loved to sing and joined the Songcatchers Choir in third grade. He didn’t like sports and was not a strong student, but singing was his happy place. Songcatchers warmly welcomed him into its family and for the next 15 years Christopher sang his heart out and was transformed by the support of a group that valued him for who he was. His college application essay was all about Songcatchers and how it changed his life. Today, he is a successful software engineer who continues to support the organization that built his confidence and taught him perseverance. Once Chris joined the choir, I volunteered with Songcatchers, helping out any way I could. Eventually, the Board of Directors asked me to join them, and then I became Board Chair for a few years. I have been volunteering as the Interim Director of Songcatchers since I retired from Fordham University in October 2018. A search for a permanent Director will soon be underway!"
Is this a ministry?
Music plays an important role in the lives of our students and our volunteer teachers. This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the After-School Music Program..... Songcatchers is a neighborhood anchor for the City of New Rochelle. The challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have only reinforced our belief in the power of music to heal hearts and our world, and the value of working together, standing together, and sharing what we have with others....We do not turn students away because of money. Songcatchers helps low-income youth thrive. We promote equity, use music as a way to counter the deficits of poverty, and we embrace the lifelong, positive impact that music has on the mind, body, and spirit.  
As a Dominican Associate, is this project tied into the Dominican charism?
Yes. In all that I do at Songcatchers, I try to promote human dignity and be a sign of joy and hope for our staff, volunteers students and their families. This has never been so important as these past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
From the first choir in 1978 to the programs that we have today—our mission is to be there for all children, especially the economically poor and powerless. Serving a large immigrant population, we encourage excellence in an atmosphere that fosters community, mutual respect, self-esteem, leadership development and an appreciation of the arts. 
Why is music so important to you?
Music is a universal language that can soothe the soul, bring joy and comfort into our lives, and is a great connector of people. As a young student, I learned to play the piano and sang in the school glee club at Notre Dame under S. Mary Augustine. 
How did you get involved with this project with the Ukraine?
The project for Ukraine is a perfect example of our motto, "Reaching for Peace Through Music." We were invited by the Episcopal Churches of New Rochelle to join them and members of two other singing groups to record John Rutter's "A Ukrainian Prayer." 
Thousands of students have studied with Songcatchers, and more than 700 teens and young adults have volunteered their time to teach.