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Taking note of The (all) American Boychoir

It’s not often that I brag. I so seldom even carry pictures of all the grandkids around for showing, I’ve been called a ‘very bad grandma.’ So please forgive my boastfulness this time.
Not long ago, grandpa Virgil and I, along with some friends, drove to Louisville to hear The American Boychoir in concert at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, just off East Broadway on Shelby Street.
We had no idea what to expect, but that didn’t matter. The goal was to see our 12-year-old grandson, Jerry’s son Jonathan, who is in the touring concert choir. Jonathan had been accepted into the school last year, but prior to that, we had never heard of The American Boychoir.
Neither had his mother, Amy, an accomplished vocalist in her own right.
‘This all happened because Jonathan wanted to put off doing his homework one night,’ Amy said.
As the story goes, in November 2004, a colleague slipped a flyer under Amy’s office door about the choir’s appearance in Cookeville, Tenn. Jonathan spotted it on the floorboard of his mother’s car and promptly begged her to go. ‘I was hesitant, but gave in,’ she said.
The concert was held in Cookeville’s First United Methodist Church, and the place was packed, Amy said. ‘Once they began the concert, I could tell why. It was an amazing concert.’
When it was over, Jonathan was among some 50 boys to run down front for an audition, which is an open invitation after each concert from the director, Fernando Malvar-Ruiz. A flurry of activity followed, including a weekend visit to the school by Jonathan to assess his ability to interact with others and adapt to a new environment.
‘We knew instantly there would be no other opportunity like this that would come to our doorstep and offer him such a wealth of advantages academically, socially and musically,’ Amy said.
So, by the following March, at age 11 and in the middle of fifth grade, Jonathan was off to Princeton, N.J., where the school is based. A long way (800 miles) from home for an 11-year-old.
I could go on and on about the advantages of this program the students, but you can get all the details you care to know at What I can tell you about are the amazing sounds we heard from these youngsters and the disciplined maturity they displayed.
These boys marched to the altar of this majestic church and sang non-stop for 1-1/2 hours. Not a single squirm nor a sideways glance. They were absolutely glued in place and not an eye that we could tell strayed from the director.
The program included music like: ‘Missa Brevis in C Minor’ by Imant Raminsh. Virgil and I glanced at the program, then at each other. Trying to appear dignified and worldly, neither of us said a word, but it wasn’t really necessary. Both of us knew the other was wondering how we would ever understand the music and how those kids could possibly sing in all those foreign languages, much less hit the notes right.
But it is true that music is universal. We didn’t need to know the languages. Still, we did have trouble keeping our mouths closed.
From the very start of the concert, we were hooked. To begin, one small soloist who looked to be 9 or 10 at most, stepped out from the group and sang to the heavens with a voice that simply resonated throughout the church. I swear, the angels in several of the awesome stained glass windows turned to look. Honest, they were beaming.
So is his mother. ‘Jonathan has blossomed on many levels as a better student and a witness at school,’ Amy said. ‘The whole experience has enriched all of our lives, and we are so happy and proud for him. It is a pleasure to watch him grow and succeed.’
The American Boychoir School is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization that offers an extraordinary educational and musical opportunity to boys from all nations.
We are convinced that Jonathan and the other boys will gain so much from this prep-type school that when they must leave ‘ when testosterone kicks in and their voices start to change ‘ they will have the character and discipline it takes to do well and avoid many of the pitfalls in today’s society. After all, those angels will still be listening and watching.