By Branden Hunter
America did not give the Detroit Youth Choir (DYC) $1 million, but Detroit did.
Fresh off of an incredible run on “America’s Got Talent,” where they finished as runners-up, just short of the $1 million grand prize, the Detroit Youth Choir came home to a rousing welcome back in Campus Martius. Greeted by hundreds of Detroiters wearing purple, the Choir was stunned as they were presented with a $1 million endowment underwritten by several Detroit-based foundations and local business leaders. The homecoming celebration was a partnership between WDIV, the City of Detroit, and the Downtown Detroit Partnership.
“I was watching you guys and Kodi Lee on that stage, and my heart’s in my throat,” said Mayor Mike Duggan at the DYC homecoming. “When they announced it was Kodi Lee, I was a little disappointed for a second, but I was like, ‘He deserves a million dollars; he was great.’ The only thing I thought was unfair was there should’ve been two first prizes.”
The endowment fund was put together by Mayor Duggan, Wendy Lewis Jackson, the Detroit program managing director for the Kresge Foundation, and Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation. It will be managed by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, which is slated to support the choir in perpetuity.
Others contributing to the Detroit Youth Choir endowment include Skillman Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Ballmer Group, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, Bank of America, Huntington Bank, and Dakkota Integrated Systems.
“We are incredibly proud of what the Detroit Youth Choir achieved during their time on ‘America’s Got Talent’ and we look forward to what’s next for them,” said Allen. “This fund is a way for Detroiters to celebrate and grow the genius of our children.”
Choir Director Anthony White was at a loss for words after the announcement. “This is hard work and sacrifice. I can’t even talk,” he said. “I appreciate every donor and sponsor. This is amazing.”
“It means a new facility, new programming, a new vision, and a new outlook on our organization. I’m so thankful for Kresge, Skillman, and every donor that helped. I just love them, and we appreciate everything,” he added.
The DYC is part of the non-profit Detroit Youth Concert Choir and Performing Arts Company, which helps young people ages 8 to 18 discover and perform music, theater and dance. The 52-member choir captured the hearts of Detroiters and White said they plan to do more singing and traveling, representing the City of Detroit on a national platform.
“The Detroit Youth Choir brought our entire region together to support Detroit’s kids,” said Jackson. “They represented the city with class and soul, and their success will continue to inspire children in Detroit for years to come. For that, we hope they feel profound pride.”
Along with receiving $1 million, the Detroit Youth Choir also received the Key to the City from Mayor Duggan, a honor only given to Detroit icons Aretha Franklin and Big Sean. He also gave each member a replica key to the city for their own homes. Buildings all around downtown Detroit were lit in purple to honor the choir and the iconic Spirit of Detroit statue was dressed in a purple DYC sweater vest and bow tie.
“We are so proud of you,” Mayor Duggan told the choir. “Under the brightest of lights, with the eyes of the world on you, you showed everyone the talent, the intelligence, the dedication of the youth of Detroit.”
The Detroit Youth Choir is scheduled to be the opening act for the 93rd America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in downtown Detroit on November 28. The choir will also perform on the main stage during the Parade Company’s largest fundraiser, the 30th Annual Hob Nobble Gobble at Ford Field.
Members will get to perform in Las Vegas November 7-10 with the winner, Lee, and other “America’s Got Talent” acts: Ryan Niemiller, V. Unbeatable Dance Crew, and Tyler Butler-Figueroa.