Connecting with One Child, One Voice at a Time

When 7-year old Jayson Johnson was accepted into the Philadelphia Boy Choir and Chorale last spring, he didn't want to go.  He was not sure about this new experience despite the fact that he liked to sing, especially singing along with his favorite songs on the radio.

However, as he shared with me, his mom told him that "God gave me an opportunity to be in the choir. That's why I changed my mind."

So far, in his first year of participating in Choir's Beginning Cadets program, he characterizes his time as being a "great" experience.  

As described by the Choir on their website: "The Beginning Cadet program focuses on ensemble singing and boys learn to cultivate their love of music while developing their tone quality."

Jayson described how when he started the Associate Music Director, John B. Stroud, Jr., handed him a huge binder of new songs, of which his favorite now is Al Shlosha D'Varim.  

Asked why that was his favorite: "It has a good tune.  The whole song is a different language. I like that."  

After explaning the reason for liking the song, he sang a few lines of the melody for me.  It is obvious that Jayson enjoys singing.

Early in 2012, ArtsRising built a meaningful connection to Jeff Smith, the Music Director of the Choir, in the course of researching local youth choirs.  Mr. Smith realized that we were embedded in several schools upon which a natural bridge was forged to serve as a pipeline for potential talent for the Boy Choir.  After some introductions, he was able to hold auditions at Jayson's school - Lowell Elementary in Olney.

When asked to reflect on Jayson's audition, Mr. Smith related that "Jayson is the perfect example of a boy who had no prior musical experience, but has a natural ear for music. During the audition, at first he had trouble with some of the musical exercises he was given, but he quickly learned and was able to complete them successfully in just a few minutes. And on top of it, he is such a respectful and polite boy – we are really glad to have him in the program."

Mr. Smith shared that he auditioned over 350 boys in the greater Philadelphia region last year.  Of that, approximately 15% accepted the invitation to join the Boy Choir.  Reasons for those not being able to participate varied depending on scheduling, available transportation and overall family commitment levels.

It is the dedication of Jayson's parents in taking him to rehearsals every week that has enabled him to overcome his initial fears and embrace the opportunity. 

His mother Sharonna Ackerman says, "The experience has helped build up his confidence.  Initially, he didn’t even want to audition for fear of not being accepted, but now he is excited to be a member."

Mrs. Ackerman added that "participating in the choir has helped Jayson with his organizational skills and study habits."

When asked what was a highlight of performing at a winter holiday concert in Center City, Jayson beamed that it "felt good to have my parents come and see me sing." 

In addition to his parents, he also pointed out that he sang in front of "a lot of other people."

Although he is one of the younger members of the Boy Choir program, Jayson looks forward to hopefully advancing in the ranks of the Choir by eventually moving up to the Advanced Cadets and then to the Performing Boys Choir.  He spoke about possibly getting to sing at a Phillies baseball game in the future and maybe even going overseas to Paris, France.  "When I get to the Performing Choir, I'll get to go around the world and sing to people."