You might recognize this talented group of youngsters from their many local performances, but did you know that they’ve toured around three continents? Discover what awaits this landmark season.
It’s not every day that a fine music group celebrates its 50th birthday. Though it’s far from being Rockford’s oldest musical icon, Kantorei, the Singing Boys of Rockford, is both highly respected and accomplished.
On June 13, the nonprofit, non-sectarian boys’ choir strolls down memory lane with a grand 50th anniversary concert at the Coronado Performing Arts Center in Rockford.
“Many of the pieces we will perform have resounded with the boys, and with audiences,” says Joel Ross, music director for Kantorei. “We felt it was important to showcase the wide-ranging styles of music the boys sing.”
During the anniversary concert, the troupe of nearly 60 boys, ages 7 to 18, will be joined by Kantorei alumni and professional instrumentalists in a program that includes sacred masterworks, folk hymns, songs of praise and thanksgiving, classic Americana and even a Jamaican folksong.
It’s a perfect reflection of the many places these boys have traveled as a choir. In addition to collaborating with Rockford-area music groups, they regularly tour the U.S. and schedule international travel every few years. Since Ross started leading the choir in the late 1980s, the boys have toured Japan, New Zealand, Brazil and many European nations. This year, they’ll provide entertainment during a Caribbean cruise, both onboard and at ports of call.
“The boys have sung in grand cathedrals and the Grand Canyon,” says Ross. “They’ve performed on the Surrender Deck of the U.S.S. Missouri at Pearl Harbor, and sung the National Anthem for Iraq War veterans. The boys have sung impromptu concerts in airport terminals, hotel lobbies, restaurants and ice cream parlors. We’ll take our music wherever we go.”
Open to boys in a five-county area surrounding Rockford, Kantorei maintains a rigorous schedule. Starting out, these talented youngsters join the preparatory program, led by Bradley Koloch and Trudy Anderson. From the Chorister level choir to the more advanced Lyric and Cadet choirs, the boys hone their musical and vocal skills before advancing to the Performing Choir.
No matter how far these boys progress, Ross encourages them to walk away with more than an appreciation for music. In his eyes, Kantorei is a safe place for boys to discover themselves while having fun and learning valuable life skills. Whether a boy is athletic, scholarly or musically gifted, the choir is a nurturing place for personal development.
“The boys learn about time management, respect for authority, being less absorbed in themselves, and setting life goals,” Ross says. Valuable lessons taught in Scouts and sports programs are also important in music.”
Ross has seen his alumni go on to many career paths, from educators to composers, businessmen to singers. “It thrills me to witness those who are enjoying music beyond Kantorei,” he says. “It confirms that we are teaching life skills such that, whatever calling they pursue, they’re taking with them important tools that will enrich their own experience and perhaps make a difference in someone else’s life, too.”
This milestone year is also a time of transition for Kantorei, as Ross retires at the end of June. The professional singer and pianist says he has no plans to slow down, after 26 years of leading Kantorei.
Music is more than entertainment, and Ross is grateful for the experience he’s had to share music with his students.
“The world needs music, and not all boys recognize they have a singing voice,” says Ross. “We need to nurture this, so that their life is enhanced and informed. No matter their calling, they’re encouraged to pay it forward, becoming mentors, themselves.”
To find out more about Kantorei’s 50th anniversary concert and gala banquet, call (815) 963-2544 or visit Kantorei.com.