Jubilation Fellow Crystal Akins

Crystal Akins

Choral Conductor
McMinnville OR
Fellowship: 2016

“To create music is to create joy,” says Crystal. “When we are in joy we realize anything is possible.”

A music-artist-in-residence since 2000, Crystal’s all-inclusive choirs are for anyone who has a desire to sing. “The human singing voice is a reflection of who we are. This is transformational, healing work.”

Early in her career as a choir conductor in Portland, she became an advocate for children as music makers. “Navigating the bureaucracy of our school system was an opportunity to teach the importance of music. Children must have music so they may connect, listen, and restore themselves.” 

Crystal specializes in intergenerational music programming, and has served more than a thousand students through non-profits, and public and private schools. Her many musical irons in the fire include: connecting homeless children with safe community; connecting children with their mothers in prison; building rural choirs; developing an immersion pre-school in a retirement center; composing children’s songs; and working with hospitalized children. She is also building a transitional music program for parolees and their kids.

Teaching philosophy:
“I build choirs to give people the opportunity to connect with each other. Music offers equality. When in music, all differences and judgments vanish. Children teach adults to have courage, to sing full-heartedly, and to be in the joy that is created by their songs.”

How do you produce a vibrant learning environment?
“I see where their talents are, what brings them joy. I meet kids where they’re at, and find out how they learn. Music brings creativity to the whole family – it’s a holistic system. Music is something they can do together.”

How do you foster youth leadership?
“Kids are on the board of my non-profit, they create projects with me, they’re on committees. We take them through the creative process. We show them that everything comes from imagination, even chairs.”

How have you evolved as a teacher?
“I started in Portland’s public schools as a 17-year-old, teaching after-school choir. I quickly had to find a way to engage kids in a safe environment. Listening to kids, that is how I’m successful.”

What is an example of a good day?
“When the light goes on, that ‘aha!’ moment. When they hear their voice for the first time, or hear how it sounds with another student. When they say, ‘Wow, did you hear that?’”

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