Award-winning WOIO-TV anchor and North Olmsted native Denise Dufala proudly counts among her side projects the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Cleveland Community Building Initiative, and a successful singing career. This weekend, she'll get her wings as a guest soloist with Cleveland's internationally acclaimed youth chorus, the Singing Angels.
"I hear such fine reports about her," says Bill Boehm, who founded the Angels 37 years ago. It's ironic, given her civic pride, that to even the director of the chorus with which she'll be singing, Dufala remains somewhat mysterious. But since WOIO management put the kibosh on a proposed interview with Scene, his lack of firsthand knowledge can be understood.
Dufala's appearance may be another feather in the Angels' cap, but it is not the chorus's most noteworthy. The 175 performing members of the Singing Angels -- girls and boys ages 8 to 18 -- have a rich résumé: four appearances at the White House, gigs alongside Celine Dion and Kenny Rogers, and concerts in 26 foreign lands, many before high-ranking officials. Such are the payoffs of "demanding rehearsals" that run from three to eight hours a week, depending on the time of year, says Boehm.
And while the "performing" contingent graces concert halls, a separate "training" group of 100-plus youths raise spirits at hospitals, senior citizen residences, and nursing homes. The chorus's diverse repertoire includes country, pop, religious songs, Broadway tunes, and, notes Boehm, "We're possibly the only youth chorus to sing barbershop harmony."
Boehm, a classically trained musician who has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, stresses a philosophy of inclusivity -- not just in the musical selections, but in the membership of the chorus itself. "If they can sing in tune, they're on the team," he says. "No music background or teaching is necessary. If they come to us as ugly ducklings, we are able to transform them into beautiful swans."
Where Dufala fits into that picture, we'll just have to wait and see.