Saint Paul (Minnesota) residents Jeanne Junge and Tom Surprenant started Sounds of Hope, Ltd. in 1991. Both of them had traveled extensively, and their positive experiences living in other countries, among people of other cultures, inspired them to create the Songs of Hope™ project.
Junge’s professional career began with training in theatre, dance, and voice. She started singing professionally, then worked as an artist-in-the-schools and as a producer of children’s recordings. Surprenant started his post-collegiate life in experiential learning with Outward Bound. Melding their two backgrounds, Junge and Surprenant conceived a musical project in which children would discover each other’s cultures by living and rehearsing together, and then share the joy of their cultural discoveries through a celebratory musical concert.
The original Songs of Hope™ project was conceived as a one-time event. But the children, who came from six different countries, stunned audiences with their energy, enthusiasm, joy, and hopeful messages. People began asking for more concerts. Parents of children who had missed the first project were pleading for another chance. Friends in other countries were calling about participating. With such an overwhelming response, Junge and
Surprenant decided to reorganize Sounds of Hope, Ltd. as an ongoing nonprofit arts organization. They received lots of help from many people and organizations who were equally committed to promoting cultural tolerance and understanding. By 1994, they were ready with their second Songs of Hope™ project, bigger than the first, better organized, and with more concerts.
Since 1994, Songs of Hope™ has become an annual event, reaching thousands each summer. Year after year, the tour returns to familiar venues, invited back by enthusiastic community sponsors, while playing to new audiences each year. Songs of Hope™ also shares its cultural knowledge through outreach activities.
A PROVEN PHILOSOPHY
Combining Art and Culture
The idea behind Songs of Hope™ is a simple one, really. To understand a culture, meet its people. Listen. Talk. Live together. Sing a song together. Play a game. Share. Songs of Hope™ unites children and adults from countries and cultures worldwide. Our purpose is to create opportunities for cultural sharing through daily camp life, in rehearsals, and on stage. Songs of Hope™ is a non-profit project with an emphasis not only on learning, but also on service to others. Our award-winning Songs of Hope™ concert tours celebrate cultures and promote global thinking.
A Safe Environment
The Songs of Hope™ project begins each summer with a carefully planned orientation that makes every child feel safe. Knowing they're in a safe, caring environment, Hopers™ are able to share, to learn together, to take risks, and to grow.
An International Family
Songs of Hope™ really and truly creates an international "family." As you explore this web site, you will get the sense of family everywhere – in the video segments, in the photographs, and in the kids' testimonials.
A Performance Community
Songs of Hope™ offers all the benefits that come with artistic creation: discipline, focus, teamwork, creativity, sense of purpose, sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, confidence, and community.
A Friendly Place
When you first come to Songs of Hope™, you find yourself living with kids from other countries. Most of them will be newcomers like you, but one of your roommates will also be a ComeBack Kid, a returnee from previous projects. Your roommates and you will become friends, guaranteed. All the experienced Junior Team members live with you in the same dorm,
sharing daily living, helping in rehearsals and activities, leading free time fun, and being mentors and true friends.
2012 National Arts & Humanities
Youth Program Awards Finalist
2012 Arts Achievement Award
Metropolitan Regional Arts Council
Songs of Hope™ has a reputation for artistic excellence and outstanding youth services.
Among the many awards and grants garnered by the project are the following:
In 2003 and 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded Access to Artistic Excellence grants to support special Songs of Hope™ tours along the Mississippi River.
The first project in 1991 received an Award of Excellence from Readers Digest, Inc. and Sister Cities International in recognition of its unique international concepts and high quality.
In 1996, in recognition of its services to low-income youth locally, Songs of Hope™ was awarded a Peacemaker Award from the Office of the Minnesota Lieutenant Governor.
Five times, Songs of Hope™ has been one of just 50 semifinalists nationwide for a prestigious National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (formerly, the Presidential Coming Up Taller Award). Ten NAHYP Awards are given annually to top youth arts projects in the nation by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, along with the NEA, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Since 1994, the project’s umbrella arts organization, Sounds of Hope, Ltd., has applied annually for funding from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC), a state-funded nonprofit agency. In a testament to the reputation of the summer program, Songs of Hope™ has received MRAC public funding every year from 1994 to 2012. Few projects are able to claim similar levels of success in MRAC’s competitive funding process.
Songs of Hope™ has also received funding support from prominent foundations and corporations such as Macy’s Stores, Target Stores, Jostens Foundation, Cargill AgHorizons, Travelers Insurance Companies, 3M, The Saint Paul Foundation, General Mills Foundation, and many others.