Children's Choirs & Choruses

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Parent Q&A

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  • Next step chorus for boy choister?

    (14 replies)

    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?


    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. 

  • My daughter has been singing with the San Francisco Girls’ Chorus for 5.5 years (3 in prep chorus and 2.5 in the chorus school).  She has learned an immense amount and progressed through the program fluidly thus far.  While she loves to sing, she feels that the chorus is “too much” in that it is 1) too strict in limiting the number of rehearsals a student can miss (maximum is 5 all year at her level) and 2) if there is a joint rehearsal with the SF choristers, which happens 14 times per year, there is a commute to SF for the East Bay choristers and 3) a lot of music homework can at times be given, such as only a few weeks to memorize 15 songs before the holiday concert.  Can anyone suggest a different chorus in the East Bay that is also seriously committed to a strong theory, sight-singing and multiple-parts (e.g. unison through six parts) music training in multiple languages, but feels a little more relaxed?

    Chorus Mom

    My daughter is a member of the Marin Girls Chorus. The website is: This is her second year and so far we are very happy with it. I think you can get a free class to check it out and see what you think.

    Both of my children are singing at the Piedmont Children's choirs. They practice twice a week, also teach theory, and seem to work on musically difficult material. My son said that this is the best choir he has been in - this is the fourth choir they are attending (3rd one in the East Bay, one in Germany). Both of my kids love it, and their practice time is usually in the car driving to rehearsals from Berkeley to Piedmont. Several boys from the San Francisco Boys Choir joined them in the past as well and seem to be happy there.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Looking for afterschool choir for preteens + teens

Sept 2015

Would love to find a choir for middleschoolers and teens in Oakland. Meeting after school... maybe also on weekends. My youngest kids are 12 and 16... kathryn

I recommend Cantare Con Vivo in Oakland, which runs free after-school choirs for students in grades 6-12. I've watched the new Director of Children's Choirs, Daniel Strychacz, follow his passion for years. I believe the choir is still holding voice placements, but no one will be turned away. Voice placements and rehearsals are at First Presbyterian Church in Oakland, on 27th and Broadway. You can contact the director at daniel [at], and check out the website (, Facebook page (Cantare Children's Choirs of Oakland), and follow them on Twitter (@CantareConVivo). Sarah

Choir or singing classes for a 4-year-old?

Aug 2014

Can anyone recommend or review choir or singing classes for 4-year-olds near Berkeley? We know of the Piedmont Children's Choir pre-kinderchoir, and the Crowden classes, but we haven't seen any actual reviews. Can anyone whose child has participated in these or other music classes comment on their experience? Additionally, if you switched from Music Together to a class/choir like this, can you comment? (I know there are big parenting philosophy questions about switching from Music Together to kids-only Music Classes, but I'm mostly interested in what you feel your child did or didn't learn.) Thank you!

The Pacific Boys Choir Academy has an excellent class for preschoolers. The teacher is wonderful and really gets the kids excited about music. They learn the building blocks of music through songs and games. The class is designed to prepare boys for the next level, should they choose to join the actual choirs once they are in Kindergarten. However, this was a great class on its own. My husband and I are professional musicians and we were really impressed with this program. As a boys only choir, PBA also breaks down certain stereotypes that boys sometimes encounter in school. In this choir, expressing yourself and improving your skills in music is very cool. zaharako

Youth Choir for Elementary-Age Boy

June 2014

I'm looking into choirs for my 2nd grade son. Do you have any feedback on Kairos, Pacific Boy and/or Piedmont choirs? I'm especially interested in the social aspect for the kids (boys), level of family commitment, rehearsal environment, and music education and variety. I've heard good things about all of them (and read what was previously posted on BPN) so I'm just looking for fit in our situation. Thank you in advance! Sing for Joy

My 9 year old son joined the after school choir of the Pacific Boychoir Academy last fall and he absolutely loves it. He enjoys the weekly rehearsals (Wednesdays 4:15-6:15) and small groups once a month (Wednesdays 6:15-6:45, optional) where the boys work on the music theory 'cards' -- steps to learning music and rhythm in sophisticated but do-able chunks. Since joining, my son sings all the time (much to the annoyance of his older brother, but I adore it!). For the younger groups (Minstrels, Intermezzi), there are two main concerts a year (December, June), with some performances at, e.g., Fairyland and a few other venues, plus an overnight retreat and even an opportunity when they are ready for it to sing at concerts on an overnight 'tour' in Monterey/Carmel. The older boys go to even more exotic places... You can find out more about the after school choirs (as well as the day school for grades 4-8) at the website The musicianship the staff teach the boys is outstanding, they are indeed professionals in every sense, and the boys all seem to have a lot of fun. I am thrilled our family discovered the Pacific Boychoir and we feel lucky to have this amazing resource in the East Bay! Pacific Boychoir mom

My kids went to Kairos for several years. Socially it was a great experience- the kids get to play and hang out and at the same time are exposed to a great musical environment. What I appreciated most about Kairos was the interaction between older and younger kids. The older kids really helped with the younger ones and were great role models. Fran, who is the director for the younger kids, is very lovely and loving towards the kids. The downside of Kairos is that they are not well organized, the director (Laura) has very clear favorites who always get main roles and are treated differently, she tends to be short and arbitrary at times both with children and with parents, not always in the most professional and appropriate way. Time commitment varies: more during rehearsals towards expected. The problem is- rehearsal times and locations are not always communicated well and parents end up scrambling at the last minute.

My experience with Piedmont choir has not been as extensive: they are very well organized. They are very respectful towards children and parents, the expectations are clear and are communicated clearly. I have a feeling that socially it is not as fun, though I don't have any experience with having a young child there. Choir Parent

Choir, singing lessons for 4.5 year old

June 2010

My 4.5 year old seems to be very interested in classical music and opera. Wondering if there is some type of a choir she can join or group singing lessons she can take. Lisa

My daughter attended Piedmont choirs for 11 years starting at age 7. She was singing by imitation from age 3 and had obvious talent and was very focused but generally starting voice lessons too young will only cause long term problems with voice quality. My daughter is graduating this June with a double Major in English and Music(voice). Almost no talented child singers get this far, never mind being Opera Divas. I have seen younger boys try out at the twice yearly Piedmont Choirs group auditions but that is generally allowed because boys are scarcer. I would let your daughter 'play' at performing for another couple of years. My daughter loved this and now stage directs, as well as performing in many productions.Your daughter's voice, like young athletes muscles needs to grow and strengthen. Let her learn how to listen and identify notes.There are just developmental limits to what a young voice can do. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just separating you from your money. Mom of Born Singer.

Hi there - The Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir is a fantastic place for a kid who loves to sign (as does my daughter, who is almost nine and has been with the choir since she was six). They have a kinderchoir that takes kids your child's age. Link to their site: Ioana

Definitely check out Albany Music School: they have wonderful classes for all instruments and they have a kids choir and group classes for kids. The teachers there are the best I found: they are caring, extremely well prepared and very good with kids. The school is at: 9825 San Pablo Ave (opposite El Cerrito Plaza) El Cerrito, CA 94530 Tel.(510) 528-4047 email: info [at] Jack

 LOCAL kids' chorus for 6 yr old girl

Dec 2007

I've seen the archives, and recommendations for children's choruses in Walnut Creek, Piedmont, Oakland and SF...but we're in N. Berkeley. Are there any close to us? Does Julia Morgan have any singing opportunities for a 6 year old girl? Or UC? Or a local synagogue (do synagogues have children's choruses?), or other? Thanks for any tips... heidi

I have not heard them in concert, but Kairos Youth Choir ( rehearses at Calvary Presbyterian in Berkeley (Virginia & Milvia). I have a friend whose son sings with them. Edna

I believe Kairos choir rehearses in North Berkeley. My son really enjoyed their program. anon

The Crowden Childrens Chorus meets at the Crowden Music Center in North Berkeley. Visit for more information. Marion

Beginning Chorus or Voice Lessons for 9y

Oct 2007

Can anyone recommend, in Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito, a beginning chorus group or a good place for voice lessons? My daughter is 9, she doesn't have a great voice (yet) so will need instruction and can't ''try out'' for a chorus (yet). Due to heavy time constraints I can't drive her SF or Walnut Creek. Carrie

I highly recommend the Piedmont Choirs . My daughter started with there when she was 7 and has advanced through the different levels. It has been a great experience for her. All of the instructors she's had have been fabulous. Their ''tryouts'' - certainly not a rigorous affair - have already passed, but you should call and express an interest. I think they probably could accommodate a late start. The office number is (510) 547-4441. Their website is Bob Geary, the choir's artistic director, is FANTASTIC. I hope that you'll try it and am happy to discuss further if you have any questions. Ann

Children's or girls chorus

Sept 2007

I was wondering what options there are around Berkeley for a children's or girls chorus. I have heard about the Kairos youth choir and will check it out, but I also remembering hearing once about an East Bay Girls Chorus, that maybe practiced at a church in that still around? Any others? Thanks for any leads.

Check out Piedmont Children's Choirs . You didn't say how old your child is, but Piedmont Choirs starts very young and has multiple choirs through training and performing from about age 6 through high school. My daughter loved her five years, advancing through the training program and then opted for sports when faced with the increased time commitment for the performing levels. Bob Geary is the Music Director and is one of the very best I've ever seen in working with children. He has received numerous choral awards and his top level performing group consistently place highly in their competitions. I have been singing under Bob's direction for about 12 years in one of his adult choirs and he is absolutely terrific. All of the other teachers are also top notch; in fact, Bob sometimes enlists their help in working with us adults. Jody

there are a few children's chorus groups to choose from: for girls, aside from Piedmont Choirs, there is also SF girls Chorus which has a East Bay chapter and Oakland Youth Chorus which was directed by Trent Moore who is a professional singer and teaches children by day and has directed chorus in Woodminster Theatre and other productions=he is wonderful with children and a fantastic magnificent musician. There is the Pacificboychoir Academy which has a pre-school too now for both sexes; My son has been with the Pacificboychoir Academy for 7 years and loves it and they have great teachers that are very motivating and nurturing and practice positive discipline. My daughter was with Piedmont choirs, but I felt that it is too big and my child got lost in the masses. choir mom

My 6-year-old wants to learn to sing opera

April 2007

My 6.5 year-old son has been saying for months he wants to learn to sing opera. He loves listening to arias and has also recently expressed an interest in the piano, but we don't have a piano and can't afford to buy one... I need recommendations because I come from a family of music appreciators who don't sing or play any instruments...

What is available in terms of singing instruction in the Berkeley/Albany area? I know there is a great chorus in Piedmont, but we don't have a car, so closer is better, but of course if there's something great a little further away, I want to be flexible.

I'm open to various possibilities in terms of vocal instruction for my son: classes appropriate to the age group, or even possibly getting him together with a couple of other similarly aged kids and hire someone good to give them lessons (thus splitting the cost and making it affordable).

My friend, who is a singer, told me to look into Kodaly-method instruction, and I'm open to learning more about that. Thanks! Sara

The Kairos Youth Choir in north Berkeley sounds perfect for your son. I have a daughter that has sung all day long since toddlerhood and has found great satisfaction in the choir. It is a co-ed choir for 7-12 year olds, practices at the Calvary Pres. Church on Virginia St.(not church affiliated). They sing world music, sacred music, often in several languages, and the big plus for your son is they do musical theater in the Spring. This year it ''Fiddler on the Roof'' , last year it was ''Musicians of Bremen''. It's similar to the Piedmont Choir a bit more relaxed feeling, although aspirations are equally high. (The director was formerly artistic director for the renowned S.F. Girls Chorus. She went co-ed because thinks the boys voices add a richer quality.). My daughter was part of another musical theater group before, but they were singing fairly ''adult'' parts, dressing provocatively (fishnets and high heels on my 7 y.o.), and there was too little focus on actual development of vocal skills. Kairos is a bit more wholesome and the improvements in her singing are quite noticable over time. There are several other boys, and they are made to feel welcome- in fact they seem to get alot of positive attention from the girls as boys that actually share their interests! There is a yearly retreat, and local and international travel opportunities when he is a bit older. An audition is done but it's very relaxed- at 6 it's mainly to see if they like to sing and can come close to carrying a tune! (My daughter did Do-Re-Mi)

A good place to start is the weeklong summer camp (Choral Festival) in late June that is meant to include kids from outside the Choir. It's about $175 for the week and scholarshops are availible. Go to for more info. Mom of a songbird

How wonderful that your son is developing this appreciation at such an early age. As a teacher in the Kodaly method who has worked a great deal with children's voices, I would suggest that you take great care in nurturing this interest. Children are not meant to sound like opera singers, though there are plenty of vocal coaches out there that will help your son manufacture that kind of adult sound at great expense to your child's vocal health and future development. I think your idea about encouraging this interest through a boys' chorus is the best way to go. The Piedmont Children's Chorus does use a lot of Kodaly-based instruction (this emphasizes in-tune singing and musical literacy). The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the Golden Gate Boys Chorus are others that are near by. Good luck. Jennie

How fabulous that your son has this interest. Call the Pacific Boychoir Academy, which is now at St. Augustine's Church on Alcatraz, and ask for advice. I don't know how young they start to train boys, but they would be a great resource. My friend's sons are participating in the program, and they love it. Anon

Dear Sara, We would LOVE to have your 6-year-old sing with us at the Piedmont Choirs! We do have families located in Berkeley and Albany and would be delighted to help you arrange a carpool. Please call Judi Fabrizio at (510) 547-4441 or email jfabrizio [at] for more information. If you'd like to hear our youngest singers, the Training Department will be performing their spring recitals on May 15 at First Unitarian Church in Oakland and May 16 at Twin Towers United Methodist Church in Alameda. Both recitals are at 7:30pm. Please visit our website for more information: Marisa DeSalles, Marketing Director

I highly recommend my dauhter's teacher - she is HIGHLY talented, enthusiastic, loving, open hearted singing teacher plus incredible musician. Her name is Regina Pontillo - she is in Albany and travels as far as I know (we go to her house) and her number is 510-331-7061. My daughter hugs her and feels really talented and wants to practice after their sessions. sarah

Regarding your 6 year old son who wants to sing, I encourage you to check out the Crowden Children's Chorus, which meets on Saturday mornings from 9:30 - 10:30 am at the Crowden Music Center. The Center is located at 1475 Rose Street (corner of Sacramento) in North Berkeley. You are welcome to come visit any rehearsal to observe... the final day of the semester is Saturday, May 5, and the chorus will give a little recital at 10am. The summer session begins June 9. For more information, please visit, or contact the Crowden Center at 510-559-2941 or ccmc [at] Marion

I would highly recommend the Pacificboychoir Academy located in St. Augustine Church at 400 Alcatraz at Colby in Oakland/Berkeley. They accept boys as young as 5 yrs. of age and my son has had unique opportunities to sing for the SF Symphony, Oakland A.s, SF Opera and other orchestras and touring around the world for 6.5 yrs. the teachers for the younger boys are very gentle and nurturing and also have sectionals focusing on vocal technique and music theory so their sight reading can be applied towards other instruments. They also have a choir school which includes academics as well as the music and concentrated singing. They sing folk, spirituals, international and classical music, in various languages which has been a great unique opportunity that my son would not otherwise have. They will have a recital June 3 at St. Augustine at 3PM so you can have a taste of the different levels and expertise of the singers. Check out the website or call them at 510 652-4722 for auditions and further details renee

Singing group/chorus for 5 year old

Feb 2007

Does anyone know of any choruses/singing groups that accept five year olds? I have a 5 year old who loves to sing, and sings all day long, but I have not been able to find any group or chorus which accepts 5 year olds (besides the Crowden school one- regarding which the timing does not work for us). Thanks. Singer's mom

This is not exactly what you were asking for, but this is what I am doing with my son who loves music. We are going to Singthing, ( It is an informal family sing, that meets once a week. There is no sheet music, so no reading required. My son loves it! mom of a singer

Which chorus for 8-year-old?

Jan 2007

My 8-year-old daughter will audition for both the Piedmont Children's Choir and the East Bay Division of the San Francisco Girls Chorus this month. I have no doubt that she will be accepted into both and would like to know as much about each before making a decision. Opinions or info regarding any and all aspects of the choirs will be greatly appreciated as we want to make the best choice for her.

I have two daughters in the San Francisco Girls Chorus , and they have advanced from the lowest to highest levels over the last 10 years. The chorus has provided them with friendship, leadership opportunities, support, pride, accomplishment, lots of challenges, hard work, and excellent training in classical singing. The chorus is a lot of work and does not do popular music. My daughters have sung in Mandarin, Estonian, Hebrew, German, French, German, Latin and Japanese, at least. They have been in two SF Opera productions and sung with the San Francisco Symphony numerous times--last year in Mahler's 8th, the Damnation of Faust, and in the summer ''Lord of the Rings'' concert. They recorded a CD at Skywalker Sound. They went as invitees to the World Choral Symposium in Japan, sang with the Tokyo Philharmonic, and this year one of them is going to China. I have learned how to love and appreciate opera and symphony and have been backstage at the opera, great fun. My eldest now helps teach the new girls. That said, it is a huge commitment for parents as well. Many hours, lots of driving. I had to drive one into the city this morning at 8 am. Of course, it was gorgeous. Now most of the time they BART, and groups of them BART together--that is handy.

I don't know anything about the Piedmont Choir--I have a feeling once you join either one you are too busy to learn about the other! Often in San Francisco

I recommend Piedmont Choirs without reservation (I don't know anything about the other one). I sing with one of Bob Geary's adult choirs, where we often have the children join us in performance, and I have never seen anyone work with children as masterfully as he. And he is always singing the praises of the other teachers!

My daughter went through the training department, from beginning girls 1 to advanced girls. Upon her promotion to the performance department she had to choose between chorus and soccer--the increased time commitments of both activities would have been too much. She learned so much about music but more importantly experienced that sense of joy common to all choral singers of being a part of something bigger than oneself, something that is impossible to do on one's own. Teamwork, precision, responsibility and commitment, and FUN also come with the territory. For the performing groups, the opportunities are phenomenal. There are tours and camp every year along with the regular performances. Every couple of years or so Piedmont Choirs hosts an international children's choir festival where the choirs all join together to make such joyful music--their signature piece is ''Sing all ye joyful'' commissioned of Kirke Meachem. One note of fair warning: Maestro Geary loves contemporary music and the top performing levels sing a lot of commissioned pieces that are wonderful if sometimes a bit strange! Good luck with your decision. Jody

Hi, I would absolutely love to tell you about the pros and cons of Piedmont Choirs versus San Francisco Girls Chorus . I was in the San Francisco Girls Chorus for years, as were my sisters, so I am biased, of course! But I assume all of the responses to the questions will be.

In general, I would characterize the Piedmont Choirs as more laid-back, less serious, more just for fun. The San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) is a rigorous program, where students will really learn a lot about how to make quality music and be involved in the very sophisticated music scene of San Francisco.

I grew up in schools where people were in both choirs. Here are some of the things I noticed:

The girls in the SFGC felt that singing was one of their passions. They were very involved, very committed, and loved going to rehearsals and being with their friends at the SFGC. Chorus was their thing.

Because the SFGC is in San Francisco, and because the top groups are much better than the Piedmont Choirs' top groups, often when there were major events happening, SFGC was asked to sing. For example, I participated in the UN's 50th anniversary commemoration, two SF mayor's inaugural events, a World Cup (soccer, of course), sang for the soundtrack for a major movie with Robin Williams, etc.

One thing that I think is important to note is that Piedmont choristers are rarely involved with the San Francisco Symphony or the San Francisco Opera. In contrast, SFGC choristers sing with these organizations almost every year -- the SFGC choristers were even on the recordings that won a Grammy for the SF Symphony! I can tell you that being in operas with the SFGC was so exciting -- going to the choreography/staging rehearsals, waiting in the wings to see stars like Denise Graves, putting on my costume, and getting my make-up put on each time, interacting with the opera company singers - are memories I cherish. I think that from these events I developed a lot of my self-esteem and confidence. Although I wouldn't have been able to describe it at the time, I thought to myself, Look! These organizations want me to sing! They value me!

Another important thing to notice -- SFGC is, of course, solely for girls, while Piedmont Choirs are co-ed. I know that I felt I developed very close relationships with my friends in the SFGC. Especially as I was becoming a teenager and social groups were splitting off into boy/girl factions, many girls at the SFGC became very important to me socially. I'm not sure if that would have happened (or not) in a co-ed environment.

I was very grateful that the SFGC provided me with continuity within the organization: the SFGC allows their students to be fully involved until they are 18. Maybe this has changed, but while I was in elementary and high school, I watched as my peers in Piedmont Choirs had to dramatically curtail their involvement when they became 14 or 16 (I'm not sure which). The SFGC provided a constant for me through the elementary/middle/high school transition.

Another major difference: SFGC (to me) has a much more diverse pool of singers. Piedmont Choirs do have students from many areas, but I would say the majority come from Piedmont/Oakland/Berkeley, and many families are very wealthy. In the SFGC, geographically, singers come from all over -- from some ridiculous number like 50 cities in the Bay Area! Socioeconomically, about 60% of the SFGC choristers are on scholarship. While the concept of diversity may be important to parents, I know that as a young girl in the SFGC, I began to learn how so many of my chorister friends had lives so different from mine, in terms of the kinds of schools they went to, their various family situations, their different cultural backgrounds.

One thing that the top groups in the Piedmont choirs do have is that they tour almost every year to a foreign country. Yes, I was jealous that my Piedmont peers got to go more often to different countries. However, any musical group can pay to have an organization set up tours for them in different countries. Piedmont Choirs do this every year so that they can have their top students go to different countries. SFGC choristers go on tour also (most recently, to Japan in 2005, and they will go to Korea summer 2007), but when they do, it is because they are participating in a prestigious world-wide conference of some type. For example, when I went to Italy with the SFGC, it was centered around being invited to sing at the world-famous Spoleto Festival (a huge honor).

SFGC girls simply have better musical training. We sing more complex pieces with more depth and nuance. SFGC choristers are trained and well-prepared to take on more challenging music! After having regularly sung in so many different languages, to try to pronounce something in, for example, any Romance language, was not frightening to me -- I just remembered all of those songs we had sung in that language in chorus! In rehearsals, we looked at the translations of the pieces we were doing, and tried to understand the poetry of the lyrics, and how to best express this (this really helped me with my critical thinking development). SFGC girls are well-prepared to take the AP music theory exams, and several of my friends are now professional opera and pop singers. I know that in college, when I was singing extracurricularly, I had no trouble getting into the groups I auditioned for: when I told people I had been in the SFGC, that carried a lot of weight, and people knew that I had been trained to be an accomplished musician.

Lastly, I know that being the in SFGC helped me get into the schools I wanted to get into. To many colleges I sent one of the CDs produced by the SFGC that had my voice. I was absolutely sure that any music professor evaluating SFGC CDs would come away with a positive impression of my musical aptitude.

Well, I hope that that gives you a good low-down on SFGC versus Piedmont Choirs. Clearly, I owe a lot of my personal development and success to having been in the San Francisco Girls Chorus, and I hope my passion comes through! Good luck

 Singing groups for girls

May 2006

I'm looking for an alternative to the San Francisco Girls Chorus. Something not so rigid and all-consuming. Are there other singing groups for girls in the East Bay? Anon

You may want to check into the Arlington Children's Choir. They rehearse at the Arlington Community Church, across the street from the Kensington Library. The director, Shanti Moorjani has a lovely, low-key approach. This is a girls and boys choir, but at the moment, there are decidedly more girls (you had specifically asked about girl's choirs in the east bay). Shanti can be reached at: 843-7745 Sara

Singing lessons or choir for 5-year-old girl

Dec 2005

I have a 5 year old kindergartner who has a lovely voice and LOVES to sing. Does anyone know of a class/group/chorus appropirate for this age. . .the ones I have seen are all for older children. Thanx. Lisa

the best place i've found is the contra costa children's chorus. they're in walnut creek/lafayette, so it's just a skip through the tunnel. their chorus goes from 5 to 18, i believe, and they are starting a program called ''metrognomes'' for 3,4,5 year olds. i think this is similar to kindermusik type programs, but has an emphasis on singing. their kids are phenomenal and their artistic director is great. she's had the kids on world tours (not everyone has to go, if that's too much for your family). any way, give them a call. it might be worth it. 925 945 7101 colleen

Lisa, I have had three of my students audition successfully for the Children's National Honor Choir. I would suggest a fun singing class that meets children of this age in their playful mode. The music classes/singing classes I teach encorporate fun folk songs & music games that help children laugh their way to singing and musical knowledge. The children learn to read & write music through games. My three honor choir students performed in Davis Symphony Hall; another time in Utah with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and in New Orleans a few years ago. For more information see my class descriptions and schedules at Jeffrey Luna-Sparks

Chorus for 6-year-old girl

Sept 2005

My daughter is 6 1/2 and she sings beautifully. I'd like to know what would be an age appropriate way to encourage her, and have her develop that talent. I saw a posting about a choir for children and would like to check that out. Any other advice or suggestions regarding classes/teachers would be much appreciated. Thanks. Christie

My daughter has been singing with the San Francisco Girls Chorus since 2nd grade. She has received extensive vocal training and music theory. This is a wonderful organization that practices 2x week at the Morman Temple in Oakland and then in San Francisco in Level 4 and beyond. They will be having auditions in January. Highlights include great teachers, friendships, and a holiday concert at Davies Symphony Hall. My daughter is 13 and in Chorissima now and loves the Chorus. Check them out at

My friends have two children who are participating in the Contra Costa Children's Chorus which is located in Walnut Creek. It is amazing. They sang at the Vatican AND Carnegie Hall last year.

The age range is 5 to 18, I believe. They have solo voice lessons and offer an opera, too. From what I've seen, the teachers are talented and great with the kids. Many of the kids go on to careers in the arts. They also have a theatre arts camp in the summer.

If you're looking for voice lessons or a chorus or the experience of opera for your kids, I would highly recommend this. Their number is 925 945 7101 colleen

Alternatives for 5-year-old boy

June 2005

My just turned 5yo son has been singing with the SF Boys Chorus for a few months, but it doesn't seem like the right place for him. He adores music and sings constantly, but he's too wiggly and playful to enjoy rehearsing for performance. I'm looking for a chorus or singing group that will be fun, introduce him to lots of different music (rather than just perfecting a few songs) and not try to teach him to sit still and sing like a professional (which is a nice goal, but way beyond him). Any ideas? It seems that most choruses (Piedmont, Kairos) start kids a bit older, more like 6 or 7, and with good reason. Is there a mellower alternative out there for kids 4-7 who love to sing? Judith
P.S. I checked the website, and despite a similar query earlier this year, there was no useful info.

Hi, My recommendation based on my experiences as a classically trained singer, Piedmont Choir alumnus, and Music Together teacher, would be to hold off on the choir and help your son build his musical skills elsewhere first. Look for a Kodaly/Orff class that will help him with basic rhythm and tonality skills. I would also recommend studying an instrument, particularly piano with a good modified Suzuki teacher who can help him develop his ear. You don't want him to burn out on choir singing before he is really old enough to enjoy it. When he is ready, I highly recommend Piedmont Choirs, though I have heard good things about Kairos as well. Good luck! Miranda

I don't know if you're in Oakland or not, but if your child will be starting Kindergarten in one of several Oakland schools, we've been enjoying the Oakland Youth Chorus. They practice once a week after school and have two bigger concerts a year, and our just finishing Kindergarteners love it! Mike

Hi Judith,

Piedmont Choirs has a great training department that mixes music education, singing, and fun. The beginning level conductors understand the fidgets of kids and incorporate it into rehearsal. There is rehearsal time devoted to music theory (kids move at a self-pace with support). As they progress through the levels in the choir, the children are expected to grow in their concert behavior, but perfect concert behavior is not expected in the Training Department. The young gentlemen are always a hit at concerts.

My two daughters have been singing with the choir for 5 and 3 years. One entered in the Training Department and one entered in the Performing Department. The choir has given them a good education in theory, intervals, sightsinging, and a continued love of music. Both are in the Performing Department at this time and traveling each year. They are meeting other young singers from all over the United States and the world. It has been a fantastic experience for both of them.

I don't know how old your son will be in September when the choir begins rehearsals. I believe that in some cases, the choir may relax it's age requirement, but you might want to check with Judi Fabrizio in the choir office (547-4441 x304). There are usually auditions in June, September, and January for entry into the choir. Terry, Piedmont Choir Parent

The key to success with music lies in doing what you're ready for, in a way that lets your heart leap with joy. I'm a professional singer (lyric soprano) who directs Children's Music Programs at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley. I also have my own Kindermusik studio, and I think either could be a good fit for you and your child.

For the church, I direct a ''y'all come sing and make music'' class on Thursday afternoons from 5-5:45 p.m. We sing lots of simple songs, rounds, play percussion instruments (drums, scrapers, wood blocks, shakers, resonator bars, boomwhackers), dance, practice attentive listening, turn-taking and encouraging creativity. Most Thursdays we spend some time with solfeg (do-re-mi) and ear- training (it's so fun, the kids don't know it's music theory). Our age range this year was from 4-85, I think, with the group mostly consisting of kids aged 4-10 and their parents. AND, we are taking a break for the summer and will begin meeting again the Thursday after Labor Day. There is no charge for the class, and we are a ''come as you are, Unitarian Universalist or not, religious or not, and play'' kind of group. Process over performance.

Process, process, process is also the focus of Kindermusik classes, which do a great job of preparing K-1 kids for more formal music training (like a children's choir) without being intimidating. This summer, I'm offering a five-week class, ''Adventures Around the World'' (visit a different country each week), for 4-7 year olds on Tuesdays beginning June 28th from 3:30-5 p.m. Like the ''y'all come sing'' class, we sing a lot, play many different kinds of percussion instruments, dance, play games, practice attentive listening, and turn-taking. Unlike the ''y'all come sing'' class, the age range is restricted (activities are more specifically developmentally focused) and students need to register ahead of time. This creates a different group dynamic, and may be better for some students. Class size is limited to 8, so there's a lot of individual attention. There is a charge for Kindermusik, $115 includes materials, a cd, 2 instruments. I will also offer semester-long classes for 1.5-3, 3-5 and 5-7 year olds in the fall. Please see my website or http://

The church does have a Children's Choir, which is on summer break, returning the Thursday after Labor Day, but I suspect it may be too performance-oriented for you (for now). We rehearse on Thursdays from 6:30-7:15 p.m. and perform roughly once a month in Sunday worship services (10:45 a.m.). There is no fee to participate, but children must register in advance (contact the church office for a form, 525-0302). For more information about the UU Church of Berkeley or Unitarian Universalism, please see and

About me, I teach because I believe music changes lives for the better, and is essential in early childhood. When we make music with other people, we learn valuable skills for living: listening, turn-taking, imagining, connecting, and communicating effectively. We also learn to be more at home in our bodies and sensitive to our emotions. We become more fully human. To teach is my privilege and one of my greatest joys.

Thanks for reading. Michele

Low-pressure children's choir in Berkeley

March 2005

I'm interested in recommendations for children's choirs near N. Berkeley. Our criteria are that the cost is minimal and that the atmosphere is fun and non-competitive and low pressure. I'm also curious, do any of the public schools in Albany or Berkeley have active choirs for elementary aged kids? alisa

Oxford Elementary in N. Berkeley has had a good weekly after- school choir program for several years. It is a low-cost program run by the SF Early Music Society. One of my daughters participated for several years and both enjoyed it and learned quite a bit. Not sure if it is open to non-Oxford students. I'm also not sure if it's still active, as my daughter graduated last year. But you could check with SFEMS and see where they're offering programs in Berkeley. Phil

In the Albany elementary schools, choir is for grades 4-5, before school, twice weekly, for one half of the year (at least that's how it's been at Marin in recent years). PTA often pays for music enrichment in the younger grades, but it is not a separate choir. R.K.

The Arlington Children's choir might be just the ticket! The group started in the fall and meets on Tues. afternoons for newer singers, Wed. afternoons (3:45 to 5:30) for the more experienced singers. It is still a relatively small group (14 or so). They meet at the Arlington Community Church, but are not affiliated with the church.

I believe that the age range is 8 to 14 year olds. The director, Shanti, is very sweet with the kids and is teaching them how to read music and basic elements of musicianship. They perform at a variety of events (from opening day of the El Cerrito Baseball season to senior centers during the holiday season to a concert at the end of each semester). My ten year old girl LOVES IT! I also think that compared to other choirs in the area, this choir is more reasonably priced. Shanti's # is: 843-7745, or her cell is 387-2051 sms

How old is your child? If it's a boy, I can recommend the relatively new East Bay division of the San Francisco Boys' Chorus. If your son is young enough to be in the Prep or Apprentice levels (4.5 - ~8/9y.o.), it's very low pressure. For the older boys, I wouldn't call it ''high pressre'', but there is an expectation that the boys go home and study their music. They rehearse in the Oakland hills. Go to for info. [BTW, I cannot claim to be unbiased, as I do work there, but this means I also have a very good idea of what they're like.] SFBC, though not super cheap, has a very strong scholarship program, so if you decide you're interested, you should definitely apply.

If you have a girl (or a boy and you're looking for something a little closer than Oakland), the Crowden Community Music Center (at the Crowden School near North Berkeley BART) has a program on Saturdays that includes a chorus at 9:30am. This is about as low-pressure as one could possibly hope for, but it is geared (right now, anyway -- this may change next year) toward kids aged 5-10. If your kid is older or younger than that, they might be either a little lost or a little bored. CCMC, too, has a strong scholarship program for their Spring semester. (But not, I don't think, for their Fall one.) If you have questions, please feel free to email me. Betsy

Chorus for 5-year-old boy

Feb 2005

I need some recommendations and input into the various kids' choruses in the East Bay. Can anyone speak to the differences or strengths and weaknesses of the SF Boys Chorus; the Pacific Boychoir; the Piedmont Choruses and the Kairos Chorus. (I checked the website already). My son is only five and I'm looking for something that is fun, above all, but also high quality musically. He ''auditioned,'' on a whim, for the SF Boys Chorus and got in; now we need to decide whether to do it or not. rachel