by Winston Chua
SAN MARINO – Take one cup of a mother’s love, a pinch of her broken-hearted seventh-grade son and a spoonful of that awkward pubescent stage of a boy’s life where the larynx enlarges, the vocal chords thicken and a boy is not sure what he’s supposed to sound like. What’ve you got? A recipe for something magical.
In a nutshell, that really is how the Young Men’s Ensemble (YME) of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus began roughly five years ago, when recent LACC Gala Bel Canto honoree Mary Blodgett was faced with an interesting quandary – where to find a singing group for her son Isaac, whose sudden voice change was just as sudden as the feeling of disconnect he felt from no longer being able to sing with his longtime friends in the Treble Choir.
In 2008, Blodgett and generous sponsors helped to establish the YME, a group of 20 young men who range in age from 13 to 18 and can no longer hit the highest of the highest notes but hope to remain rooted in the highest levels of opera and classical music.
“Sometimes a boy might be in three different vocal places throughout the course of a year,” Blodgett said. “But by the end of the year, they’re amazing. They learn how to sing and how to work through the voice change.”
“Music gives you this freedom that a lot of other subjects in school don’t give you,” Isaac said. “It’s a freedom to experiment with feelings and passions that other subjects may have but are harder to reach.”
Because of her efforts in supporting the LACC (famous for the impeccable vocal training it provides to youth) and her husband Carlton Calvin’s generosity, the LACC in April honored the couple as distinguished advocates and benefactors. The YME now has 30 members, filled with superbly talented tenor ones, tenor twos, baritones and basses. Many of the singers will matriculate to Ivy League schools. Most, if not all, will develop an amazing poise.
Isaac is now 18 and will attend Columbia University in the fall where he will entertain the possibility of singing professionally. At the very least he looks forward to participating in the vocal community in the East Coast. During the tribute to Blodgett and Calvin, Isaac even serenaded his mother with a heartwarming rendition of “O Solo Mio” that brought his mother to tears.
Blodgett’s nine-year stint as an LACC board member will be complete in 2015. Her other son, Seth, is thinking about returning to the YME after a brief hiatus where he was learning to master the saxophone.
Nestle and other donors have made music programs possible for Webster Elementary School in Pasadena and Heart of Los Angeles, hoping to attract kids of all backgrounds into the classical music scene.
The YME will perform for Pope Francis in the summer, while touring Germany, Austria, Venice and Rome beginning June 15.
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