“Singing together is a great leveler,” says Lauren. “You don’t need an instrument.” It was in that spirit that she launched the Community Chorus Project (CCP) in 2011 in collaboration with UNC’s music department. Lauren had been in the music business for decades and was loving television’s Glee and the spotlight it put on young singers.
She knew not every student has the opportunity to sing in a school chorus – and that too often, children are pulled out of arts classes for the sake of other coursework. Through CCP, Lauren founded a Summer Glee Musical Theatre Workshop, a Summer Recording Workshop and a Saturday Glee Club – all for middle and high schoolers. Fees are associated with these programs, but more than one-third of students get assistance; no one is turned away over money.
Lauren’s most recent creation is PopUp Chorus, where as many as 150 adults come together weekly at Motorco to learn two songs at the instruction of Smith Middle School music teacher Seamus Kenney and record them for YouTube. No audition is necessary – just show up and sing, as the tagline goes.
Lauren loves all types of music – these groups perform Rodgers & Hammerstein, Adele and indie pop – but is not a musician. “I sing in my shower and in my car,” she says. “I’m the perfect PopUp person.” For 20 years, she managed bands and made deals for record companies in the UK – she represented They Might Be Giants and worked with The Smiths.
She moved to Chapel Hill with her family in 2000 and worked at The ArtsCenter for about 10 years, where she created the Youth Performing Arts Conservatory and was director of development before launching CCP. (It is a for-profit organization, contrary to popular belief. “You can create profit and still have social impact,” Lauren says.)
“Watching those kids perform, for me, is so much fun,” she says. “I pinch myself. This is not work. I would pay someone to let me do this.” CHM
Lauren was born in Colorado but moved to England when she was young, after her mother married a Brit. Following college, she worked in the music business there until 1998. Married to Eric Hodge of WUNC, Lauren has three children: Callum, 25, is a wilderness firefighter in Colorado; Hannah, 18, just started at UNC and is a Morehead-Cain Scholar; and Daisy, 16, is a junior at Carolina Friends School. A fierce lover of music, Lauren goes to shows in Chapel Hill and Durham “as much as I humanly can.”