In 2000, Rev. Denise Gillard answered the phone at the Living Hope Food Bank in South Riverdale, Toronto. On the other end of the phone was a Musical Director named Rev. Flemming Ivory. The two had never met before but Flemming insisted that he had read about Denise online and felt she was the right person to connect with. He wanted to bring a youth performing arts company from Detroit to Toronto, Canada and he needed someone on the ground to help him reach his goal. After agreeing to support, Denise decided there was no way she was going to let Canadian audiences believe that all talented youth were American. So for every performance organized, she booked local youth to serve as the ‘opening act.’ By the time the Detroit group left, everyone on both sides of the border was impressed with Toronto’s representation!
Upon completion of the Detroit group’s tour, Rev. Denise was encouraged to start something tailored to suit the needs of Toronto’s young people. From her own life experience of knowing the positive effect the arts can have on children and young people, she was determined to create something that would help participants excel in all areas of their life and encourage them to choose a positive path of life. So with borrowed space, $5.00 per child, the support of her family, Rev. Ivory, the Detroit team, some Toronto-based musical artists and leaders, Rev. Denise organized a word-of-mouth workshop for youth interested in being a part of a new type of performing arts company geared to African-Canadian and at-risk Urban youth. TC3 was born!
To help meet the needs of marginalized children and youth Denise established the non-profit organization, The HopeWorks Connection, Inc. (HWC) in 2001. Since its establishment, HWC has collaborated with schools, agencies, governments, churches, community centres and various other non-profit organizations to offer a variety of performing arts experiences, tutorials, and youth development programs, projects and workshops to children & youth of all ages and backgrounds.
Today TC3 - The Toronto Children’s Concert Choir & Performing Arts Company is HWC’s signature program and presently auditions youth from across the G.T.A. Annually, up to 50 youth have access to a broad scope of arts experiences once they join TC3, including vocal instruction, African dance and drum, contemporary dance forms that included blends of modern, hip hop and more. This performing arts experience is rounded off by retreats, social skills training, conferences, stage presence skills building, specialized camps, and/or international and national appearances and concert tours.
Along with their participation in the performing arts program, TC3 youth are encouraged and supported in their quest for academic excellence through accompanying academic programs including our innovative “Music and Math” academic tutorial. We are seeing grades steadily increase. Our most astonishing statistic is that we have a 90% “TC3 Alumni success rate with youth from our program successfully going on to higher education at the University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson University, Ohio State University, Guelph/Humber University, Tyndale College/Seminary and more. We have other young people pursuing their performing arts careers and successfully studying at specialized performing arts institutions. We have responded to this success by continuing to develop an ongoing model that stresses the important relationship between academics and the arts. In November 2009 TC3’s Performing Arts Choir debut CD “Our Message” was awarded a Covenant Award for “Children’s Song of the Year”.
Currently, HWC’s workforce is composed of Rev. Denise Gillard, Executive Artistic Director, 11 artistic staff, 1 TC3 administrator and over 20 volunteers. HWC is successfully using its expertise to deliver some specific programming to Weston youth as well as create some new shared artistic programing. HWC is focused on meeting needs through the artistic, academic, cultural, and personal development of the youth they engage through the various programs and projects throughout the G.T.A., in Weston and beyond.