HomeThese Boys Know It's Never Too Young To Start Singing!

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In sports, it’s common to find family legacies through generations.  The Ripkens, Griffey’s, and so forth are well-known examples where sons took after their father’s passions and continued with the game.  As contemporary a cappella grows older, the same trend is starting to show.

At this years’ Spring Sing, hosted by the American A Cappella Alliance, audiences were wowed by a premier performance from the group now known as “These Boys.”  Unlike your usual a cappella group of college aged or adult singers, These Boys’ range from ages as high as 12 to as low as 3.  Yes, three years old.  A set of cousins living in Michigan and Illinois, These Boys came together by request of their fathers, Tony Alcantara, Oscar Alcantara and Hamilton Chang.  If these names sound familiar, it’s probably because Tony, Oscar and Hamilton have been involved in contemporary a cappella for years, coming from groups such as the Friars of University of Michigan, the Havard Veritones and the host group for the event, Lakeshore Jive.

Oscar Alcantara, the first director of the Veritones and the current director of Lakeshore Jive, thought this would be an exciting performance for the audience in attendance.

“Many of the founding and early members of the Alliance are still active in the community and were present to enjoy These Boys' performance.  Some of those individuals can be credited with starting the ‘contemporary’ a cappella movement 60 or more years ago.”  More importantly, he knew how exciting this would be for the kids involved in the group.

“All of the boys had seen their dads rehearsing and performing in contemporary a cappella ensembles before.  So when we told the boys they were going to have an opportunity to do it too, they were all very excited.  Ideally, Dads teach boys how to catch a ball or cast a fishing rod or all manner of other great -- if clichéd -- activities, and, ideally, the boys are excited to participate in what they've seen they dads doing before them.  This was the same thing, but in three-part harmony.”

With the already ambitious idea of having nine children sing a contemporary a cappella piece together came the bigger challenge: rehearsing with boys living in completely different states.  Through an adaptation of the Suzuki method, where music learning is paralleled with the “immersion” concepts of language learning, the boys were able to learn their parts before ever meeting to rehearse (a couple days before their performance).

“We tried to adopt the ‘immersion’ aspects of the Suzuki method: playing recordings of the piece consistently around the house, in the car, loaded onto iPods.  We encouraged the boys to listen to the recordings as they would their favorite songs around the house, so that they could internalize the parts without ever ‘rehearsing,’ per se.  My understanding is that this method tracks the way in which children acquire language:  we learn to speak a language most naturally by hearing it spoken around the house rather than sitting down to ‘practice’ it.” 
 
So for the first couple of weeks of the process, the boys were primarily just listening, not singing.  After a few weeks, we started asking the boys to try to sing their parts while listening to their part being sung in the recordings.”

By using some advanced rehearsal techniques that would normally be seen in college and professional choirs, the boys learned to sing as a team, including 3-year-old Asher, who defied the expectations that anyone would have for a three year old’s abilities to sing contemporary a cappella.

“Interestingly enough, we did not intend for the three-year-old to participate, knowing that, as you say, he is younger than the ‘recommended age’ for this type of activity.  However, because of the household ‘immersion’ process we used, he was exposed to the recordings being played around the house and in the car just as much as his older brothers were.  So when we finally got around to traditional "rehearsing" -- with people singing live in a room together -- he simply sat down with his brothers, cousins and friends and we discovered that he had learned a part.”

Thanks to the great response that These Boys got at Spring Sing, they are already excited to start working on the second song in their repertoire.  It looks like we could see an entirely second-generation a cappella group on the forefront of the scene in just a couple of years.  One can only imagine how good Asher will be at age 5!

See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5W6CUtcox8U

These Boys are (left to right in the video) Asher Alcantara (age 3); Hunter Chang (age 12); Robert Alcantara (age 12); Cameron Chang (age 9); Lucas Alcantara (age 9); Nicholas Chang (age 6); Jack Alcantara (age 11); Nathan Alcantara (age 9); and Alec Chang (age 11).

About the author:
Dave Grossman is a Junior Vocal Music Education major at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY. He is currently the Assistant Conductor of Ithacappella, IC's all-male a cappella group, where he is a prominent arranger and vocal percussionist.  In his hometown of North Reading, MA, he is the founder and musical director of the mixed group Henry Fonda & The Falsettos.

Comments

My boys (all three--one was

My boys (all three--one was not at Spring Sing) have enjoyed singing This Boy all summer--Beatles harmony version.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c-8XVPY-nE

Tony Alcantara

Music Director, The Grunyons

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