PGC to Start Boychoir Division

Princeton Girlchoir to Start Boys’ Ensembles Weeks After Closing of American Boychoir
September 6, 2017
By Anne Levin

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When the news broke last month that the American Boychoir School (ABS) was closing its doors after eight decades, an idea that had been percolating among administrators of the Princeton Girlchoir suddenly began to take shape. It wasn’t long before an announcement was made that a Boychoir division was being formed for the Girlchoir’s 2017-2018 season.

“This has been in our long-term sights for awhile,” said Hillary K. Butler, executive director of the Girlchoir. “We had considered doing something for boys in ninth-to-12th grade, since the Boychoir only went to eighth grade. But it was certainly not anything we were contemplating doing this quickly or any time in the near future. And we wouldn’t have done it as long as the Boychoir was around. There wasn’t a need.”

But now that the internationally known American Boychoir is no more, things have changed. The Girlchoir will hold auditions for boys this month and rehearsals are projected to begin in October. Ms. Butler said last week that the first group of boys to join will likely be an intermediate level of unchanged voices, from about fourth grade to middle school range.

The two organizations are different in structure. Founded in 1937 and based in Princeton since 1950, ABS was a full-time choir with boarding and day students in grades four to eight. They rehearsed at least two hours a day. The Girlchoir is an after-school program of seven different choirs, for girls in third through 12th grade. It was founded in 1989.

But the two organizations have shared some staff for years. Fred Meads, the former director of vocal studies at ABS, has worked with the Girlchoir for several seasons and will be leading the male ensembles in the new division. “Fred has been conducting our choirs for six or seven years as well as working with the Boychoir, so there was a clear connection,” Ms. Butler said.

When it became clear that ABS would be folding, “Our first thought was how does this affect our community, and how does this affect the boys who love to sing and for whom this is such an integral part of who they are and what they do?,” Ms. Butler said. “What could we do to help fill this gap? We also knew that people were trying to make plans, and with the school year starting so quickly, we knew we had to make an announcement as quickly as we could.”

As soon as Mr. Meads was on board, administrators for the Girlchoir decided to proceed. “We know this will be a successful program,” Ms. Butler said. “Fred is such a high caliber person and musician, and he attracts people to him. He is so great working with kids.”

In addition to ABS and the Girlchoir, Mr. Meads’ resume includes work with other private schools, churches, and at the collegiate level for the past 25 years. He directed the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir in Indiana for a decade, and has led various honor choirs and all-state choirs in several states. He has presented workshops at Westminster Choir College, among other locations.

Ms. Butler said she isn’t sure how many boys will join the new Boychoir, but those who do will probably sing more mixed-voice music as opposed to just men’s repertoire.

The Girlchoir community is enthusiastic about the idea of boys joining the organization.  “The girls I’ve spoken to are really excited,” Ms. Butler said. “Everybody from parents to members of our board are thrilled we are able to do this for the community. It shows where our organization is growing as a whole. We see opportunities in the future for collaboration, though they will remain as individual divisions. It is a really nice way to balance off of what we have as an organization.”

The end of the ABS “is a loss to the choral community, not just locally but across the country and around the world,” Ms. Butler added. “We know we can never fill that hole of what the Boychoir was, but we want to do our best to provide what we can.”

For information about auditions, call (609) 688-1888 or contact