“To kids who feel they have no hope, from kids with hope to share” is the motto of America Sings!, a national non-profit organization established in 1988 by John Jacobson to provide young people involved in the arts the opportunity to combine music, charitable giving, and community service.
John Jacobson is a professional choreographer, writer and arranger and has served as the volunteer president of America Sings! since its inception. His founding vision and message are that individuals – no matter who they are; despite their age, experience or skills; and regardless of where they live – can impact the lives of the less fortunate.
America Sings! began as an all-volunteer effort with Jacobson asking everyone he knew to join him in a one-time event to reach out to young people through the arts. The festival’s goal was to offer student choral groups of all ages an opportunity to perform in a non-competitive setting and to encourage community awareness and involvement by providing service projects onsite. More than 15,000 participants attended the first festival. Their overwhelmingly positive response to the experience encouraged Jacobson to continue his efforts.
Since 1989, America Sings! has held 30 festivals across the country. More than 110,000 youth representing 2,300 choral ensembles have attended an America Sings! event. At each festival, performers have the opportunity to participate in hands-on service activities. For example, at a festival held near Chicago, 3,500 young people made more than 4,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to support a local soup kitchen. They collected and donated more than 8,000 pounds of toys, clothing, canned goods, and school supplies to organizations serving local underprivileged children. For more than a decade, similar contributions have been made by America Singers at each festival. Through America Sings!, Jacobson encourages youth to embrace the spirit of service and incorporate it into their everyday lives – not just at the festival.
Jacobson’s consistent and unique message also has been shared with thousands of parents, volunteers, teachers, school administrators and community leaders. In his own words, “We at America Sings! believe that there are at least two ways that we can all touch the future. First, make an artistic contribution to the world. Your words, paintings, dances, poems and music ultimately have lives of their own – lives that often outlive the artists. Second, serve your fellow citizen. Your gifts of time, goods and talents will change your life and the lives of others forever and ever. When you lighten the load of your fellow man through selfless generosity, you impact the future in the most remarkably constructive ways. You eventually realize that you have the power to change the world.”
Whether he is rehearsing choreography with festival participants, giving a speech to encourage young people to help those less fortunate, or offering acknowledgement of the students’ contribution in the peanut butter and jelly tent, John Jacobson is a role model and inspiration.