Phoenix Boys Choir will kick off its 75th Anniversary Season this year with a holiday concert series, “Home for the Holidays,” including a performance at Brophy Chapel on Dec. 18 (photo courtesy of Phoenix Boys Choir).

From a small group of about 30 boys in 1947, to a Grammy Award, performances for four U.S. presidents, performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, with world-renowned entertainers, and impacting some 4,000 chorister members along the way, the Phoenix Boys Choir has a lot to celebrate as it kicks off its 75th Anniversary Season. But it is that unique impact on its members’ lives that the organization seems most proud of.

“My first tour was to Japan, Philippines and Hawaii, when I was 10,” recalled Herbert Washington, who is not only a Choir alumnus, but also its current artistic director. “Imagine a young boy coming from the projects of South Phoenix, joining the Phoenix Boys Choir, touring the world, something that my family had never had an opportunity to do. It afforded me that experience to go out and see different cultures and experience new environments and new people. I learned a lot about the world through that international travel.”

Washington is only the third individual in the organization’s 75-year history to hold the title of artistic director since founding director, Dr. Harvey K. Smith. Now in his fourth season, he is keen to not only share his deep love of music, but the skills learned — beginning as a chorister and continuing through masters-level education — but those life-changing experiences as well.

Through an audition process, the choir looks for poise, then music reading ability and matching pitch. From there, the goal is to not only teach technique but to help young people develop into passionate artists and musicians.

“We start at 7, which is about second grade, and we go through…you could be 75,” Washington said. “We have an adult men’s choir as well. So, this is a place where a boy could come and sing for a lifetime, and potentially singing with a dad or grandfather.”

In fact, Washington’s own son is in the intermediate choir, bringing the musical experience full circle. But the organization is building lives beyond the music, Washington said.

Now in his fourth year as artistic director, Herbert Washington is only the third director in the Phoenix Boys Choir 75-year history (photo courtesy of Phoenix Boys Choir).

“The major focus is to produce a high level of excellent music as a professional youth ensemble. The byproduct of that process towards excellence is discipline, great engagement, incredible leadership, being able to have poise, and from an academic standpoint, learning languages and historical knowledge about the world. We find that musicians are much better in academia than they are not being in the art, and that’s across the board.”

While drawing upon the organization’s foundational past, the choir is also firmly focused on the future and have embarked upon several new initiatives. The choir launched a choral competition in August and received 92 submissions from around the world, and concertgoers will hear seven premier works this season. They also are working with educators to bring honor choir programs into Valley schools and offering free voice lessons to boys in second through eighth grade at their North Central headquarters. They also recently acquired the Phoenix Girls Chorus, which will allow for collaboration and build the choir into a program open to all youth — something that is important to Washington and is reflected in another initiative.

Drawing upon Washington’s roots growing up in a Baptist church, the choir will host “When Dreams Take Flight: Gospel Honor Choir Festival and Celebration Concert,” Jan. 28 at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, with a gospel workshop for some 150 educators and choristers the day prior.

“I’m a huge advocate of diversity and going into the community and collaborating with people from all different walks of life and different backgrounds, because we sing in all those different styles,” Washington said. “If we want to be a reflection of the community, we must go out and meet people where they are.”

Phoenix Boys Choir will kick off its 75th anniversary concert season with a holiday concert series, “Home for the Holidays,” that will feature collaborations with a chamber orchestra, solo artists, alumni and audience members, and will include many holiday classics. They will perform four separate concerts, Dec. 10–18. Catch them in Central Phoenix at Brophy Chapel, Sunday, Dec. 18, at 3 p.m.

Looking further down the road, the choir’s 75th Anniversary Gala will be held Saturday, Feb. 25, at The Heard Museum. The gala will be emceed by Cedric Ceballos of the Phoenix Suns, and highlights include the premier of several choral works and performances with the Orpheus Male Chorus.

“It’s just a great combination of the history — celebrating 75 years of song, education, friendship, community and excellence,” Washington added.

Learn more at www.boyschoir.org or by calling 602-264-5328.

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