It’s been eight years since a sexual abuse scandal and serious debt put an end to the Boy’s Choir of Harlem. But a group of alumni from the program came together to keep the choral tradition alive. This season, for the first time, they’ll pass down their professional training to a new generation of singers. Elisabeth Morgan reports. (00:17)
AMBI: sound of rehearsal beginning
It’s a freezing slushy night in Harlem and nine young professionals are just warming up.
AMBI: song beginning
They get together for choir rehearsal on Wednesday nights. Tyneshia Hill is their director.
HILL: They’re not just my choir members. We’re cool we’re friends, we’re family actually. (0:05)
This is the Harlem Alumni Ensemble. They were part of the Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem, which used to be housed in the Harlem Choir Academy. They were pulled out in 2007 after a difficult series of events. A counselor had been convicted of sexual abuse of a choir member, and the choirs fell into serious debt and never recovered from the scandal. The Choir Academy still exists, but it’s shutting down after this year.
HILL: The program is not the same since they took the boys choir of Harlem Inc. out of the building. Because BCH instilled discipline. And they were creating performers. (0:16)
AMBI: hark the herald angels sing
The Alumni Ensemble formed shortly after the choir shut down, and now they’re pretty popular in the New York music scene. They recently sang with Estelle, and make appearances on Good Morning America. This winter for the first time, they’re giving back to the Harlem community through a partnership with a local elementary school.
AMBI: Kids in music room settling down for rehearsal
Over at PS 153, 12 fifth graders are warming up, too.
AMBI: santa please song starting
In a large music room, decorated with hand-cut music notes, they work on a few of the Christmas songs that they’ll perform with the Harlem Alumni Ensemble.
AMBI: Kids singing “Santa please”
After the kids go to lunch lunch, director Arielle Hyatt, talked about why she’s so excited for this partnership with the alumni.
HYATT: These are people who are professionals and have these performing careers.
Hyatt says that a solid music education helps nurture the whole child, and that the discipline that they learn transfers to the classroom. But she also wants them to know that a career in music is possible.
HYATT: If they want to go for performing arts or musical theater or music education, they should at least be educated in that capacity and not just in like pop, and that’s what I feel this partnership with Harlem boys and girls alumni ensemble will do. [00:18]
After the concert, the alumni ensemble will continue to mentor students regularly on things like vocal technique, choreography, and professional presentation.
Alumni Ensemble director Tyneshia Hill is looking forward to it.
HILL: This is great opportunity for us to show that we are all about giving back to our kids and making sure that music stays alive in Harlem. (00:09)
Hill says that the discipline and leadership that she got from being a child singer prepared her for her career, and the real world in general.
HILL: They weren’t just preparing singers, they were preparing humans they were preparing citizens to go out to the world and be productive. (00:06)
The young citizens of PS 153 will show the world what they’ve got alongside the professionals next Saturday, December 13th in the PS 153 auditorium.
AMBI: KIDS SINGING “SANTA WON’T YOU PLEASE”
Elisabeth Morgan, Columbia Radio News