Next step chorus for boy choister?

I have an 11 year old son who would like to sing, but is too musically advanced (he's played an instrument for 3 years) for the more casual choruses. Unfortunately (in part precisely because he does spend time practicing his instrument), he doesn't have time for the more serious choruses that meet multiple times/week. What we're looking for is probably impossible, but is there something out there that is both casual and musically challenging? Preferably in the East Bay?


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I can highly recommend the Saturday morning Crowden choruses--Crowden Children's Chorus and Crowden Chamber Singers.  The leader, Betsy Marvit, is a highly accomplished musician and a brilliant kid whisperer.  These choruses meet for 1 to 1.5 hours a week on Saturday morning.  They sing at an incredibly high level--each year, they perform with the SF Boy's Chorus (and blow everyone away) and participate in a chorus festival with other choruses.  We had the same issue--our musically talented daughter is overscheduled and couldn't do any of the choruses that meet several times a week.  The Chamber Singers (one has to audition into it) is acapella and has some incredibly talented musicians.  They take on very serious pieces (and as most the kids are serious musicians, the kids will often provide their own accompaniment on some pieces (cello, violin, viola, piano, flute, etc)).  If you are looking for a chorus that is both musically sophisticated but not too time consuming---and very joyful--please check out the Crowden Saturday choruses.  (Apparently, this year, they will split the children's chorus into two levels for those kids who have advanced beyond the children's chorus but are not quite ready for the Chamber Singers).  We are so lucky to have found Betsy Marvit and the Crowden Choruses years ago--I can't recommend these choruses highly enough!  I only wish more people knew about this community gem!!

Good morning -- there is a wonderful Chorus run through the Crowden music school that meets every Saturday morning 1 to 1.5 hours. My daughter has been in the Chorus for many years and started with the Children's Chorus and is now in the chamber singers group. Betsy is marvelous, creative and challenges the kids with interesting music from all over the world. She is a very fun and excellent teacher!! I highly recommend you check it out. They have a fall and spring session running ~8 weeks and the groups perform a final program at the end of each session. The Chamber Singers are now performing in a regional choral program at Mills. It is a wonderful program -- "casual and musically challenging" describes it perfectly. Good luck! Kathryn 

Hi Victorio. I encourage you to check out the Crowden Chamber Chorus. My son, now 11, joined the Crowden Chamber Chorus after 3 years at San Francisco Boys Chorus, where he finished up his last year at the Intermediate Level. Since he was an East Bay campus chorister, he studied closely with the Crowden Chorus director Betsy Marvit. Eli had a wonderfully rich and personal musical experience at SFBC, but it was especially due to Betsy's constructive teaching, encouragement and support that he blossomed in skill and confidence, really connecting with the joy of music.

Crowden Chamber Chorus has been a phenomenal experience for my son (and for his parents). Betsy encourages the young kids involved in this co-ed chorus to push the envelope both in terms of repertoire and skill level. She is an outstanding teacher and I so appreciate her solid experience, rapport with the kids and non-stuffy style.

They kids meet once a week on Saturday mornings. (Convenient for working parents, what a concept!) They perform once or twice a semester.

Your son should try the Crowden Chamber Singers (or their middle-level children's chorus).  Our 12-year-old has sung at Crowden since kindergarten, and loves it.  Good luck!

I highly recommend that you check out the Crowden Children's Chorus and the Crowden Chamber Singers at the Crowden Music Center in Berkeley. There are three different levels of classes, so one if them is sure to fit your son. They meet once a week on Saturday mornings for 1 to 1.5 hours. The teacher, Betsy Marvit, is absolutely fantastic, and is somehow able to make the classes both fun and challenging! My (very musical) child has been part of these classes for many years and Betsy and her Crowden Chorus have been a key part of her growth as a musician.    

My son started singing at the Crowden Music School when he was about nine years old and continued there for several years.  The choral director, Betsy Marvit, is a serious musician who makes sure her students learn to sing healthfully and correctly.  My son also studied under Betsy with the San Francisco Boys Chorus where he learned a tremendous amount.  My husband and myself were always blown away at how much the Crowden singers could lean in just one hour per Saturday over the course of a semester.  Where the Crowden program stands out from some of the more serious ones is that Betsy knows how to work with kids, and she makes singing together really, really fun.  Many parents sit in the back of the room during rehearsals just because it is such a joy watching Betsy work her magic with her young singers. I strongly recommend that your son give the Crowden Children's Chorus a try. Chances are he will love it!

Crowden Music Center in Berkeley has an advanced a cappella chorus called the Crowden Chamber Singers.  They meet for 1.5 hrs on Saturday mornings with Betsy Marvit, a *fantastic* director who coaches them through challenging pieces with discernment, warmth and humor.  The result is musical performances that rival or exceed those of the more "serious" choruses in the Bay area.  Many of the singers study musical instruments, which are occasionally incorporated into choral pieces.  My daughter has been an enthusiastic member for several years.  Starting next fall, Betsy will also be leading a new intermediate-level children's chorus at Crowden.


Our kids (a girl, 12, and a boy, 15) have studied with Betsy Marvit at Crowden School in Berkeley for the past seven years ( She offers an advanced chorus called Crowden Chamber Singers that rehearse once a week (Saturdays 10:30-12). The experience has been transformative for both of them.  Betsy consistently has the kids sing complex pieces (similar to the repertoire of the San Francisco Boys Chorus, where she also conducts) but in a spirit that is deeply fun and even mischievous--they were recently scolded by a director from another chorus for doing a work normally reserved for adults (which they mastered).

The focus of this chorus is experiential. While the kids have gotten a chance to perform in the annual Boys Chorus holiday event and at a workshop for teen choruses these past two years, the emphasis is on gaining an understanding of how to sing in ways that get this kids to new heights, rather than focusing on an ambitious public performance schedule. Plus, the kids are encouraged to bring all of their skills. While the chorus is billed as a cappella, the kids accompany themselves, bringing in piano, string instruments, reed instruments, beat boxing, and even musical Lamaze octopuses that were tweaked to play a formal scale. 

I'd especially encourage this chorus for boys. Our son had been one of the soprano anchors until his voice began to change 1.5 years ago, and two of the boys who took his spot just moved, so there is a need for that high boys voice profile in the group. Also, I've been so grateful to Betsy for ensuring that our son could continue to sing as his voice goes through its shift, so you don't have to worry about your son aging out if he wants to continue through his vocal change. I really can't recommend this chorus highly enough--it's exactly the mix of attributes you described!

I HIGHLY recommend the Crowden Children's Chorus or Crowden Chamber Singers at the Crowden Community Music Center, 1475 Rose St. in Berkeley. Here is the website: The groups meet once a week on Saturday mornings. The Children's Chorus is for elementary and middle school singers with less experience; the Chamber Singers is by audition for middle and high-schoolers with more experience. I believe they are also creating a Children's Chorus Level II, which would fall in between in skill level. Your 11-year-old could fit age-wise into any of the groups and Betsy Marvit, the choral director, would place him in the right group. My 17-year-old daughter (a violist) has sung with the chorus, and now the chamber singers, since she was 9 years old. She is utterly devoted to it because Betsy brings out the joy of music while cultivating a high level of musicianship and challenging the kids to stretch. Betsy is a jewel: she is heart-centered and she can be silly, but she's seriously committed to the musical development of each child and of the group. They perform alongside the (Grammy-winning) San Francisco Boys Chorus and at the Holy Names University Children's Choral Festival. This is right in the sweet spot you're seeking: casual and musically challenging. 

Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir.  Practices are once a week. 

We love the Crowden Children's Chorus. It's only once a week which fits our schedule, and the director has a way of challenging and encouraging kids at all levels, from those who can step up and sing a note with perfect pitch at the first go to those who are working on sitting still and being clearly heard. They work on songs with as many as four parts, in multiple languages, with instruction ranging from physical control of the sound with mouth and posture to holding a part while their chorus mates sing a different one. There is also an advanced choir for older kids who are remarkable to listen to, and the two groups usually sing together at the recital and practice together for one or two songs. This helps the younger, less experienced singers see what's possible. I hear there may be an "intermediate" group forming also, but I'm not sure about the details. Definitely worth trying.

My daughter sang with the Crowden's Children's Chorus this year and love it. She learned a lot, and the director Betsy Marvit was the right amount of fun and serious. This is a mixed-gender chorus. I think there are three levels for next year. My daughter did the 7-11 or 12 years old one.

They performed for the parents at the end of each term and it was a joy for them and wonderful for us to hear. 

Betsy picks great peaces, some a stretch, some very pretty, some very fun and a little silly. 

My daughter did not want to commute or go multipe times a week so the once-a-week high quality instruction was just right for us. Good luck finding the right fit.

Another recommendation for Betsy Marvit's Saturday Children's Chorus at Crowden. She knows her stuff, welcomes kids with no previous music while at the same time happy to talk theory with the more musically experienced kids. And the kids with extra skill sometimes get to solo or accompany (and move up to the more advanced group as appropriate). It's like magic every semester when the complex, multi-part songs come together. She packs a lot into one hour a week. She also seems to really welcome and work well with kids on the spectrum. It doesn't sound like that's an issue for you, but there have usually been a couple of kids in each semester who are welcomed and respected as they grow into their singing selves. Last but not least the piano accompanist Irene Jacobson has astounding talent and as well as kindness.

Also, Pacific Boychoir in Oakland has afterschool choir. My musically talented son still loves it, especially their theory instruction. A bonus is the summer  A more casual choir is Oakland Youth Choir.