BY SAMANTHA GRATTON
On Monday evenings after school, boys and girls excitedly trickle through the doors of the Church of the Good Shepherd on Hillsborough Street in downtown Raleigh. This is where the Raleigh Youth Choir meets each week. Formerly known as the Raleigh Boychoir, the group changed its name to Raleigh Youth Choir in 2022 so girls could join in the fun.
“I saw this great music education offering and also this social offering that I felt really strongly needed to be expanded—to have a place where all youth could come experience high-caliber learning, the communal part of the organization, but also have fun,” says Jeremy Tucker, who is not only the choir’s artistic director, but also conductor of the Capital Choir and Sibley Singers, and director of arts education for Durham Public Schools.
The Raleigh Youth Choir consists of six choirs: the Acorn Choir, Oak Choir, Capital Choir, Mosaic Choir, Page Singers, and Sibley Singers. Each name has local significance or ties. The Sibley Singers choir, for example, is named after Thomas E. Sibley, who originally founded the choir in 1968. Age-appropriate instruction is taught by a diverse staff of highly trained and talented choral conductors.
Where the CHOIR Performs
The choir has a long history of 55 years in Raleigh, and has been asked to perform at North Carolina governor inaugurations, Duke University basketball games and assisted living facilities. Its “Carols of Christmas” performance is an annual tradition. The Raleigh Youth Choir will also host next year’s Piedmont Invitational Children’s Choral Festival, which welcomes six to seven choirs from across the state each spring. The variety of performances provide ample opportunity for members to learn different styles of music, from traditional to modern.
“A lot of the music is really fun, and I’ve made a lot of friends,” says Christopher, age 9, who is a member of the Capital Choir. Some of his favorite experiences have been singing music from the movie “The Polar Express” with the North Carolina Symphony, and learning the music from the “The NeverEnding Story.”
Travel becomes a bigger part of the high school choirs’ performance schedule, as singers rotate between out-of-state and international trips every year. This schedule has included places such as Washington D.C., New York City, Ireland and England. In 2024, the Page Singers and Sibley Singers will spend two weeks on a European tour, performing throughout Germany and in Prague.
Preserving Its Strengths
Historically, boychoirs were intended for boys prior to their voice changing during puberty. Over time, many boychoirs have adapted to include older boys, as well as girls. The Raleigh Youth Choir’s Capital Choir specifically supports the changing of the male voice. Instead of being asked to leave the choir, as the tone and deepness of their voice changes, choir members are surrounded by other members going through the same experiences.
“I have found a lot of value, especially for our boys who are in middle school, to have a space where you can be around voices that are changing, and you can continue to sing,” says Tucker, who has a bachelor’s degree in music and master’s degree in music education. While the younger choirs now consist of a mix of boys and girls, the middle and high school choirs are separated by gender in order to preserve that safe space.
Join the Fun
The Raleigh Youth Choir believes every voice has a place to sing and perform. Both boys and girls—from kindergarteners through high school seniors—are welcome. In an effort to become more accessible, monthly tuition costs were recently cut in half from what they used to be, and the choir now meets in the Church of the Good Shepherd, a location along Raleigh’s public transportation bus route.
“We really love it,” says Caroline Jeb of Cary, whose 11-year-old son, Matthew, has been in the choir for the past couple of years. “It’s very structured. They really pour their heart into teaching kids.”
The choir aims to complement and expound upon what a student is learning in school through quality instruction and unique performance opportunities. Those who are interested in trying it out can visit a rehearsal, participate in a week of summer camp, or contact the choir for a placement audition—which are held throughout the summer for the August–May season.
But new members of the choir are also welcomed on a rolling basis throughout the year. While all voices can join, auditions help the conductors place children in the choir that is most suited to their voice. “I just like to sing and it helps me express the way I feel,” says Jaylen, 11, who sings with the Capital Choir.
To those singers who are thinking about joining the choir, Jaylen says, “It’s pretty fun. You have to practice a lot, do lots of vocal exercise, and drink lots of water.”
Check out more stories around Raleigh by visiting Midtown Magazine.