A Boy Does a Man’s Work

Here is where they begin

Once In Royal David’s City, a traditional solo for a boy to sing during the Christmas season. Houston Boychoir featured two boys at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. St. Martin’s is the largest Episcopal Parish in the United States and the architecture is that of a gothic cathedral in the french style. It is a magnificent building to the glory of God.

But that’s not what prompts me, a music teacher and director to write. How do I say how proud I am of these two boys. Having taught for 20+ years I can tell you that these are quite ordinary boys. Today 2 sang. One is in 6th grade and one in 7th grade. They’re good students, both like popular music, they both enjoy video games and the computer and they still enjoy their parents. They are ordinary boys…

Until you put them in an environment of adult musicians and ask them to respond accordingly…and they do. They read music with the best of them, and they can adapt to new situations with the flash of a simple instruction. They stand like pros with not a hint of nervousness. They are truly amazing.

They make me so proud and assure me that what I have been called to do is the right thing. The right thing for me, for them, for their parents and for our future world together. How lucky I was to be called to this work, how fortunate indeed that I have been fulfilled in my love of music from childhood.

If you are reading this and you are the parent of a youngster, get them enrolled in music as fast as you can. Not to study music with the intent of making it their life work or becoming great artists.  Obviously society would be in trouble if everyone wanted only to be a great musician. But, studies have been done for some time now on basic intelligence as it relates to learning music and every child  if given the opportunity will benefit in scores of ways from music.

Music is mathematic in its rhythmic aspects.  Time is precisely subdivided into fractions which must be figured out on the spot from the musical notation. And they have to do it in their head, there is not time to work it out on paper.

Music teaches scientific principles of acoustics including sound intensity, tone quality, volume changes, melody and harmony.  each of these is related to its aesthetic implications.  through learning to tune and handle their instruments or voices, children can learn about harmonic vibrations and overtones.  They learn that the faster the vibration, the higher the pitch and the slower the vibration the lower the pitch and what sort of energy does it need to make that vibration at exactly the right speed and intensity.

Music teaches foreign language.  Terms in French, Italian and German tell us that there are many ways of saying the same thing.  Songs learned in foreign languages help accustom the child to the words and sounds of the language.  Text is more easily remembered when set to music.  It is truly the universal language.

Music teaches history,  Each of the recorded periods of human history has had a musical counterpart.  The music of each period expresses the times of which it is born.

Music teaches geography and understanding of different cultures.  The nature, the emotional makeup of a people is expressed in its music.  we learn specific feelings about a nationality as they are put forth by its composers, who often incorporate existing folk musical idioms in their music to create a nationalistic sense.

Physically, the study of music requires muscular coordination, agility and motor control.  Muscles of the hands, fingers, face and diaphragm must work together with perfect timing.  Kinesthetic senses develop as they relate to the sound that the ear hears and the mind interprets.

Music is art because it is human expression.  It is a medium through which man can express beauty.  Great music from all eras is great because it has power to humanize mankind.  It teaches us to be more feeling and sensitive.  It can take away depression.  It can provide impetus for action.  It can poetically describe all ranges of human emotion.  It can soothe troubled nerves or bring light into a dark world.  It can bless us with precious humor and increase our understanding of beauty, of compassion, of gentleness, of goodness and of life.  It can inspire men and women to good deeds and bring them closer to an infinite beyond this world.

Few things teach self-discipline as effectively as daily musical practice.  The work is not easy, and determination is required in order to reap the rewards.  David P. Gardner, president of the University of California, stated the case succinctly in an interview for the August 1984 issue of B.Y.U. TODAY when he said, “I think my capacity to concentrate and to be self disciplined in my approach to problems was significantly helped by my training on the piano and pipe organ.”

Musical training cultivates musical taste.  If children are not exposed to music of the masters, there is no reason to assume that they will choose to listen to it.  What’s more, it is the music that the children make themselves that has the greatest impact on them.  For a youngster, being in the heart of the group, the choir or orchestra, is many times more rewarding than listening to the same music performed by someone else.  Children who have a taste for a broad range of the great music will still enjoy what is popular, but they also know something greater!

So as I wish you all a happy New Year and I thank you for the privilege of working with your sons I congratulate you on having the foresight and the fortitude to stick with these extracurricular demands placed on you, on your children and on your family. It is worth it for your son and for the world in which we live.

English: No. 71 from St. Matthew Passion from ...

St. Matthew's Passion

It’s still a boy’s voice!

Singing in the Houston Boychoir is really fun because we get to go to all these cool places to perform. For instance, just since September we’ve sung at several weddings and toured to Austin.

What I am REALLY thinking when I perform when I sing, I have no feelings of stage fright. As I sing, I am mostly thinking about what words come next. Even when it’s really tempting to look around, I don’t, because maybe Mrs. Nelson is giving a really important signal and it would be embarrassing if I missed it.

Some of the older boys tell me about funny stuff they see in the audience but I really don’t notice very funny things because I am looking at the Director.

Our Director makes us work really hard, but I like it. For instance, take a song that we recently performed, the German carol, In Dulci Jubilo. We spent many hours in total working on the last chord! I love how Mrs. Nelson pays attention to detail. She makes sure that we sound good.


Seb, 5th grade

Houston Boychoir, The Ultimate Wedding Choir

Just returned from the 3rd wedding of our season. What do boys learn from this experience?
They learn a lot about people and how they celebrate events.
They learn about giving joy and receiving joy from giving.
They travel in a motor coach limousine.
They learn to cooperate with each other.
They learn that they need to look out for each other and not just for self
They learn about each other.
They laugh together.
They build memories and personal history

There is more learning to be done this season with 4 more to go.

Members of Houston Boychoir Chamber Choir 2011

Giving Thanks

A week off for boys and directors gives us time to celebrate.

Teachers who support Houston Boychoir by believing in their boys who love music and trusting enough to refer. We thank you, we know how hard you work and we are partners. Thank you for keeping the music playing on!

Christ the King Lutheran Church thank you for your gift of house and home.

St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Dave Henning and the music, thank you for believing and cherishing.

Thank you artist, friend and parent Louise who makes our face for the world to see.

Thank you ground troops, directors and accompanists with the Prep Choir and Mr. Sink your love is showing.

Thank you parent volunteers who drive, wash clothes, fit ever wiggling arms and legs for length of pant and sleeve, who publicize and spread the good name of Houston Boychoir, who plan and agonize along with the directors, who question where do we go from here.

The boys who come weekly or twice weekly through rain and wind and mountains of homework to lift their voices in song and color our lives with humor and music.

Thank you Business Leaders and Supporters, Bulls Eye Storage, CypherDesignStudio, Houston Arts Alliance, Kelsey Seybold Clinics, KUHF Radio, Parker Uniform, Pierpont Communications, Texas Children’s Hospital, Texas Commission on the Arts, Dr. James Hoyle and Nancy Sims.

Thank you Board of Directors for your due diligence and devotion, thought and creativity.

See you all at the concert in December

Halloween and Singing boys and why we do what we do!

This season Halloween is on a Monday, a rehearsal night. The request came from a parent. The boy needs to go to a party. The next parent wonders if there is a rehearsal on Halloween because the chorister has younger siblings who need to trick or treat.

We need this rehearsal. We strive diligently to create the highest form of music making but after much pondering I thought there are some battles not to fight. While that decision does not support the professionalism we instill, it might be the right decision.

But, when when the announcement that they could take Halloween would be a rehearsal holiday as well, there were boys who were genuinely disappointed. Wanting to please, I said I would show up and those who wanted could show up too.

More than half came. It was a wonderful rehearsal, they are amazing young musicians Candy and cupcakes with eyeballs and worms were enjoyed by all.

And these are the moments that keep us going. We are a strong group, young in spirit yet abound with wisdom. Where does this come from. It is the music in their souls.

And So It Begins…Renewal

In March there is Baseball Spring Training and in August there is Summer Camp for Houston Boychoir. For more than 30 years new boys, Rookies, head to camp with seasoned the seasoned boys to begin the rigorous training required to do the job and all that is required of membership with the chosen few, boys who sing.

They are a remarkable bunch of boys, who don’t know they are children. While in HBC mode they work like men and sing…so overused to say sing like angels! So I will say that their sound is extraordinary it can both melt the heart and make it ache for more.

Six of these boys have gone from sitting on the floor cross-legged to standing for hours and holding a folder full of music about a third of which will be memorized by their first performances in September.

But at this particular moment they run and shout and play in the same manner that all the other campers with whom we share these beautiful woods do. In a few hours we are back to work, preparing the business at hand.

Choirs on Tour, the game changes

Touring with choirs has changed over the years as the times have changed. One of the goals of tour is to help young boys develop independence, responsibility and self reliance in addition to providing them opportunities that are both unique and fun.

With the advent of current technology we are never out of reach and yet we are frequently not in touch with the people next to us because we are lost in cyberspace: texting, facebooking, tweeting and just surfing. There is a difficult balance to be found between the ease of staying in touch and the difficulty in letting go.

Each traveling organization will have to work this balance into its psyche. A great deal of time and energy will be spent.

While tours are arranged in the best detail available before leaving we cannot predict what the road will bring and expectations can be difficult to negotiate. Will we always have internet access, will we have time when we do have access,

A director knows that parents and families are interested and thinking about their children when they are away but where is the balance supposed to be while on the road. Should the staff be focused on the children, on their safety, on their interests, on getting to know them better as people or should they be focused on how to get to the next point of contact with home so that parents concerns and fears can be alleviated. This is the new age of travel as it has changed in the past 5 years.

Touring is worth every headache and every lost hour of sleep. The joy of watching childrend develop skills they will need to negotiate life is priceless. This year’s tour has been terrific. The drive was long but easy and I never once heard, “when are we going to be there”” which is always a blessing.

The boys are having a great time and singing beautifully…really really well. The experinece in Pueblo was remarkable for them. They were an inspiration to the other children and pushed themselves to be everything we teach them to be and everything we hope they will be today and beyond.

Today will bring a boatride on the river in Pueblo and goodbyes to new friends. Happily technology will help them keep up with these new friends with common interests in music.

All too soon we will be back on that bus ride home. I am grateful for our drivers. They both have been spectacular, caring for our every need and appropriately concerned with our safety. First Class Tours are just that! I can only hope the ride home is as free from, the eternal, “are we there yet” as the ride has been thus far.

Lights out

There have been several times this season I have marveled at the goodness of these boys. I don’t mean the quality of their singing at this moment, but the quality of their humanity. They are simply put, good people who have pushed me to be better because of who they are, and therein lies the gift.

Four hours down sixteen to go. “mister” George the bus man is awesome. He took one look at his cargo and called it precious.

Off to the pool

Off to the pool to join the party. Well not really. I try to give boys their space. But it is awards and there are boys who have been in Houston Boychoir FIVE years. That is remarkable. What keeps them coming back year after year. Music, friends, opportunity…it is a good question!