Everything you want to know about Keystone State Boychoir... but were afraid to ask!

How will my son benefit by being a member of Keystone State Boychoir?

The mission of Keystone State Boychoir (KSB) is to offer world-class choral music education and performance opportunities to young men from diverse economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds while nurturing leadership skills, building character, and encouraging self-discipline.

Your son will be a part of a diverse group of young men who have many different backgrounds and interests but share a mutual talent for singing and love of music. Rehearsals will be challenging and the results will be rewarding! He will evolve from someone who likes to sing into a singer-musician – a rare animal indeed.

What is expected of KSB members?

Members are expected to both sing and behave professionally whenever they are representing KSB. They are expected arrive for all rehearsals, performances and KSB events promptly. They are expected to treat all members of the KSB family with respect. Finally, KSB members are expected to have fun! Leonard Bernstein said that music-making should “be fun all the time.” This is a philosophy we live by at KSB. Although we work very hard, we always have fun making the music, both in rehearsal and performance.

Explain the different groups:

Trainers: The Trainers is comprised of younger boys who have limited music education/experience. Trainers meet once a week to develop singer-musicianship. The focus is on written and aural theory as well as learning a small repertoire of songs. The Trainers sings in KSB annual Holiday and Spring Concerts. Members are also invited to participate in “KSB On-The-Town” and other various special performance opportunities. The Trainers rehearse on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. Trainers do not go on tour.

Apprentices: Apprentices rehearse with Candidates on Wednesday afternoons from 4:00-5:30 p.m. and with the Concert Choir from 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays. The Apprentice group spends most of its time working on singer-musicianship skills, preparing to undertake the substantial task of Candidacy. Apprentices have several performance opportunities throughout the year; during the December Holiday Season and at KSB’s Holiday and Spring Concerts.

Candidacy: Candidates, while not members of the Concert Choir or the Graduate Choir, rehearse with the Concert Choir on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. They also rehearse on Wednesdays from 4:00 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., during which time they work on learning and memorizing the KSB standard repertoire, as well as passing proficiencies in written and aural music theory. Once a Candidate passes these requirements, he is inducted into KSB as a new member, earning the right to wear the coveted green KSB Jacket. Candidates do not tour.

Concert Choir: This is the main ensemble of the Keystone State Boychoir. Members of the Concert Choir rehearse on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The Concert Choir performs at major KSB winter and spring concerts and various performances throughout the City of Philadelphia.

Towne Choir: This is a select group of trebles (unchanged voices) that sings more challenging repertoire. The Towne Choir rehearses on Saturdays as part of the Concert Choir and will have special rehearsals occasionally throughout the year.

Chamber Choir: The Chamber Choir is an elite group of singers selected from the ranks of the Towne Choir. The Chamber Choir rehearses on Wednesday nights from 6:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. in addition to the Saturday morning Towne Choir rehearsal. The Chamber Choir is afforded special performance opportunities throughout the year. Members of the Chamber Choir are automatically invited to be a part of the tour choir.

Baritones: The Baritones are young men who are experiencing Mother Nature in all her
glory…or, fury! While their voices are changing they may remain with KSB as a “baritone.” Most boychoirs ask singers to leave once they can no longer hit the treble notes. At KSB we believe that a young man can successfully sing through voice change if he receives proper care and supervision. To this end, the music directors hours creating vocal lines for selected pieces of the current repertoire tailored specifically with this unique period in the young man’s vocal development. Voice assessments are done periodically throughout the year to keep a check on the progress and once the change is complete a singer may move to his new voice section as a candidate tenor or bass in the Graduate Choir. Baritones rehearse with the Graduate Choir on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Generally, Baritones will not tour. However, the music directors will monitor each singer individually and reserve the right to extend an invitation if they feel the singer meets the eligibility requirements.

Graduate Choir: The Graduate Choir is for young tenors and basses who have survived the initial voice change. The Graduates rehearse on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The Graduate Choir sometimes performs with the Chamber Choir or the Towne Choir. Young men who have completed voice change and are entering the Graduate Choir must complete the candidacy process as listed above under “Candidacy.” The Graduate Choir is eligible for tour.

Do all the choir members travel?

No. Participation in KSB national and international concert tours is a privilege and is reserved for members of the Concert and Graduate Choirs who have completed one year in KSB, meet the highest musical standards, have an exemplary rehearsal and performance attendance record, and exhibit professional behavior throughout the season are eligible to be considered for tour. Tour members represent KSB and must be able to handle the rigors of tour in a professional manor.
The music directors reserve the right to withdraw a tour invitation at any time. Generally speaking, candidates for the Concert and Graduate Choirs, Baritones and newly jacketed members (within the current season) are not eligible for tour. However, the music directors reserve the right to make exceptions to this policy.

The annual concert tour usually takes place during the months of June and/or July and typically last two to three weeks. The Chamber Choir may embark on smaller local tours throughout the regular season. Concert tours are always optional, but highly encouraged if a KSB member is invited to participate.

How much does all this cost?

Tuition and Music: There is an annual membership fee of $600. Members may pay their membership fee in two installments of $300 due September 30 and January 30 for each semester. Members starting mid-year will pay a prorated fee. Membership is refundable on a prorated basis until November 1 for the 1st semester and March 1 for the second semester. Occasionally KSB holds mini-camps, 9-to-9ers and On-The-Town events, which have a nominal participation fee. There is a limited amount of scholarship funding available for those with a financial need. Scholarship application forms may be picked up in the office.

Attire: Several items are required for a KSB member’s attire. The KSB Jacket is “rented” to a member with a $60 fee. Jackets must be maintained and returned in good, clean condition. The KSB also has a golf shirt for informal performances and a tie for formal performances, khaki pants and (for Tour Choir) khaki shorts that can be purchased through the attire committee. Other components including: black pants, white shirt, black belt, black socks, white socks, black shoes and white sneakers can be purchased locally. We also have an attire “bank” where “deposits” of outgrown attire items are made. Members may “withdraw” attire elements on a one-for-one basis. The attire bank is free of charge to members.

Tour: Tour costs are underwritten by the parents. We do try to substantially reduce the cost of tour through various means, including group airfare rate and homestays. Several fundraising opportunities are offered throughout the year to help individual members offset the cost of their tour. Deposits to a member’s ITA (Individual Tour Account) may be made at any time throughout the year and is a good way to save for the tour a little at a time. Tours are intended to be an educational and cultural experience as well as musical one. We provide journals for the countries visited and the members of the Choir are required to make daily entries in their journals.

Why don’t you let girls sing in the choir?

We appreciate this sensitive issue. Studies show that when girls sing in a mixed children’s choir, boys with unchanged voices don’t want to participate. (Graduates are another story!) In fact, most “children’s choirs” are comprised mainly of female members. Research has also proven that a boychoir has a distinct sound that is very different from a choir that includes girls. It’s not necessarily a better sound, but it is a unique sound, for which composers have written music throughout the ages. Also, in our society we don’t do as good a job as we ought to teaching young men that they can be “men” AND be emotionally expressive. The camaraderie of a boychoir does exactly that. It’s interesting to note that in other countries – South Africa for example – a male is not truly a man unless he sings. Imagine that!

However, Commonwealth Youthchoirs does offer an opportunity for girls to also participate in a professional girlchoir. If you know of a young woman who would like to sing in a professional girlchoir, our sister choir is the Pennsylvania Girlchoir. Keystone State Boychoir and Pennsylvania Girlchoir occasionally appear together in concert. These performances enhance the educational aspect of choral music-making and allow each choir to experience the collaborative process. Visit Pennsylvania Girlchoir's web site for more information. Auditions for PG can be scheduled through the PG office at 215.247.6901.

How often does the KSB perform?

On average, the KSB performs about 25-30 times per year. Performances vary from full concerts to singing the National Anthem at a sporting event, to performing select repertoire with some of Philadelphia’s most elite arts organizations. In the past two years the KSB has performed for the Phillies, 76ers, and KiXX as well as Governor Rendell’s inauguration, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Company of Philadelphia, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia. The number of performances in which your son participates will depend on his choir placement.

My son plays sports with a schedule that may conflict with the choir. Can he still be a member of KSB?

Yes. Most of our members participate in football, soccer, baseball, basketball, etc. We try to be as flexible as possible, but we do expect that a general commitment be made to the weekly Saturday rehearsal. We also require any missed rehearsals to be made up. We have special “make-up” rehearsals on Sunday evenings from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at William Penn Charter School in East Falls. (3000 W. School House Lane, East Falls) A fully missed Saturday rehearsal requires two Sunday make-up sessions.

However, if your son has an on-going Saturday morning conflict, this may not be the best activity for him. We can offer some flexibility but to maintain a professional sound quality we need to be able to work with the boys on a regular basis.

What is a 9-to-5er?

A 9-to-5er is a special rehearsal that is held from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. with scheduled breaks for lunch and free time in the gym. The Keystone State Boychoir rehearsal schedule is less rigorous than most peer choirs, therefore, these extended rehearsals are necessary from time to time to maintain KSB’s high choral standards. In the evening (from 5:00 p.m. to 9 p.m.), members who choose to do so may participate in the “On The Town” event.. In the past this has included: bowling, laser tag, pizza parties, movies, etc. This is a great way for the boys to develop friendships with each other. If space allows, parents and siblings are invited to join the fun in the evening.

Where does the Choir rehearse?

The Choir’s home is in the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown (FPCG) located at 35 West Chelten Avenue. However, we are a non-denominational professional choir. We rent space as “artists in residence” but do occasionally perform at FPCG services as a way to say “thank you” to our hosts. We are very lucky to have such an amazing place to call home. Not only do we rehearse in one of the most beautiful, acoustically perfect venues in the city, but we also have a gym complete with basketball courts and a foosball table, a break room for chess, checkers and cards, a snack room, a kitchen, an auditorium, and a waiting room for parents. We truly are the envy of the choir community in Philadelphia.

What is Commonwealth Youthchoirs?

The Commonwealth Youthchoirs is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit umbrella organization which administers Keystone State Boychoir and Pennsylvania Girlchoir. Both choirs share an administrative staff, but each has its own artistic staff. The CY office is located at First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, which is also the rehearsal home of Keystone State Boychoir.

Who are the staff members and conductors?

Interim Managing Director: Steven M. Fisher
Membership Coordinator: Mary Ann Case
Music Director: Joseph P. Fitzmartin
Associate Music Director: Steven M. Fisher

What if I have more questions?

Please feel free to get in touch! Call us at the Commonwealth Youthchoirs office: 215-849-1762 or email us at contact@cychoirs.org.