northwest boychoir by eric

Eric Mueser

If you live in Seattle, you may have heard of the Northwest Boychoir. The Northwest Boychoir is part of a larger organization called Northwest Choirs, which focus on the musical education of children in the form of singing. I like to think I know the organization pretty well, since I’ve been part of it for about 12 years now. How does it work, though?

Boys audition for the group when they are as young as five years old and then work their way up from the lowest training choirs. Boys that are five or six years old are in the lowest training level of the choir known within the group as prep and early prep, and are taught basic musical skills including learning to read music, learning solfege (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do), reading and reciting rhythms, and other skills. After six months to a year, they move up into intermediate choir, which is the first time the boys are exposed to public performances, which can be very intimidating for a seven year old. From this point on, a chorister is evaluated before moving on to the next group, instead of spending an allocated amount of time there.

Boys will spend anywhere from six months to three years in intermediate choir before moving up to advanced choir, where they will spend another six months to two years before moving up to the final boys’ group, known as performing choir. When boys reach this level, they are anywhere from eight to twelve years old, and will remain in this group until their voice changes. The performing choir does most of the public performances, and they do everything from national tours, to performances with the symphony, to video game and movie soundtrack recordings.

Around the seventh to eighth grade, boys’ voices begin to change, at which point they move on to the group known as Vocalpoint for their high school years. Vocalpoint is still part of the larger Northwest Choirs organization but does different genres of music. Girls join the organization in seventh or eighth grade and are fully incorporated into the rest of Vocalpoint in high school. Vocalpoint does two series of shows each year; usually based on some form of Rock and Roll from the 50s to the 80s; usually with a theme or a storyline; For example, the stages of a relationship or the progression of music across the US. Vocalpoint also does one of the organization’s largest annual fund raisers, in which we set up and perform at a gala, people have dinner, dance, and raise money, which is a huge event with a lot of preparation. The performing choir partners with Vocalpoint during the Christmas season to put on “A Festival of Lessons and Carols,” in addition to an annual overnight tour to Portland, Oregon.

I’ve been in the organization for over a decade now. I joined in kindergarten and it has been one of the best decisions of my life. It taught me personal responsibility, accountability, work ethic, leadership, and so much more. It is a pretty rare experience of getting to learn a particular skill with the same people for over a decade. It has been one of the best experiences of my life and I would fully encourage people of auditioning age to do so.