Ask Dr. Hollie Hood-Mincey how many children she has, and she’ll tell you, “58.”
Hood-Mincey is the director of the Singing Sensations Youth Choir, a nonprofit dedicated to giving children in Baltimore city the opportunity to perform around the country and around the world. On Friday, they’ll be performing a holiday concert at the Washington, D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center in Kensington.
“I always have a house full of kids,” says Hood-Mincey. “Sometimes I have them on the holidays. I’m sure I’ll have [children] over Christmas.”
Hood-Mincey taught music in schools for 10 years before becoming a principal. Now, she’s back to teaching in the Baltimore City Public School System. In 2003, Hood-Mincey created the Singing Sensations for “at-risk youth to share their gifts and talents.”
“A lot of kids in Baltimore city are living in bad conditions,” says Hood-Mincey. “[This] just gives them an outlet.”
In 2008, Hood-Mincey opened the group up to children in Baltimore County after her own biological kids questioned why they couldn’t travel with her to performances.
“They said, ‘Why are you leaving us? Why can’t we just be in the choir?’” says Hood-Mincey, who lives in Baltimore County with her husband and three children, Imani, 19, Nia, 17, and David, 13.
Seeing no good reason why her children couldn’t join the choir, Hood-Mincey opened the Singing Sensations to other students in Baltimore County. Now the group’s expanded even more to include students from Columbia, Westminster, and Hartford County, all between the ages of 5 and 18.
In addition to performing regionally — a recent concert at an Obama fundraiser in Howard County prompted a push to get the group an invite to perform at the White House — the Singing Sensations also spend several weeks out of the year traveling.
The choir typically tours during spring break. This spring they traveled up and down the east coast, from Virginia to Florida, with stops in Atlanta and Sumter, S.C., singing a mix of African music, spirituals, Gospel and Motown.
“We do everything,” says Hood-Mincey.
In May, the choir traveled to Trinidad on a mission trip. In 2013, the Singing Sensations will perform in Vienna, Prague and Czechoslovakia for the Rhapsody Children’s Festival. The choir has been invited to sing in Panama in 2014 as a part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Panama Canal.
“The overall mission of the choir ... is to have children of Maryland experience new cultures, new people,” says Pam Colbert. Colbert’s son Jalen, 13, has been a member of the Singing Sensations for four years.
Colbert, who lives in Baltimore County, also has started volunteering her time to the Singing Sensations, organizing volunteer committees, passports and travel information and even handling some of the group’s finances; all on top of her full-time job as vice president of the Industrial Group for McCormick & Co.
“There’s a lot to be done,” says Colbert. “It’s a nonprofit organization.”
“[The Singing Sensations] is about so many more things outside of music,” says Hood-Mincey. “Just having the opportunity to see the world and know the world is bigger than Baltimore city.”
Hood-Mincey says the recent trip to Trinidad really helped put things in perspective for her young choir.
“A lot of them are poor but they saw the conditions of these kids ... and it makes them grateful even for the small things they have,” she says.
“I think our kids really came back to the U.S. with an appreciation for what they have,” says Colbert. “[Jalen] is an only child ... spoiled to say the least ... he saw the appreciation for the things he has.”
Colbert adds that her son didn’t have to travel to Trinidad to see discrepancies in wealth. He experiences that every day as a member of the Singing Sensations.
“There are kids that are extremely poor to kids that are well off,” says Colbert. “They’re all kids with the same aspirations and the same goals and when they get together as a choir, all that goes away ... “
“The work that Dr. Mincey has set up to do is such an inspiration,” adds Colbert.
For longtime educator and mother to so many, Hood-Mincey just sees it as what she was put on earth to do.
“I guess it was just a mission God gave me,” she says.