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United States' last urban-based choir school temporarily shutting down

Newark Boys Chorus School temporarily closing as class size, funding dwindle
Newark Boys Chorus School temporarily closing as class size, funding dwindle 02:12

NEWARK, N.J. -- The last remaining urban-based choir school in the United States is in Newark, and the school has announced that it's temporarily shutting down.

School officials are trying to keep their doors open and they need help.

For nearly 50 years, students at the Newark Boys Chorus School have given jaw-dropping performances both locally and internationally, even crossing paths with famous celebrities like Sting.

"They've sang for the Pope. They sang at the White House ... They have sang under Leonard Bernstein's direction," said Mary Bentley Lamar, board of directors vice president.

But the tuition-free private school, which provides a strong education for musically gifted 3rd-8th grade boys, is temporarily closing its academic operations.

"It's actually sad to hear, and I really hope something happens so they can stay open," Newark resident Hassan Pierce said.

Board members say funding for the school -- which relies on foundation grants, private donations and fundraisers -- has dramatically dwindled since the pandemic.

"The fundraising activities were all live, in-person events," said Robert Wright, president of the board of directors at Newark Boys Chorus School.

The school also attracts students from other schools by performing, and they couldn't do that either when COVID hit.

There were 70 students enrolled at the school before the pandemic. That number dropped to 10 this year.

Musician Hunter Lamar attended the school.

"The Newark Boys Chorus School provided a safe space for children to explore their musicality, to explore their creativity and to become free thinkers," he said. 

School officials say they want to develop an endowment, but right now, they're keeping the chorus going.

"What we do want to happen is for the boys to continue singing, those that are still interested in being in the chorus, so we can keep the music going," Bentley Lamar said.

"People who are invested in the music business and also in children and education need to step up and help us," Wright said.

Board members says their goal is to reopen the school in September 2024 -- that is, if they can get enough funding, not just for that school year but also for years to come.

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