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 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.