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Choir Schools

Music and Academics Combined


Choir Schools

Choir Schools

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Only one residential church-affiliated choir school remains in the United States. That is St. Thomas Choir School which was founded in 1919.

What is a choir school? It is a private school which combines an academic and musical education. In the case of St. Thomas Choir School the academic and musical education is enriched with the choristers' religious duties. The boy choristers sing the top or soprano line in the world-famous St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys. The Choir sings regularly at services in St. Thomas Church. It also gives dozens of concerts every year in the church, in addition to touring at home and abroad. The Choir is considered one of the finest choral ensembles in the world.

The Benefits of a Choir School Education

What are the benefits of a choir school education? Why would you want to send your son to a residential school in 3rd grade? There are a couple of reasons to consider. Perhaps you already know that your son has a musical gift and a good singing voice. Sending him away to a world-class institution like St. Thomas Choir School will develop his talents and character in all sorts of positive ways. He will have the benefit of some of the best music performance experiences to be found anywhere. He will be taught in small classes with lots of individual attention. The cost of this fine education is relatively low because St. Thomas Church subsidizes the expense in return for the boys' singing at services four times during the week and again on Sundays.

Singing in a choir gives boys and girls confidence. It develops an appreciation not only for great music but also for teamwork. Musical performances require individuals to sing in harmony as an ensemble or team under the direction of a leader or conductor. Understanding the principles of teamwork and leadership is a valuable lesson in life. Performing music successfully in a concert setting gives young people confidence and trust in their own abilities. These are lessons which will help and guide boys and girls as they become young adults with careers and families of their own. They can look back at what they accomplished as children and face whatever life brings them with the confidence and assurance that they can handle it.

What happens after 8th grade? The academic education which your child has received in choir school is a solid preparation for just about any private or public high school you might want to consider. Choir school graduates matriculate to some of the best high schools at home and abroad.

A Brief History of Choir Schools

Choir schools have been part of the Anglican and Roman Catholic worship tradition for many centuries. They are usually attached to cathedrals or college chapels. The choir schools at St. Paul's Cathedral, London, and King's College, Cambridge, are two prominent examples of that tradition. In return for their education and room and board the boys were expected to sing at the daily services in the cathedral or college chapel. This tradition continued pretty much unchanged until the latter part of the 20th century.

The cost of educating and housing choristers is enormous. The original endowments which founders of those institutions set up no longer produce enough income to offset the expense of running a choir school. Changing approaches to education as well as an increasingly mobile society made recruiting choristers difficult. For those reasons many choir schools in the United Kingdom have either closed their doors or become day schools since 1945.

In the United States the Episcopal Church carried on the choir school tradition. In the first part of the 20th century residential choir schools could be found at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York; Grace Cathedral, San Francisco; Washington Cathedral and St. Thomas' Church. Now only St. Thomas Choir School remains as a residential school. The other two cathedrals have day schools affiliated with them. Their choristers receive a superb education at those day schools.

Secular Choir Schools

Unlike the church-affiliated choir schools, secular choir schools exist as pure performance, arts-based institutions. Think Julliard or Curtis for 4th through 8th graders and you get the idea. There are just a handful of such institutions including The American Boychoir School in Princeton, New Jersey and Pacific Boychoir Academy in Berkeley, California.


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