Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Richmond Boys Choir Earns National Award

Posted by Phil Whiteway
Congratulations to the Richmond Boys Choir! Out of 350 nominations nationwide, the RBC was selected as one of only 18 nonprofit organizations in the nation to receive the prestigious Coming Up Taller Award 2007 from the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities. The award ceremony took place in the East Room of the White House, with First Lady Laura Bush presiding.

For ten years, the Coming Up Taller Awards have honored youth organizations that make extraordinary contributions to the arts and culture in their communities. The Richmond Boys Choir is the first and only Richmond group to receive this national recognition for artistic and community service excellence. The honor was accompanied by a $10,000 cash award and a plaque.

The current Richmond Boys Choir was founded as a subsidiary of Theatre IV in 1996. At that time, Bruce learned that the original Richmond Boys Choir had fallen into non-existence in the three years following the death of its founder. He decided that Theatre IV was in a position to reinvigorate the Choir. He convinced me, and we convinced the Theatre IV Board of the validity of this idea.

Billy Dye (pictured to the left), who was at that time a fulltime staff member of Theatre IV, was assigned the responsibility of serving as the artistic director of the new Choir. He’s continued to serve in that role ever since.

I. B. Taylor, a Theatre IV Board member, was asked to chair the committee that provided governance for the new choir. From 1996 until 1999, Theatre IV mentored the Richmond Boys Choir, paid its staff, built its Board, managed its finances, and raised funds on its behalf. During this three year period, the choir was housed in Theatre IV’s offices and rehearsed and performed in Theatre IV’s historic Empire Theatre.

In 1999, the Richmond Boys Choir fulfilled its strategic plan and became the fully independent nonprofit organization that it is today. I. B. Taylor resigned from the Theatre IV Board and became the first President of the Board of the RBC. Bruce served as a charter Board member. Nine years later, our two independent companies continue to be the closest of allies.

The Richmond Boys Choir welcomes members from all socio-economic, religious and cultural backgrounds. They have opened for and/or performed in association with Wynton Marsalis, Lily Tomlin, former Supreme Mary Wilson, James Earl Jones and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Their spirit and talents have been showcased at the Governor’s Inaugural Prayer Breakfast and broadcast nationally on The Today Show, winning praise from Katie Couric.

First Lady Laura Bush had this to say during the award presentation earlier this week:

Mrs. Bush - “Thank you all for coming, and thanks to each and every person in this room for your work to promote the arts and humanities—especially through these Coming Up Taller Awards. The 2007 winners are outstanding. Choirs and theatre groups entertain. Museum and heritage programs educate. Art and dance studios delight and inspire. And every single Coming Up Taller program helps young people use their energy and creativity to succeed. In Philadelphia or Fort Worth, what all of these programs have in common are dedicated adults, eager to help young people make the most of their talents and their lives.

The voices of the award-winning Richmond Boys Choir have delighted audiences across Virginia. They've also delighted audiences from “across the pond.” This year, the choir performed for Queen Elizabeth at the opening ceremonies of Jamestown's 400th Anniversary. In addition to learning protocol for meeting the Queen, and proper table manners for a formal banquet, choir members develop teamwork, patience, and outstanding musicianship.

Congratulations to all of the recipients of the 2007 Coming Up Taller awards. Because of the great programs you represent, young people are discovering the humanities and the arts. They're building the confidence to paint, dance, speak, and sing—and in every one of their communities, to walk taller. Thank you all very, very much.”

(At this point in the program, the Richmond Boys Choir was introduced to perform before the assembled body, under Billy Dye’s direction.)

Mrs. Bush – “Thank you very much to the Richmond Boys Choir. You were terrific, and that was a really wonderful way to end this Coming Up Taller awards program. I like that you sang Stevie Wonder's song "Always," because I think that's what children in each one of these programs that we've represented today will learn in your programs, and that is that somebody will love them always.

So thank you to each and every one of you. We really can change lives for the better. We really are choosing a life, a wonderful way to live, when we teach and study the arts and humanities.”

All of us at Theatre IV are bursting with pride that our brother organization has received this national recognition. Congratulations to Billy and to all the boys. Job well done! We feel like proud parents, and that’s a great way to feel.

--Phil Whiteway


pnlkotula said...

Whoo-ooo! Go Billy! Richmond is so lucky to have this program and that it is thriving under Billy's leadership. Amazing.

Lisa Kotula

Theresse Gablin said...

I came across this blog while Googling the RBC. My daughter's friend is in the choir. Thanks for the excellent coverage. The Boys Choir is in a league of its own. I heard them a few years ago (in the Empire, in fact) and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. These young men are an example for the rest of us. They work really hard, and add immeasurably to the cultural life of our city. Mr. Dye must be doing lots of things right. I'm so glad the RBC has received this well deserved recognition.