American Boychoir School

American Boychoir School

The bus of the American Boychoir School at Saint Joseph's Seminary
Brothers, Sing On!
174 Lambertville Hopewell Road
Hopewell, New Jersey
 United States
Type Private, non-sectarian boarding school
Established 1937 (1937)

The American Boychoir School is a boarding/day middle school located in Hopewell, New Jersey, and the home of the American Boychoir. The school serves boys in grades 4–8, many of whom come from across the United States as well as from many countries.[1] It is one of only two boychoir boarding schools in the United States, the other being Saint Thomas Choir School in New York City.The school was fictionalized in the 2014 film Boychoir.

In 2012, the choir's longtime home, Albermarle in Princeton, was sold due to financial shortfalls and the choir moved to the Princeton Center for the Arts & Education (formerly St. Joseph's Seminary) for the 2013 and 2014 school years.

On April 10, 2015 the school filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy stating it needed $350,000 to finish the school year and $3,000,000 to come out of bankruptcy and open for the next academic year.[2] On April 14, 2015 the School announced it would end the school year early, on May 17, instead of reaching the normal time for graduation, the second week of June.[3]

The School reopened on September 1, 2015, and has continued to operate during the 2015-16 school year while working to satisfy its financial obligations and emerge from the Chapter 11 bankruptcy stable and able to move forward successfully. School operations were moved to the campus of Rambling Pines Summer Camp, at 174 Lambertville Hopewell Road, Hopewell, NJ, 08545, site of the former Princeton Latin Academy. Rambling Pines provides classroom and office space, gymnasium space, and almost 200 acres of playing fields.

The Choir

The American Boychoir performs in concerts across the United States and at international venues.[4] On average, the choir makes over 200 appearances in four to five major tours annually. In its history, the choir has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, The St. Olaf Choir, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, and several opera singers including Jessye Norman, Frederica von Stade and Kathleen Battle. The choir has had television appearances on NBC's Today show and is featured on sixteen recordings. One of its members in 1951–1952, Chet Allen was cast as Amahl in Gian Carlo Menotti's first ever opera for television, Amahl and the Night Visitors on the Hallmark Hall of Fame, then on NBC.[5]

In the 2004–2005 season, the Boychoir performed at the 77th annual Academy Awards with pop singer Beyoncé Knowles[6] and with Jessye Norman before the United States Open (tennis) women's singles final. The choir also had tours across the United States and Canada, an appearance in Boston and at Carnegie Hall in celebration of James Levine’s inaugural season as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as well as six performances with the Philadelphia Orchestra.[7]

In the last three years, 2013-2016, the Concert Choir completed multiple national tours (several to the Midwest and Southern states, California and the Northwest, Texas and the Southwest), as well as singing at festivals in South Korea and France. The combined Training and Concert Choirs contributed to Tim Janis' The American Christmas Carol at Carnegie Hall in December, 2015. The Boychoir has been featured often by the Philadelphia Symphony: some highlights - Carmina Burana in October 2013, Bach's St. Matthew Passion in April 2015, and, most recently Mahler's Symphony 8 in March, 2016.

The American Boychoir is subdivided into two choirs: the Concert Choir and the Training Choir. The Concert Choir, currently conducted by Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, performs and tours regularly while the Training Choir, currently conducted by Fred Meads, is made up of first year students that receive training in order to move up to the Concert Choir when they are ready. Boys join the choir by auditioning while visiting the school, or auditioning after Boychoir performances at concert sites or after school programs. An alumnus may join the Alumni Chorus, conducted by music director emeritus, James Litton.[8] Auditions are required for enrollment into The American Boychoir School.

The School

The American Boychoir School is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization. The School does not discriminate in its admissions, scholarship programs or activities on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, gender or religion.[9] The school is an accredited member of Middle States Association. The School opened for 2015-16 school year with 31 boys. Admissions is rolling and boys often join the student body after the school year has begun.

The School's educational program is designed to be largely interdisciplinary, with project based learning (PBL) its primary focus. Classes are small (maximum - 12 students) and boys study in self-contained classrooms with a grade level teacher who delivers the Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science curricula in interdisciplinary "modules." 4th and 5th grade boys study together in a class labeled the "Lower School." The goal of all student work is authentic, summative assessment of individual and group achievement, and boys regularly report on their learning to audiences of their peers, as well as experts in specific fields outside the school.

Mathematics instruction at the American Boychoir School is entirely differentiated by student and delivered with mixed methodology which includes direct and dedicated Mathematics teacher instruction, textbook interaction, and a web-based Mathematics curriculum (TenMarks) that is supported by a 1:1 iPad program. Each student studies Mathematics independently (with small group instruction when warranted and appropriate) and proceeds according to his own abilities and interests; as a result, within each grade level, boys may be working below, at, or above - sometimes far above - grade level.

All boys receive Latin instruction. The Latin curriculum emphasizes grammar and vocabulary that supports parallel Language Arts development, and simple story translation.

All boys also receive Music Theory instruction at one of four levels and all new boys receive keyboard training for their first year at the School.

Formal physical education classes are held four days per week. All boys participate.

Many graduates of the American Boychoir School go on to the most competitive independent high schools around the country. In the past 10 years, the School has sent multiple boys to Phillips Exeter Academy (NH), Phillips Academy (MA), Lawrenceville School (NJ), Peddie School (NJ), St. Andrew's School (DE), Avon Old Farms (CT), and many others. About 20-30% of ABS graduates go on to their home public high schools.[10]

Academics on Tour

The goal of the School's educational program is that it successfully integrate with the Boychoir's touring responsibilities throughout the school year. As such, modules at each grade level are developed to take advantage of the routes the boys follow when they tour. Much effort is made to match the curricula with enrichment activities while on tour, such as visits to museums, historical sites, and environmental areas that illustrate and enhance what the boys are learning. One teacher travels with every tour.

Summer Music Programs

The American Boychoir has two distinct summer music programs: Camp Albemarle and The American Boychoir Experience.

Camp Albemarle provides choruses, a musicianship training program and a small group vocal instruction training program.[11]

The American Boychoir Experience is for boys ages 9–12 only, and provides the experience of one week in the life of an American Boychoir School student without the academic classes. The week includes choral training, music theory, in addition to traditional summer camp activities. This professional experience in choral training culminates in a formal concert. An audition is necessary to participate in The American Boychoir Experience.[11]


Albemarle, the 1917 estate of pharmaceutical magnate Gerard Lambert, home to the school from 1952–2012[12]

The choir and school were founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1937, by Herbert Huffman who believed that "the experience of performing the great choral literature – and performing it at the highest professional levels – could have a profound effect on the academic, social and moral development of boys".[13] Founded originally as the Columbus Boychoir, the group moved to Princeton in 1950. It changed its name to the American Boychoir in 1980.[14]

Former choir directors at the choir school include Herbert Huffman (founder), Donald Bryant, Robert W. Haley, Howard Jewell, Donald G. Hanson, John Kuzma, Jim Litton, Craig Denison, Wallace Hornady and Nathan Wadley. The choir recorded for RCA Victor during Herbert Huffman's tenure before moving to the DECCA Label during the Donald Bryant years, where the choir released multiple LP's including one with Bing Crosby. Later, the boychoir would release CDs on its own Albermarle Records label. (see complete Discography below).

From 1985 to 2001, the boychoir was conducted by James Litton, an expert on children's choral techniques and vocal production. Regarded as one of America's prominent choral conductors, Litton led the boychoir in more than 2,000 concerts in 49 states and 12 nations. Litton also introduced the changing voice and established SATB sections in the choir. He helped recognize that all boys should continue singing regardless of their voice change.[15]

2002 lawsuit and sexual abuse allegations

In April 2002, The New York Times reported sexual abuse which had taken place at the Boychoir School several decades earlier by Choir Director Donald G. Hanson and other staff.[16] In court documents, the American Boychoir claimed that it had no duty to protect children in their care from sexual abuse and that children who were abused were themselves negligent for not bringing the abuse to light. One of the students who had claimed that he was victimized was constitutional scholar Lawrence Lessig, who has represented another student, John Hardwicke, in his lawsuit against the school.[17] In its court filings, the school claimed that Hardwicke, then 12, had consented to sex and said that he was negligent in not reporting the incident at the time.[16] Many other boys have now come forward and said they were sexually abused, either by staff members or other older students enrolled at the school. This alleged abuse occurred in the 1970s, 1980s, and into the late 1990s. The school has now adopted new policies to protect the boys from further sexual abuse, but has paid over $850,000 in settlement money to one victim to avoid further lawsuits.

On August 8, 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled against the school's appeal of a lower court decision.[18][19] The school had contended that the state's charitable immunity act protected it from liability in sexual abuse lawsuits brought by former students. The court found that the Charitable Immunity Act immunizes charities for negligence only; it does not bar statutory or common-law claims that are based on willful, wanton or grossly negligent conduct.[20][21] The school's lawyers requested the New Jersey Supreme Court to reconsider the decision, claiming the ruling represented a major extension of vicarious liability.[22] On January 5, 2006, then-Governor of New Jersey Richard Codey signed bill S540/A2512 into New Jersey law, ending the Boychoir's charitable immunity defense, and making New Jersey the 48th state to allow victims of childhood sex abuse to sue churches, schools and other non-profits for the actions of their staff.[23]


Notable alumni


  1. "The American Boychoir School". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  2. "American Boychoir School – A Letter from the Chairman of the Board". American Boychoir School.
  3. Knapp, Krystal. "American Boychoir School to Finish Academic Year Early Due to Financial Woes". Planet Princeton.
  4. "Performance Highlights | The American Boychoir School". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  7. "School". The American Boychoir. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  8. "Alumni Chorus | The American Boychoir School". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  9. "Mission Statement of The American Boychoir School". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  10. "High School Placement | The American Boychoir School". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  11. 1 2 "Summer Music Programs | The American Boychoir School". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  12. Knapp, Krystal (May 7, 2015). "A controversial Expansion Plan: International School on Lambert Drive in Princeton Seeks to Add Buildings and Increase Student Population in Residential Neighborhood". Planet Princeton.
  13. "The American Boychoir School". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  14. "Princeton Patron article". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  15. James Litton: Music Director, American Boychoir. Accessed October 21, 2007.
  16. 1 2 Diana Jean Schemo, "Decades of Sex Abuse Are Described at Choir School in New Jersey", The New York Times, April 16, 2002. Accessed January 11, 2008. "In a court filing, the school accused Mr. Hardwicke of negligence, saying if he had been abused he should have spoken up at the time. The school argued that it was not responsible for Mr. Hanson's behavior or Mr. Hardwicke's well-being, and said that Mr. Hardwicke, then 12, had consented to sex."
  17. Heilemann, John. "The Choirboy: As head boy at a legendary choir school, Lawrence Lessig was repeatedly molested by the charismatic choir director, part of a horrific pattern of child abuse there. Now, as one of America’s most famous lawyers, he’s put his own past on trial to make sure such a thing never happens again.", New York (magazine), May 30, 2005. Accessed July 29, 2007.
  18. Institutional Liability and Statutes of Limitation in Sexual Abuse cases, Hardwick v. American Boychoir School, 902 A. 2d 900 (N.J. 2006), School Law Reporter vol. 48 no. 11 (Nov. 2006).
  19. Text of NJ Supreme Court decision.
  20. "Town Topics". Town Topics. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  21. Beth DeFalco (Aug 9, 2006). "High court clears way for school sex abuse suit ; Rules negligence protection law doesn't apply". The Record. Associated Press. p. A.04. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  22. New Jersey Lawyer Online, News Brief 2006-08-21, "Lawyer: Boychoir decision expands vicarious liability"
  23. Deborah Howlett, Newark Star-Ledger, January 6, 2006, "Charities lose sex-lawsuit – Codey signs bill allowing legal action against pedophiles' employers", cite from here . Note that the linked citation's date is incorrectly stated as June 6. Correct date was retrieved from Star Ledger archive search.
  24. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. "Coast Lyric Tenor Wins Met Auditions". The New York Times. March 26, 1973. p. 56.
  27. "The Boy Choir and Soloist Directory, Chet Allen".
  28. "The Legacy of the Saint Olaf Choir". Saint Paul Sunday. Retrieved May 17, 2015.
  30. Heilemann, John (2005-05-21). "Lawrence Lessig and John Hardwicke Fight Sexual Abuse and the American Boychoir School". Retrieved 2011-01-23.

External links

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