"That's my philosophy and my greatest joy -- getting kids who have no idea how to use their voice, getting them to learn to match pitches," Chow said. "I sang in choirs all my life and my major was in music education. I think I'm very good working with kids and showing them step by step how to achieve."
Chow founded the Cantabella Children's Chorus in 1992.
"It started in my living room with 10 kids, and two of them were my own, an 8-year-old girl and my 6-year-old son," she recalled. "Singing is everyone's first instrument -- it always goes with them."
"This year we have about 225 kids in total, rehearsing in three different locations," she said. "We started in Livermore, expanded to Pleasanton, then to Dublin two years ago. Pleasanton by far has the most students."
Each of the locations has training choirs for children in grades K-5; and performing choirs for 4th-12th grade, which include the Children's Choir, Chamber Choir and Honors/Touring Choir. All will join together next week to present their spring concert, "Great 'Britten' to Korea," a tribute to British composer Benjamin Britten on his 100th birthday as well as a performance of the pieces Cantabella will perform this summer in Korea.
"What excites me the most is we are joining the rest of the world choruses throughout the world in celebrating Benjamin Britten's 100th year," Chow said. "He wrote for all ages and different genres, instrumental to choral, and was one of the great composers who also took the time to write for children."
The invitation from World Vision to take part in its 2013 International Children's Choir Festival in Korea means the first performances out of the country for the chorus although its choirs have traveled throughout the United States.
"World Vision tackles causes of poverty and injustice around the world," Chow said. "It has had a campaign since 2000 to promote children's rights. 'Imagine a World Where Children Are Safe' is the theme, and we are proud to be part of that effort."
Cantabella will perform with eight choirs from around the world, leaving July 25 and returning Aug. 4. The 26 members participating are learning the famous Korean folksong A-Ri-Rang, which they will perform in a mass performance with the others at the end of the festival after appearing in communities throughout Korea.
"Last year we traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, for the World Choir Games," Chow said. "They were patterned on the Olympics, with 20,000 people in competition. We went for the first time and brought home two silver medals so we didn't do too badly."
This summer Cantabella will present "Noye's Fludde" ("Noah's Flood") by Benjamin Britten, one of the few children's operas.
For more information on joining the choirs, visit www.cantabella.org.
"For ages kindergarten through fifth grade, we don't even audition them," Chow said. "They just sign up, tell us what grade they are in, what background they have, and based on what information their parents give us, we just place them."
Cantabella Spring Concert
What: Great 'Britten' to Korea
Who: Cantabella Children's Choir
When: 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., Saturday, May 18
Where: First Presbyterian Church, 2020 Fifth St., Livermore
Advance tickets: $17 adults; $8 youths 2-17. Order at www.cantabella.org.