Celebrating Culture and Community through Song, Cuisine and Unity
Ethiopian Choir at SPARK Children’s Museum

For the past several years, in January, the Ethiopian Youth Choir has taken center stage at SPARK Children’s Museum. While there, they don’t just sing; they transform the space into a microcosm of Ethiopia. Dressed in vibrant cultural attire, they serve traditional coffee, tea and Ethiopian bread, offering a taste of home to the museum’s visitors. This annual event coincides with a time many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas, honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, making it relatable to many in our community. 

Etsegenet Yigletu, a volunteer organizer of the choir, lights up when she talks about the excitement of the annual event. She explains, “The choir began at St. George Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido church about 20 years ago. The youth who sang in the choir as children are now leading, teaching and inspiring the next generation of youth.” Arsiema Feliche, a choir member turned volunteer leader, teaches the young ones that joining the choir is a way to experience joy and spiritual connection. “It’s a way to lift our souls and share our beliefs,” she says. 

When the choir goes into the community, they sing, of course. However, what they’re really doing is inviting others into their world. Beyond the joy of singing, the event is a cultural exchange. Kids and parents alike get to try authentic food and coffee, a cornerstone of Ethiopian hospitality. 

There’s another layer to their presence at SPARK. Arsiema notes that their performances serve to demystify Orthodox Christianity—a faith often misunderstood by many who think they are Muslim due to shared practices like wearing veils and abstaining from pork. “We’re similar, yet distinct,” she says, and through their music, they offer an insight into these differences, educating visitors about a faith that shapes their identity.

The choir’s annual presence at SPARK is a bridge across cultural divides, an open invitation to experience the warmth of their community. The Ethiopian Choir’s visit to SPARK is a lesson in the diversity of Christian faith,and a testament to the enduring power of music to unite, educate and inspire, one note, one bite, one shared tradition at a time.

About Author

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When Terri moved to Rochester 13 years ago, she looked to Rochester Women magazine to find connections. Because she works as a nonprofit consultant and coach, helping women find balance, connection and purpose, she knew how important those connections would be for her. Now, she looks forward to offering that same opportunity for connection to others in our community through her work at Rochester Women Magazine. When she is not working, she enjoys looking for seashells, dancing and snuggling her dogs.

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