Kantorei, the singing boys of Rockford, is a Rockford gem, but unlike other gems in our city, it is not hiding. Last year I was in a bookstore in Door County and a customer overheard me say I was from Rockford. “You have one of the best boys choirs in the world.” Another couple spoke up and said they had heard them years ago and still remember how wonderful they were. That’s impressive.
What is more impressive is Kantorei has been offering this opportunity for over 40 years. They have gone on 24 National tours, 12 International tours, and sung with over 70 boys choirs from around the world. Its purpose has not changed over all these years: to provide a quality musical education, while instilling in each member the rewards of self-discipline, responsibility, and dedication towards common goals.
Here are a few stories from the boys about what this experience has meant to them.
“Before I started Kantorei I was very reluctant to join. I love to sing but thought I wouldn’t love to sing how the boys were singing. I didn’t want to sing high. As a treble, I’m glad, because we get to sing the melody most of the time. Now I like to sing high! I first thought that the songs were boring just listening to them, but when I am a part of singing with the whole choir, it is a whole different story. I would tell a boy considering Kantorei who is as reluctant as I was, ‘If you like to sing and are willing to memorize a few songs, this is the place for you!’”
Lucas, age 11, grade 6
“There are many benefits from a music education. In Kantorei we are always learning new concepts. We learn to sing independently, sing together as a choir, and improve our voices. The music can be challenging sometimes, but it is well within the choir’s ability. The study of the violin has also contributed to my music education. I have confidence when reading new music and am more sure of what to do when encountering a challenge.
‘…In Kantorei, I’ve learned that we should take advantage of the time and life’s opportunities. We should give our best effort and cooperation during rehearsals because, through this, we form friendships within a great choir.”
“It has been my deepest pleasure to have established long-term relationships with the members of Kantorei. When I was encouraged by Ms. Dorothy Paige Turner to consider joining the choir, I was ten years old and excited, yet not sure about where this experience would lead me. I remember my voice hearing with Mr. Ross; then, being intimidated by the talent of my soon-to-be fellow choir members. As a typical ten-year-old boy I had questions. “Who would be my friend? How would I fit in?” After the first practice session as a Cadet, I realized that there was no need to worry. Mrs. Diane Knight, the Associate Director, was very nice and I fit right in with the rest of the boys.
“Over the last eight years, I have traveled across the United States with this group while creating close-bonding friendships. I often wondered who would be my roommate while on tour. However, it never seemed to matter because we were all friends. We knew the art of getting along and working as a member of a team. I recall the hard work during rehearsals, concerts, and recording sessions where we always seemed to get the job done. I remember the joys of long bus rides and airline flights. I recall a choir buddy’s dislocated shoulder, my allergic reaction to DEET insect repellent, getting lost, and, best of all, being found while on tour. I have many fond memories of making new friends not only with Kantorei members, but with boys from other choirs and home stay families. No matter how we enriched each other’s lives, we all shared the passion for music. Kantorei is truly a brotherhood where we share a lifetime of learning, adventure, cultural experiences and lasting memories. It truly is a great privilege and honor to be a member of Kantorei the Singing Boys of Rockford.”
These experiences could not have happened without an excellent and dedicated staff.
Celebrating his 24th year as Music Director, Joel A. Ross has consistently set high standards for excellence in the choral art. Under his direction, Kantorei’s reputation has steadily grown to wider critical and professional acclaim, both in the U.S. and abroad. Joel was the winner of the 2004 ‘Star Teacher’ Mayor’s Arts Award, recognizing his contribution to music education in the community.
Brad Kolach, Golden Apple winner in 2000, has recently returned to Kantorei as the Associate Director, a position he held 1993-1999. He is a music specialist in the Rockford Public Schools and a teaching artist in after-school and summer programs run by the Rockford Area Arts Council, where he teaches music and rap (yes, rap).
Trudy Anderson, is the Assistant Director and has taught vocal music for over 30 years. Trudy began her involvement with Kantorei as a parent and worked her way through stuffing envelopes, chaperoning, music librarian and is now responsible for the youngest boys choir.
Kantorei has a great web site. You can see & hear the boys, check out their concert schedule, and learn how to get involved:
There is something I have to ask on behalf of my ”sistas”… any thoughts about “the singing GIRLS of Rockford?”