Boys Choir seeks new voices

Published 9:39 pm Sunday, June 20, 2010

Participating in choral performances means more for youth than learning to read notes on a page.

Ken Berg, director of the Birmingham Boys Choir, said the pursuit of vocal skills enhances the whole person.

“It is pivotal in the development of any child that they be trained in the arts, academics and athletics,” Berg said. “If we train them in just one or even two areas we are building the foundation for an incomplete person.”

The Birmingham Boys Choir holds auditions throughout the year, but plans to enroll new singers in July. New singers can find spots in the Music Explorers program, while slightly more experienced singers participate in the Junior Choristers and advanced singers in the Senior Choristers.

James Michael Sheetz joined two years ago. The North Shelby fourth–grader spent the last year as a Junior Chorister. His mother, Aleta, said James Michael always loved to sing.

“He’s sang his whole life – he sang before he could talk,” Aleta said.

James Michael said its been exciting learning new things.

“I just like singing,” James Michael said. “I like the way we learn to sing lots of different kinds of music.”

Berg said singing provides a variety of benefits: it involves all parts of the brain, encourages teamwork, teaches students languages – singing in Latin and reading music – and strengthens their vocal muscles before voice changes.

Berg said it also supports mental well–being.

“We are creative beings –– its how we are made,” he said. “We parents are handicapping our children –– especially our boys –– by not encouraging them to find a creative outlet.”

Michael White, an eighth–grader from Berry Middle, began singing with the choir three and a half years ago.

“I really like to sing and I knew several friends from my old school were involved,” he said. “I enjoy being able to practice and perform the songs Mr. Berg composes.”

The group travels to perform every other year. They have traveled to Chicago, Ireland, Florida and Japan.

“I always try to point out to the boys that we so rarely have the opportunity to move someone in their soul –- that is not a light responsibility,” Berg said.

The Birmingham Boys Choir senior choristers perform once a month in a civic or sacred capacity. They practice every Tuesday and Senior Choristers gather two Thursdays a month for small voice lessons.

Berg said people often mistake singing for a talent someone is either born with or not.

“A lack of training is not he same as a lack of ability,” Berg said. “Singing is a trainable skill – like riding a bicycle — some people are naturals and some people are wobbly at first.”

Berg said he hopes to teach more young men they too can benefit from choral experience.

The Birmingham Boys Choir will host its annual “The Taste of Birmingham” Aug. 26 at The Club. The event includes an evening of food from 20-25 restaurants in the area. The Taste of Birmingham is a joint fundraiser to benefit the Children’s Hospital of Alabama and the Birmingham Boys Choir under the banner “Children Helping Children.”

To learn more about the Boys Choir and auditions, visit