The founding and evolution of a school for the Boys Choir of Harlem: Choir Academy of Harlem

Deloris Wallace Bennett Brown, Fordham University


The Boys Choir Academy was founded on September 12, 1986 to work in partnership with the internationally renowned Boys Choir of Harlem. The uniquely designed school was a public school where all students are members of an internationally acclaimed choir: The Boys/Girls Choir of Harlem. Within 13 years of its founding, the first graduating class symbolized a beacon of hope for at-risk students entering the school. With over 85% of its graduating class completing their high school diploma an alternative education had begun for many at-risk youth. This study examined how the public school model for the Choir Academy of Harlem was conceived in its formative years, 1986-2002. It also identified the major proponents that envisioned, designed, and assured the founding and continuation of the school. The case under study was best suited to a historical research methodology. The historical design supplied qualitative data from those presently or previously affiliated with both the Choir and the Academy. The data were primarily obtained from interviews, as well as reviews of pertinent literature from both institutions' archives. Additional documents included memos, a variety of newspaper articles, dissertations, journals, the founder's memoir, books, and other correspondences from those associated with the institutions under study. The research concludes that the Founder and Artistic Director of the Boys Choir of Harlem was also the founder and primary spokesman for the Academy. This study concludes that Walter J. Turnbull was the visionary and was the key spokesman for the school. He galvanized resources and individuals to ensure the founding and continuation of the school by devising a partnership with New York City's Public school system. Additionally, this study found the direct influence and endorsement of a prominent individual, United States Ambassador Franklin Williams, who helped bring the choir and its Academy to national and later international prominence.

Subject Area

Music|Music education|African Americans|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Brown, Deloris Wallace Bennett, "The founding and evolution of a school for the Boys Choir of Harlem: Choir Academy of Harlem" (2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3210260.