Nine-year-old Alden Rohwer loves to sing. “He sings all day long, on car trips—­everywhere!” says his mother, Aileen. She says since joining the Boychoir of Ann Arbor about a year ago, Alden’s been inspired not only by the vocal training he’s received, but also by the other boys in the choir. “It feels pretty good to be hanging out with kids who like the same things I do,” Alden explains.

Boychoir executive director Laura Dunbar says that’s typical of the fifty or so boys, ages eight to eighteen, who make up the organization’s preparatory and performing choirs. “In our culture, boys don’t sing in the first place,” she says. “But this is a place we can celebrate their voices.”

Thomas Strode, who has a U-M doctorate in organ performance, first assembled a boys’ choir to sing for a production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass at the reopening of the Michigan Theater in 1986, and founded the nonprofit community choir the following year. Twenty-five years later, Strode continues to direct the choir, which performs both sacred and secular music—from Anglican boy choir works to classical pieces by the masters to contemporary songs.

The choir presents at least two major concerts a year—the very popular Boychoir Christmas and a spring concert, as well as joint concerts with other groups and private events. Along the way, members are challenged to learn and memorize pieces in Latin and German—and even Shakespearean dialect.

“I continue to be amazed at the music the choir gets to do,” says twenty-year-old U-M mechanical engineering major Chris Parr, a Boychoir alumnus and board member. Parr now sings with U-M’s Men’s Glee Club, which occasionally collaborates with the youth choir. He joined the boychoir at age nine at the suggestion of his church’s choir director, and says he was disappointed a few years later when his voice began to change, because at the time the choir didn’t have a section for boys with changed voices.

With the encouragement of director Strode, Parr became part of the inaugural choir featuring all four voice parts—soprano, alto, tenor, and bass—with older boys singing the lower parts. Parr says the highlight of his boychoir experience came when he sang in Prague’s Dvorak Hall with 500 boys and men from choirs around the world during the group’s 2004 visit to the Czech Republic. “It is a phenomenal sound when all these different voices become one,” he recalls.

“Singing gives boys a chance to express things that are difficult for them to express in other ways,” Dunbar explains. “Boys can be sensitive and deep, and it’s hard to find an outlet for that. With singing you don’t have to talk about how you feel.” And the camaraderie of the group makes for lasting friendships, says Dunbar, who invites interested boys to take part in the group’s ongoing informal auditions.

“It’s a rare thing to have a boy choir in a community,” Dunbar says. “And you don’t need to go to a cathedral in England to see one. We have one right here.”