The American Boychoir School announced yesterday that it was closing immediately. The school, which was founded in 1937, performed under the name American Boychoir. It trained choirboys in Grades 4-8, and had suffered deep financial problems in recent years and a significant decline in enrollment. Its motto was “Brothers, Sing On.”
The American Boychoir performed extensively, including both domestic and international concert tours. These tours required a large financial budget, which was further burdened by the steep financial costs of litigation and settlements following allegations of decades of sexual abuse brought to public attention by the New York Times in 2002. The chairman of the school’s board of trustees, Rob D’Avanzo, stated “ABS does not have the cash it needs to open the school and cannot reasonably anticipate revenues that would allow it to finish the school year if it did open.”
For most of its history, the choir and school were based in Princeton, NJ and operated as a private, non-sectarian boarding school. Following the revelations by the New York Times, the school paid out almost a million dollars in settlements as well as substantial legal costs. The scandal also set off an attendant decline in enrollment and created fundraising problems.
In 2012, the American Boychoir School sold the Albemarle Estate, its longtime home built by Gerard Lambert with architectural designs by Harrie Lindeberg and gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. Despite the expensive sale – the property was listed for $5,900,000 – the school filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2015. Its enrollment, originally for boys Grades 6-8, expanded to Grades 4-8 over the years as boys’ voices started changing earlier. Enrollment stood around 80 in the 1950s, but eroded to just 32 boys by 2016. Anticipated attendance for the 2017-2018 attendance was just 20 boys – a level deemed unsustainable by the school administrators.
The American Boy Choir was founded in 1937 as The Columbus Boychoir, named after its original home in Columbus, OH. It moved to Princeton, NJ in 1950, when the school purchased the Albemarle Estate, and changed its name to the American Boy Choir in 1980. It moved to Plainsboro, NJ in 2012, and then to Rambling Pines Day Camp in Hopewell, NJ in 2015. Its close brings an end to 80 years of operations.