In 1975 the Director of Callanwolde Fine Arts Center approached Stephen J. Ortlip, then choir director of Decatur Presbyterian Church, and asked him to start a co-educational singing group for children. With the cooperation of dedicated community leaders, schoolteachers, and arts professionals, Stephen J. Ortlip (Music Director for 23 years) founded ATLANTA YOUNG SINGERS of Callanwolde when the idea of boys and girls singing together in a community choir was rare in the U.S. Soon, the child-centered AYS music program took its place as a leader in the national children’s choir movement – a movement that now provides a community-based choral experience to tens of thousands of children nationwide.
Now celebrating its 44th season, AYS is bringing music to life for children and youth in metro Atlanta and audiences all over the world. Last year, over 90,000 people heard AYS sing! Workshops, master classes, and lecture demonstrations with skilled instructors and guest artists are offered annually to students and music educators. 20,000+ audience members each year and 2,000+ Alumni and their families have benefitted directly from AYS programs. Over 160 Singers ages 7-18, representing over 95 public, private, and home school environments and covering a 50-mile radius of Atlanta, are accepted each year into one of seven AYS choirs.
AYShas performed with Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, at the Closing Ceremonies of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games and at numerous events sponsored by nationally recognized organizations such as The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta Braves, American Cancer Society, and many others. The Choir has traveled extensively to 25 countries and on over 80 tours, singing in all the cultural capitals of North America and Europe and winning invitations to the most prestigious choral festivals in the world, such as Llangollen International Eisteddfod in Wales, International Choral Kathaumixw in British Columbia, and Premiering Sydney in the Sydney Opera House. In 2007, the Youth Chorale was chosen as one of only 4 American choirs out of 34 choirs for FESTIVAL500 in Newfoundland and also traveled to Brazil and Argentina for MELODIA! Festival in 2009. In 2010, Treble Tour Choir traveled to Ireland, where they performed in Christ Church, Galway Cathedral and other famous venues, took tea with the Lord Mayor of Belfast, and worked with renowned Irish musicians! In 2011, the Youth Chorale traveled to Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Sweden and participated in EUROPA CANTAT junior.
In the 2012-2013 season alone, the ATLANTA YOUNG SINGERS Treble Tour Choir and Youth Chorale won gold diplomas at the World Choir Games in Cincinnati! In addition, Treble Tour Choir performed as the only children’s choir for the GMEA in-service conference and Youth Chorale performed in Carnegie Hall with Francisco Núñez and Jonathan Willcocks, and sang for President Jimmy Carter!
In May of 1998 Paige Fumbanks Mathis was named Music Director of ATLANTA YOUNG SINGERS and the first holder of the Stephen J. Ortlip chair after being an AYS Singer herself. She founded the AYS Youth Chorale in 1994 as an expansion of AYS.