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Pacific Boychoir Academy (Oakland, CA)
Pacific Boychoir Academy (PBA) has transformed my 4th grader. He has attended both public and private schools; challenged by neither. He is smart and focused but often bored in school, unmotivated to attend or try. Since starting PBA two months ago, he is the first one awake every day, organizes and packs what he needs for school, prepares his own breakfast and lunch, and then heads to school with enthusiasm. I thought the longer day would leave him exhausted, but he comes home with stories of, ''we made bread'', ''our tower was the tallest and didn't fall over in the wind'', ''I found a new book series'', singing with his friends, playing every kind of ball at lunch, and ''I ran the fastest during PE!''. When asked who his friends are at school, the answer is, ''everyone'': there are no grade barriers. Another outstanding quality of the school is their ability to produce gentlemen. The level of respect the boys show each other, adults, and belongings, and their fluency in expressing themselves are astounding, and will take them far. Culture and diversity is a large part of the school. They provide opportunities for national and international travel and they host a number of international choirs, increasing the boys' awareness of our global community. As parents, we couldn't be more thrilled to see our son provided with an environment where he finds like-minded peers, and is challenged to grow in academics and music while becoming a global citizen. PBA demands a full-time commitment from the whole family, but in return they provide an extended family to you. Within weeks of joining, we found community that had been sadly lacking for our newly transplanted family. The rigor is not for everyone, but at the end of the day the reward of having a stimulated and happy child is priceless. bluefishes
The Pacific Boychoir Academy is an absolute gem of a school, and anyone with a son who loves music should seriously consider giving him the opportunity to reach his full potential in this rare combination of top-notch academics and world-class singing.
We first discovered PBA through a friend who, like us, has a son who loves to sing. Our local public elementary school - where our son attended through 5th grade - had various after-school choir and musical theater programs, but none of them made him feel comfortable because they were predominantly composed of girls. We enrolled him in the PBA's after-school program for two years and he loved not only singing at PBA but the peer support that came with it (read: being surrounded by other boys who love to sing).
We chose to send him to PBA starting in 6th grade, first and foremost because of its strong academic program, and how closely it ties in with the music taught there. Our son has excelled in Math and languages, in particular, and the class sizes at PBA are small enough that teachers allow for differentiation, giving their advanced students more challenging work. As a parent, it's also reassuring to know that all of the teachers here really get to know their students, evidenced by the fact that we seem to always learn a thing or two we didn't know about our son at parent-teacher conferences.
The music program at PBA is what makes it stand apart from other independent schools, and we were completely drawn to the idea that our son could participate in a world-class ensemble at such a young age. The study of music and singing at PBA is serious and rigorous, and the boys learn that they have to work together and make their voices blend in order to succeed. What the boys experience in their brief time at PBA is unlike anything I could ever have imagined - from singing on stage with top symphonies to traveling the world on concert tour every summer. My heart literally ached with pride the first time I saw my son performing with the SF Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall as 6th grader.
Finally, the expectations that PBA places upon their students are extraordinarily high, and I have been astounded by the changes in manners, poise and sense of teamwork in our son. I credit this to both the teachers and music staff, who seem to tolerate healthy quantities of boy-generated exuberance, yet then manage to transform that energy into extraordinary results - both in the classroom and on the stage. PBA Parent
Attending the Pacific Boychoir Academy has been nothing short of transformational for our son. I enrolled him as a 4th grader three years ago, and while it was a big decision to move him from his public school, I am so glad that I did - and can't imagine ever going back.
PBA offers an outstanding academic program with small class sizes, dedicated teachers, and an engaging curriculum that incorporates an experiential approach to learning. My son's academic progress has skyrocketed. As a result of the individual attention and encouragement his teachers have given him, he has become serious about his studies, and now genuinely desires to learn and to excel. From a boy who was not much of a reader before attending PBA he has become a boy who reads and quotes Shakespeare on his own. The music program is unparalleled, giving the boys opportunities to travel internationally, perform with world-class symphonies and, of course, become excellent singers. My son is learning self-discipline, poise, self-confidence and the benefits of hard work - skills he'll be able to draw on no matter where his interests take him in the future.
Importantly, my son absolutely loves PBA. He's happy, engaged, motivated to do his best and taking pride in his work, both academic and musical. Recently, as he was telling me about his day over dinner, he paused and said, ''Thank you for letting me go to PBA. It has changed my life.'' It has, and I am thrilled that he has this opportunity. Tess F
PBA is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for your son: a small and caring staff who know every boy personally, world-class singing instruction and performance opportunities, academics that challenge and support monumental growth, and an environment of respect and reverence for life. It sounds too good to be true, I know! My son started at PBA in the 5th grade and has flourished in its nurturing yet demanding setting. The teachers truly care about the subjects (and the kids) they teach and have taught my son to be an engaged learner, inside and outside of the classroom. I wasn't sure how he would do with the performance aspectI knew he loved singing but didn't know if he would love performing for hours on end! - but this too has been a joy. It's definitely difficult at times - these boys work very hard - but always worth it. And as you can imagine, the camaraderie that results from the boys' sharing of this demanding, special thing they do as choristers is noteworthy too. It minimizes much of the social difficulty that usually comes along with middle school. I highly encourage anyone interested in the school to set up a time to visit - you won't be disappointed. Happy parent of a middle schooler
Our son recently began 4th grade at Pacific Boychoir Academy, and we couldn't be happier with it. He was in a public school before this but he wasn't happy there. His grades were good but he found it to be uninspiring, stifling, and full of the stereotypical social divides (e.g. ''jocks'' vs. ''nerds''). We were getting calls and emails from the principal and his teacher nearly once a week. It was rough. We knew we needed to make a change. We looked at several other schools in the area and seriously considered some of them. Then we heard about PBA. Our son sat in on classes twice and we met with the faculty and other parents, which convinced us that PBA was the right place for our son. So far it has proven to be. The classes are small. The education is more hands-on, as opposed to the worksheets and rote memorization he was doing in public school. And the music aspect has really helped our son to self-regulate - better than any other thing we've tried. Our son isn't especially musical, and that was a concern of ours. But the school assured us that a boy doesn't have to be a prodigy to thrive in the choir. What they emphasize in the choir is wonderful: self-discipline, poise, and effort. These lessons are already taking root in our son. Best of all he's happy. He comes home excited about science or PE or a project they're doing. He talks about school, he's making friends, and he genuinely likes it. PBA is a very special place and we can't recommend it enough. Anon
Re: Which Schools Use A Best-for-Boys Approach?
Based on my son's experience I would not recommend the Pacific Boychoir Academy. Although we thought they'd be boy-friendly because of the ads we saw, there has been nothing about the school to suggest to us that they understand boys' issues. The biggest problem for us has been that everything revolves around singing. The rehearsal, performance, and touring demands do not leave time for things like sports, musical instruments, theatre, or outdoor activities. There are plenty of music instructors, but the school does not have a counselor or a learning specialist so boys with learning differences or attention problems do not get the type of learning assistance they need. Academics have been consistently secondary to the singing. Parent
Re: Seeking excellent music program for 8 year old
You didn't say whether your 8-year-old is a boy or girl, but if he's a boy, you should really consider the Pacific Boychoir Academy (off Piedmont Ave in Oakland). It's a world-class music training and performance institution, with music integrated into the day school curriculum. The boys learn music through the most fundamental instrument--the voice--which lays the groundwork for musical achievement on any instrument and in any style. Plus, the academics are stellar--art, sciences, languages (Latin! Who learns Latin anymore?!). Really a gem of a school. Fan of PBA
Re: finding a choir for my musical 7-year-old
It's great that you're looking at all the local children's choirs. If your child is a boy, he'll have a wonderful time at the Pacific Boychoir Academy, http://www.pacificboychoiracademy.org/after-school Ask about their financial aid program. PBA has a happy, kid-friendly outlook that draws out extraordinary music from the boys.
If your child is a girl, the San Francisco Girls Chorus has an East Bay program (rehearsals at Crowden). PBA after-school parent
PBA is like no other school around, as in the only one of its kind west of the Mississippi. It is a once in a lifetime experience for you and your son, with an A+ music program and an academic experience that will soon, and in good part already does, beat any of the best around. Come see; you'll never regret it!
It is also a world-class boy choir performing right here in the Bay Area. Two upcoming concerts are 30 March: American Music, including American Spirituals! (1st Congregational in Oakland) and an ''Urban Cathedral'' concert at Rock Wall Winery in Alameda (TBA, but likely first days of May.) TN
Re: School for socially anxious 9-year-old with ADHD
The Pacific Boychoir Academy is an amazing, one-of-a-kind middle school that has changed our lives and been transformational for my son. Our son is a current 5th grader and joined the school last year in 4th grade. We were looking for excellent academics with small class sizes and an engaging, experiential approach with individualized attention to accommodate learning differences. We also wanted an environment that fostered self-confidence, responsibility and personal achievement. Wow - the Pacific Boychoir Academy has provided all that and so much more. Our son enjoyed singing before joining the school but wouldn't have necessarily chosen to sing classical music or study music theory on his own. Studying music, singing in other languages and being exposed to all types of music has definitely had a positive impact on his academic achievement and motivation as well as love of music and performing. His self-confidence has blossomed and he came home from a three-week tour to the Baltic States with a new appreciation for the life he has and the deep cultural traditions and history of other countries. What an experience! He has built new social and team skills and is proud to be part of an award-winning boychoir where everyone counts and everyone contributes. This is a school that anyone should consider for their son - don't let the music education part cause you to pause if your son hasn't done it before - you won't believe how this makes such as difference. We commute from a distance to attend this school and feel so fortunate to have found such a perfect fit for our son. kts
We enrolled our nine-year-old son in fourth grade at The Pacific Boychoir Academy (PBA) last year, and he loves the place. It is positively electrifying for him, as well as for us, as we have witnessed his personal growth and academic success, and we have marveled at the music that comes from this school choir.
PBA is a young and growing independent school that was founded in 1998 with six boys, and it has quickly established itself prominently with more than 160 boys and young men, ages 4-18, in seven choirs. It is the only choir school on the West Coast. PBA has earned Grammy awards and accolades in the press. The school has one of the lowest student-teacher ratios for independent schools in the Bay Area, and it is a member of ERISA. Today more than 50 boys attend the day school, and there are all kinds of boys. Financial assistance is available and all are encouraged to apply. No previous music experience is required.
Our son had a transformative experience as a fourth grader. He was given opportunities that all PBA boys are given, to contribute and succeed. He performed with symphonies and other choirs, and he traveled with the Troubadors and staff to Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, for a three-week summer tour, performing on a rigorous schedule, and he loved it. His first words to us at the airport after this trip were, "I wonder where we're going next year!"
This school builds a boy's self-confidence, develops a sense of pride in doing well, and stirs an interest in taking on difficult assignments. The boys learn that they can do anything they want to do in life, if they are willing to work, to cooperate with others, and participate in something that is important. Each boy contributes, using his particular strengths, to produce a tremendous outcome. The bonds of friendship grow while in school and learning and performing music. For example, on Monday evenings, all the Troubadors eat dinner together with the staff during rehearsal.
The teachers are extremely well educated and hold extensive experience in teaching and interacting with this age group, and they are acutely aware of how boys learn. Active, hands-on approaches are favored over passive, sedentary ones. A great deal of thinking goes into creating the academic and music programs for these five years, from ages 9-14, which are critical for personal, social, and academic development. Music is one way that a boy's success is leveraged into his academic career. For example, the staff integrates areas of study, such as music and math. Also, history comes to life as students consider the times of great composers. Upperclassmen participate in a Shakespeare play, drawing upon the confidence and presentation skills used in musical performance.
The small group of teachers works tirelessly and selflessly, and they are exceptionally skilled at what they do. They care deeply about the boys, and they get to know each boy individually. The eighth grade graduation is handled exquisitely, where every graduate is recognized for his particular strengths, individualism, and achievements. The teachers inspire my confidence in them to teach, to serve as role models, and to help our son grow into a young adult. The students are in great hands. We are relieved to have found a school where smart people teach students well, creatively, and mindfully, with concern for their lives after they complete eighth grade. After one year, PBA has earned our complete trust and respect. Probably the most gratifying thing is that these boys are happy while they are challenged to learn, and that is perhaps PBA's greatest asset and reason to celebrate. Amy M.
Re: East Bay School for Boys - reviews
It's great that you're exploring single-gender school options - in the late-elementary and middle school stages it works really well for many kids, as your daughter's Julia Morgan experience must show. I'd strongly recommend looking into the East Bay's first all-boys school, now well established and flourishing in its lovely new campus - the Pacific Boychoir Academy, a Grades 4-8 EBISA school. Since you asked specifically about high school placement, I'll give a summary of that aspect of the PBA. My son is a recent grad, who, like many of his classmates, was accepted into all the high schools to which he applied. He chose to go to College Prep and is doing very well there. Among independent schools, Athenian and College Prep are the most common choices made by PBA grads; those who choose parochial schools go to St. Mary's, O'Dowd, and St. Joseph's, and I know one is at De La Salle; the most commonly chosen public schools are Berkeley High (the IB program is popular) and Oakland Tech (Engineering or Paideia).
The PBA is not a conservatory - it's a school that blends academic and musical education so that each enhances the other. In the process it has created terrific students and a world-class choir, and gives its middle-schoolers a dimension of excellence and professionalism that simply isn't available at other schools. All PBA boys know what it takes to produce something that's of a quality acceptable to MTT at the SF Symphony (they wouldn't have got those Grammys otherwise), and this becomes their approach to all of their work. They represent their country internationally on great stages, so they learn to interact beautifully with people from all cultures, of all ages and backgrounds. Moreover, they get an extraordinary first-hand knowledge of history and geography - in the past three years my son and his classmates have visited Soweto, Tiananmen Square, and the Kremlin! Crucially, the boys learn how to manage their time so that they can do their academics, music, and sports well and still have time left over for Facebook and other such necessities of teenage existence. The benefits last beyond high school - many PBA boys write their college application essays about their experience in the choir, and some have said that this unusual aspect of their application was a big factor in their receiving early admission into selective East Coast colleges.
The PBA gives its boys a truly unique and transformative experience. That the school can do this starting with boys who have little or no formal musical training has always astonished me. But they do it, year after year.
Please take a look at the PBA website www.pacificboychoiracademy.org and click on the Facebook link near the top - the FB page will quickly give you a sense of the community and of what the boys are up to on a day-to-day basis. The first Open House of this season is on Sunday October 30. Best wishes for your school search! Satisfied parent of PBA school grad
The Pacific Boychoir Academy is truly the most hidden gem in the Bay Area. I urge any parent looking for a life-changing experience for his or her son to explore the Pacific Boychoir Academy without reservation.
Where else can a 10 year-old boy enjoy individualized attention from an engaging and highly accomplished teacher, travel the world performing with a Grammy-winning choir, and build the confidence and sense of responsibility well beyond his years? There isn't anywhere that does this like the Pacific Boychoir Academy.
The school delivers on its promise to educate, nurture, challenge, and provide an unparalleled opportunity for its students to be part of something truly world-class. What PBA offers will prepare my son to attend the high school and college of his choosing and more importantly approach life with the sense that anything is possible. kt
My son is only 9.5 and is entering 4th grade in Fall, but I am already looking into middle schools, preferably with a good mix of science, humanities and arts. I appreciate your suggestions and any info you could provide!
I called Pacific Boychoir Academy, and we ended up having an audition for him and they seem to be very enthusiastic to have him there, right away. Our intention was to keep him at his public school for at least another year, but they tell me (and I see their point) that it would be best for both them and my son to start there asap.
My son likes musical theater.A lot.He's been in a great public school where he had a lot of exposure to music and stage performances, and has been taking piano since K. He's no Mozart, but likes to play. According to PBA, he has a good voice. After his audition there, he said he'd love to go there.
I haven't had a chance to look at any other middle schools yet, so I am reluctant to commit to Pacific Boychoir Academy before I know more. Seemed like a great school though, although it's rather new and I see just a handful of Berkeley Parent Network reviews of it. Thank you in advance for your feedback!
Musical theater is not the main emphasis here, although the boys did get to be part of a professional production of Oliver! last fall, and individual boys have performed roles at the SF Opera in the past. Most of the performing opportunities are choral, but there are many opportunites to perform, and the types of music vary greatly. Over the course of a year, the choir might appear with the SF Symphony, sing the National Anthem at a ball game, perform with a Jazz band, or sing on local TV. Because the school is small and all the boys sing and tour together, they really form a team and support each other across the age spectrum. liz
The Pacific Boychoir Academy is an amazing day school for 4th-8th grade boys. My 4th grade son is currently attending, and his academic performance and attitude towards school have significantly improved as a result. The boycentric curriculum, outstanding teaching staff, phenomenal choir program, and small class size have been integral to his improvement and success. The program is very engaging, academically rigorous, stimulating, and creative. Participating in the choir provides real life, cultural, and professional experiences, focus, and discipline. Additionally, PBA offers an impressive afterschool program. I highly recommend the school for boys with an interest in music and singing who thrive in a small class size environment. Please feel free to contact me with any program questions. 510.387.1705 Suzanne
I want to highly recommend the Emmy Award winning Pacific Boy Choir Academy to all Bay Area parents. I have two children who have attended this school for the last 3-4 years respectively and I cannot stop glowing enough about their results.
This is a small school with only 30-40 students attending Grades 4-8. The boys get a lot of individual attention and in- depth instruction from a small, carefully picked, excellent teaching staff. I am constantly amazed at the rigorousness of their instruction, which results in a wide ranging depth of knowledge in the boys. Whether it comes to Math, Biology, Geography, English, History or a Foreign Language, the boys are encouraged to excell and in large part they actually succeed.
Equally amazing is the boys' comprehension and discipline when it comes to music. It is well known that musical experience broadens the mind, exercising their left brain/right brain synergy in a way which does not happen in public schools. I am certain that the boys' excellence in math is to a large extent enhanced by their musical capabilities, by being able to sight- read musical scores and by mastering rhythms.
The boys also get to travel to foreign lands, as well as domestically, discovering different people and carrying American culture overseas. So far their trips have included concerts in Australia, Argentina, Hungary, Italy, Canada, Denmark, etc. etc.
More information about the Pacific Boy Choir Academy can be found at www.pacificboychoir.org. Andrew
BPN Advisors: I have a very musical 3 year old toddler (he turns 4 in late September) who sings non-stop and has an uncanny ability to remember lyrics and sophisticated phrasing. I'm DELIGHTED that he's showing this talent, and I'd like to expose him to some sort of organized group to see if he flourishes even more. Wondering if anyone has recommendations on a parent-friendly (read: not too time/practice-intensive) organization/choir/group that fosters young songbirds. Thanks in advance! Mom of the next singing wonder
I would like to second the recent recommendation of the Pacific Boychoir Academy, Gr 4-8, just north of campus at LeConte and Scenic. In addition to a terrific math program, already glowingly reviewed, they have an outstanding writing program. In 7th grade my son learned to write well beyond the level of strong high school freshmen. I think PBA may be the only local middle school where all students study three languages in addition to English (German Gr 4-5, Spanish Gr 6-8, Latin Gr 7-8). German helps the boys sing Bach, and Latin is not a dead language to them because they sing in it regularly. The Latin course covers the same texts as in first-year Latin at College Prep. In the last few years, PBA graduates have been accepted into the following local high schools: Athenian, Bentley, Berkeley High, Bishop O'Dowd, College Prep, Head Royce, Maybeck, Oakland Tech, and St. Joseph's.
The music has an astonishing way of focusing the attention of the more fidgety boys, and it is a joy to hear the choir perform Spirituals a cappella or sing with orchestras as varied as the SF Symphony (listen to them on the recent recording of Mahler 8!) and the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra (holiday jazz concert at Yoshi's on Dec 17!). There are few schools like PBA in the world, because PBA gives every student the chance to perform on world stages. Just last summer, PBA sang with the Soweto Gospel Choir at the Regina Mundi Church in Johannesburg. That kind of opportunity has a unique effect on the boys' understanding of the world, and on their motivation in all spheres. ''Transformative'' is the word most commonly used by graduates describing their PBA experience. One of them said, ''I learned that I could be the best in the world.'' After all, PBA's first ''follower'' on Twitter was the Vienna Boys Choir!
PBA is non-denominational and includes families of all backgrounds. It is the best-kept secret in East Bay children's education. Your elementary school boy doesn't have to be a brilliant singer to be admitted - if he can match pitch and clap a rhythm, PBA will teach him how to bring out his voice. Open Houses are Oct 20, Nov 18, and Jan 7, but you can visit any time. Call Jim Gaines, Head of School, (510) 849-8180. -- Delighted parent of PBA 8th grader
The boys not only graduate and move onto schools such as College Preparatory School, Bishop O'Dowd, Athenian and Bentley, but they become some of the word's best singers for their age.
For more information you can visit http://www.pacificboychoir.org/academics.html Best wishes, Fernando
Re: Children's or girls chorus 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. Choir mom
In Sep 2004 a new boys school opened in Oakland: the Pacific Boychoir Academy. We were one of the ''pioneer families'' that signed on. My oldest son had been with the afterschool program for 4 years at that point and absolutely wanted to be in the day school.
The school is currently teaching grades 4-8, with the option for earlier grades coming soon. While there are the standard academics, languages, art & PE, there are 2 big differences to this school:
1) Over 2 hrs of music daily : music theory, repetoire, history, and sight reading. The boys are part of the larger choir (the after school program) but progress so fast and have such a solid grounding in their music that they become natural leaders of their sections.
2) The school is geared toward boys, and boys who sing. The staff ''speak boy'' and plan plenty of physical b! reaks during the day when boy energy can be dissipated to make classroom time more effective. The staff understand and celebrate boys and their energy, and channel that energy into a purity of sound that can break your heart.
Visit www.pacificboychoiracademy.org for more info, or contact me via email for more parent perspective. Nancy
Re: Chorus for 5-year-old boy
My son participated in the Pacific Boychoir Academy for 5 years, just retired recently at age 15 because high school is so much more socially demanding and he's choosing sports instead. I heartily recommend the PBA, they are very professional and my son learned an incredible amount of music theory and vocal technique. He travelled with them to Australia/New Zealand, to Austria, to Italy, this summer to Prague; again, very organized and supervised. This year's summer trip will be to Paris. Not cheap. They are opening a school (hence the 'Academy' part of the name) similar to the American Boychoir and the Cathedral School over at Grace Cathedral in SF, so they can travel and still get schooling as well. My boy retired once (and later rejoined)when his voice changed, but now they have enough 'graduates' to have formed a Changed Voices group that sings tenor/bass parts with the 4 part trebles/altos. The repetoire for boychoirs is pretty religious (duh) but they get a beautiful sound out of the boys and the boys just love it. Bonnie
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