When she was 3-years-old, Jen Schlechte sang her first solo at the church where her mother was the organist.

After growing up singing in children’s show choirs, she attended George Mason University on an opera scholarship, directed award-winning children’s choirs in Texas and at Ocean Palms Elementary in Ponte Vedra Beach, and currently sings with the Jacksonville Symphony.

Jen recently joined Christ Episcopal Church’s School of the Arts as a voice instructor.

And in early February, she plans to start the First Coast Youth Show Choir for Beaches children in fourth through seventh grades at the church. Open to the community, it will feature a variety of types of music that appeal to children, with the goal of putting on two shows a year.

“My philosophy is to sing songs that kids are excited to sing and develop a repertoire that develops a love of music,” Jen says. “Pop songs as well as classical music, it’s important to have a well-rounded base.”

Her Ocean Palms choir won competitions two years straight at Universal Studios in Orlando. Open only to students at the school, as many as 150 would typically audition for about 60 spots.

The Christ Church-based choir will initially be open to all interested singers and then in the fall, transition to an audition choir. Jen says her goal is to have choir members achieve the highest level of choral artistry of which they are capable, allowing them to discover “the joy of singing together through energetic, challenging rehearsals and inspiring, joy-filled performances.”

The choir will function as an after-school enrichment opportunity, with the mission of fostering a lifelong love of music. Members will develop healthy vocal technique and musicianship skills that will be cultivated through practice and performances. Jen is looking for students who aspire to excellence and are willing and able to commit to weekly rehearsals.

“I feel there is a need for a children’s community choir at the Beaches,” says Jen, who became aware of it while teaching private voice lessons during her years at Ocean Palms. Many of her vocal students attended schools that did not offer a choral program. Currently, serious young singers can audition to join the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus, which meets in downtown Jacksonville, or a similar choir in St. Augustine. But neither, Jen says, are close to home.

Christ Church Music Director Rachel Root is thrilled to have Jen at the School of the Arts, where she is one of a dozen instructors who teach voice and a variety of instruments to students of all ages. Rachel is also excited about Jen’s plans for a children’s community choir at the church. “Her training is outstanding,” she says. “She has both opera and musical theater training—and she brings a variety of skills.”

The choir will run from February to May, then return in September. Rehearsals will be held Tuesdays, beginning February 5, from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m.

Sign-ups will be held Sat. Feb. 2, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Contemporary Worship Space and from 2 p.m. to 4p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3 in the sanctuary. Students should come prepared to sing one of the following songs: “Happy Birthday,” “Amazing Grace” or “My Country Tis of Thee.”

A meet and greet for parents will be held after rehearsal time on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

The church is located at 400 San Juan Drive, Ponte Vedra Beach.

To schedule a sign-up time, contact Jen at mrsjensmusic@gmail.com.

For more information about the show choir or voice lessons with Jen, contact the School of the Arts at 285-6127.