Two years after 'AGT,' Detroit Youth Choir hosts first ever gala

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Ask Detroit Youth Choir Director Anthony White what's changed since his group's star-turning run on "America's Got Talent" in 2019 and it's quickly clear the better question may be what hasn't changed.

What was once a 100-member choir has been broken into four smaller choirs because they have so many members and requests to perform. They have a new practice space at the former Marygrove College in Detroit. And they're filming an upcoming Disney+ docuseries that will hopefully debut in 2022 called "Choir."

The Detroit Youth Choir performs “God Bless America” for a crowd of more than 108,000 fans before the Michigan’s 31-10 victory over Washington at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

"When we do this docuseries, I believe it’ll open up another fan base," said White, who took the choir's helm in 2001 with just 7 members. "Right now, people just know us as the choir from 'America’s Got Talent.' Now, they’ll know with this choir, you actually have to work. You have to sweat. You have to work. I can’t wait until the debut of the docuseries."

But new programming takes money, says White. That's why the popular choir will hold its first ever gala on Saturday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. In honor of its 25th year, they'll give out awards to deserving community members and also perform. White hopes to raise $250,000. Tickets were sold out Monday but sponsorship opportunities were still available.

The Detroit Youth Choir performs “God Bless America” for a crowd of more than 108,000 fans before the Michigan’s 31-10 victory over Washington at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

"It’s going to be a night of partying and just celebration," said White.

The DYC First Annual Gala will honor Kenneth Donaldson, president and CEO of the Black United Fund, and pastor and gospel singer Marvin Winans. 

It comes roughly two years after Detroit Youth Choir exploded on to the national scene, finishing second on the 2019 season of NBC's "America's Got Talent." The choir, then 52 members, wowed America with its dynamic mix of song and dance, while also showcasing Detroit. 

After returning home -- where the choir was awarded a $1 million endowment by the Skillman and Kresge foundations; they receive small annual payments from that endowment -- it's continued to grow and expand.

Director Anthony White, left, leads The Detroit Youth Choir as they perform “God Bless America” before a crowd of more than 108,000 fans at the Michigan vs. Washington football game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Now, rather than being one large choir, White said they have four choirs: its Limelight choir, Center State choir, Primetime and a boys choir. One of those choirs performed Saturday before the University of Michigan football game.

White says many of the DYC members that were in the choir during its "America's Got Talent" run have graduated and moved on. He says if anything, DYC is even better than it was a few years ago.

"That's not to say the 'AGT' choir wasn’t good, (but) we added a lot of great talent," said White, who has been at the choir's helm since 2001. "A lot of great talent."

Director Anthony White gets ready to lead The Detroit Youth Choir as they perform “God Bless America” before a crowd of more than 108,000 fans at the Michigan vs. Washington football game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Filming for its new Disney+ series, meanwhile, is underway by the Blumhouse Productions. It'll follow White and some choir members, going behind the scenes of rehearsals and performances. 

"They started (filming) last summer," said White, who said plans for a scripted series like "Glee" also are in the works. "And now they have a lot of footage."

One item on White's to-do list that could be a part of the docuseries is a possible trip to Africa for a mini-tour. It's something he and his team are working on now.

"People think we do a lot but I want to do more," said White. "I want to do more performances and travel more. Travel brings the choir together more. It makes them responsible."

White says the Detroit Youth Choir is "here to stay."

"We’re never going to stop," said White. "We’re here to stay. But it takes money to do what we do. That’s why we’re having a gala."

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

Detroit Youth Choir First Annual Gala

6-10 p.m. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

https://www.detroityouthchoir.org/events