A Choir Mom's Story

by Leah Volker

My name is Leah Volker and I am the mother of five boys. When our third son was ten years old, we were introduced to the Land of Lakes Choirboys. I remember hearing the choir sing for the first time and being utterly amazed by the sounds coming out of these boys. Grant was instantly hooked, ready to sign up for what turned out to be one of the biggest adventures of his life. Mark took a little longer to come around, but after seeing how much fun Grant was having, he too dove in headfirst and never regretted making the choice. Watching the boys sing with the Viking Choir has been one of life's greatest gifts to me. At almost every performance I attended, there came a moment when I was nearly brought to tears by the beauty of what I was hearing. Even now, several years later, when both boys have graduated from the choir and moved on, listening to the LOLCB choirs can move me in indescribable ways. There is an incomparable quality to the sound a boys' choir makes. A boy's voice is a genuinely remarkable instrument - beautiful and mysterious. The beauty lies in its clarity and innocence. The mystery lies in its incongruity. How can such a sound be made by a BOY, of all things?! No matter how tough, how mischievous, how frustrating, how ornery, how dirty or how rascally a boy is, when he sings, he is suddenly transformed into an angel.

And then - in the blink of an eye, it seems - the voice is gone. The finality of it is as certain as it is inevitable. The voice changes, our paradigm shifts. All because the voice - that ethereal voice of the boy - is gone forever. It fades to a memory that can be recalled, but never reclaimed.

Part of me grieves over the loss of that pure boy's voice which my two sons have left forever behind them. But nature must have her way - the hormones kick in, and the voice starts to deepen. In just a matter of months, the boy's voice is gone, replaced by a young man's voice. A whole new phase of life begins. Left behind are the familiar routines of choir practice, voice lessons and the safety of middle school for a new world of high school and its many activities. Attentions turn to new things - sports, band, drama, cars (it seems unbelievable that they will both be driving in just a few months, one with a permit and one with a brand-new license), and undoubtedly ... girls. One change they have both welcomed, I have to admit, is the chance to sleep late on a Saturday morning instead of having to rush off to choir practice. I know they are both ready for all of these changes. I'm just not sure that I am.

I have sometimes been asked why the boys and I chose to commit so much time and effort to the choir. I suspect my questioners wonder if the boys somehow "missed out" on an essential part of their childhood. I don't believe that they did. First of all, let me say, a boy must want to sing, and I never forced participation in the choir on either of my boys. It was a choice they each made freely and enthusiastically! Even though being in the choir was a huge commitment, there was always plenty of time for other things. Time to play with friends, to watch TV and play video games. Time to build tree forts and dig in the dirt and ride bikes and swim in the lake. Time for sleepovers where they stayed up as late as they could get away with, and for birthday parties and impromptu ballgames with the neighbor kids. No, there wasn't always time to participate on a host of organized sports teams, but they did get to travel to Scandinavia, Europe and across the United States, where they had the opportunity to meet and sing for people in other parts of the world. They learned history, geography and social studies firsthand. They developed a global perspective beyond the average boy their age. They stayed in homes with families in the places they toured through, and saw how their lives are different ... and perhaps more importantly, how they are the same. The education they received in choir went far beyond how to sing with finely tuned pitch and intonation. They learned important social skills as well. They developed leadership abilities that are noticed and commented on by their teachers. And the appreciation they have for music - well, that is something that will last a lifetime. It is my firm belief that they will always sing, long after their voices have changed ... when they are teenagers, young men, fathers and grandfathers, they will sing ... sing for the pure joy of singing!

I am lucky. I also have an eight-year-old son, Isaac. He still holds inside himself that fleeting treasure that is a boy's voice. Today he is a proud Resident Choir performer. For years - really as long as he can remember - he watched his older brothers in choir and now dreams of following in their footsteps. I feel fortunate that this is something he wants to do. I know all too well that the time when he will be able to sing like an angel is brief. The treasure that is his voice will last only a few short years. It is not something we can save for later. We cannot put it on a shelf or store it away like a trophy or a photograph. It will not wait for a more convenient time. A boy's voice has a timetable all its own; we do not control it. The moment in which to use and develop this talent is fleeting. To wait is to lose the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And so we continue to make the twice-weekly treks to the choir building, continuing what has become a family tradition.

Every boy eventually outgrows his voice. It is a fact of life. Fortunately, it is only that cherubic voice, and not the ability or desire to sing, that gets left behind. I will always be glad we seized the opportunity while we could and gave our boys the chance to make music with one of the world's most unique and beautiful instruments a boy's voice.

(Reprinted from "Choirboy Chronicles", Spring 2007 edition, the newsletter of the Land of Lakes Choirboys of Minnesota.)

Copyright 2007 Leah Volker
Used with permission