The boogie-down Bronx is a hub for music and culture through its diversity and unique sound.
Lehman College’s choral director and professor, Diana Battipaglia tries to capture that sound through her Lehman College Chorus and Community Chorus, which is looking to expand with new singers from the community.
“Singing is very good for people’s emotional and physical health,” Battipaglia said. “I don’t think there’s any chorus in the Bronx that can do what we do. People are usually isolated in their homes, and for some, it’s nice to work in a cause that’s greater than them.”
It’s Battipaglia’s 33rd year conducting, yet she isn’t slowing down. The Lehman College Chorus meets Mondays and Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m., while the Community Chorus meets Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Both groups are made up not only by Lehman students, but residents from all over the region — not just in Riverdale and Kingsbridge.
“It shows that this is important to people,” Battipaglia said. “It brings together people who would have never had met. In the chorus, everyone is equal.”
For Naomi Funt, a second soprano, joked that the hardest part about being in the singing group is making it up the steps when the elevators aren’t working. Other than that, the Riverdale resident has nothing to complain about and has been making her way out to the public college for the past four years.
“I have always sung and I’ve been in major choruses downtown,” Funt said. “I find it different because of Diana. She never yells, she’s never harsh, and she still gets all the results she wants.”
Battipaglia’s doesn’t necessarily hold a formal audition. She measures interested singers by their ability to match pitches and hear a melody. It’s important they can sing it back to her, but she’ll open her door to all talent — even if they can’t read music.
“If they cant, we teach them,” Battipaglia said. “You don’t have to be a music major to produce great music.”
Diversity is not just limited to its members — it’s found in the songs as well, sometimes coming in different languages. When taking on these sometimes more difficult projects, Battipaglia makes sure she gives singers enough time to learn the pronunciation.
At a concert last spring, the choruses sung in five different languages, Battipaglia said.
“It’s great to have something to go to where you sing, and (is) very rewarding and cathartic,” Funt said. “Sometimes when I come here I’m not in a good mood. But by the time I leave, I feel much better.”
Both choruses meet in the Lehman’s music building and neither requires a fee unless a student is joining to earn college credit. Donations are encouraged, however.
The choruses are set to perform Dec. 2 at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, yet Battipaglia still has a lot to accomplish between now and then.
“I want to see (the choruses) grow and flourish,” Battipaglia said. “We want to fill the cultural and musical and social need in the community.”