A Closer Look at Life at Saint Thomas Choir School

Discover what life at Saint Thomas Choir School is like. Faculty and choristers describe everything from music and performance to academic classes to living with 30 brothers in the heart of New York City.

Now that you’ve had a closer look, come see us.

Driven by our commitment to our students and to offering an unparalleled education, we are relocating temporarily to a 740-acre campus in Connecticut for the first quarter of the academic year in response to COVID.
Our location may change, but our culture, our mission, and our musical heritage will carry on uninterrupted. Hear what faculty and students have to say about life at STCS.

 

And although our NYC campus is closed due to COVID, we intend to return as soon as it is safe to do so. We are conducting tours of our NYC campus via FaceTime and are currently accepting applications for grades 4 and 5 for the 2020-2021 academic year.  Arrange your tour today at admissions@choirschool.org.

Why STCS?

Founded in 1919, Saint Thomas Choir School, located in the heart of New York City, is one of three of its kind in the world, and the only one in the United States.

All of our students sing as treble choristers in the renowned Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys. We combine one of the most varied and demanding musical programs in the world with a robust academic curriculum, interscholastic sports, and fine arts education all within a familial community just steps from Central Park, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and The Museum of Modern Art.

At Saint Thomas, boarding isn’t part of the experience – it is the experience. You develop deep bonds through numerous shared experiences: family-style meals, sports, summer camp, an annual ski trip, and a capstone 8th grade trip, to name a few. It’s about becoming resilient, flexible and collaborative in a nurturing environment. It’s about living in and being part of the arts capital of the nation. It’s transformative, and at the end of your time here, you will see yourself in an entirely new way. Explore what life here is like

Tuition for 2020-2021 is $16,500, and admission is need-blind. We are also pleased to be able to meet 100% of our students’ financial need. Any boy who likes music is encouraged to apply.

A Glimpse of Chorister Life

What is life as a chorister at Saint Thomas Choir School like? Have a look!

Now that you’ve had a glimpse, come “see” us.

Although our campus is closed due to COVID, we are conducting tours via FaceTime and are currently accepting applications for grades 4 and 5 for the 2020-2021 academic year.  Arrange your tour today at admissions@choirschool.org.

 

Why STCS?

Tuition for 2020-2021 is $16,500, and admission is need-blind. We are also pleased to be able to meet 100% of our students’ financial need. Any boy who likes music is encouraged to apply.

Founded in 1919, Saint Thomas Choir School, located in the heart of New York City, is one of three of its kind in the world, and the only one in the United States.

All of our students sing as treble choristers in the renowned Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys. We combine one of the most varied and demanding musical programs in the world with a robust academic curriculum, interscholastic sports, and fine arts education all within a familial community just steps from Central Park, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and The Museum of Modern Art.

Whether it is leading services with music, performing in our annual concert series, ringing the opening bell on Wall Street, singing with pop stars at the tree lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Center, filming a television segment or going on tour, there’s always something meaningful on the horizon. Learn how you will develop and contribute your talents here. 

Message from Interim Head of School

June 4, 2020

Dear Saint Thomas Choir School Community,

I write to you today knowing that many within our community are hurting. Hearts are heavy with the weight of this past week’s events, as we reckon with the burdens of hatred, racism, and violence piled on top of a society stretched thin by the ongoing global pandemic.

In light of the recent protests and riots, I am reaching out to say that our thoughts and prayers go out to all members of our community spread across the country and the world, especially to those who may be feeling unsafe or at risk. We deeply hope that all of you are and continue to be well and safe as these events unfold. Our building and staff members are all safe.

Saint Thomas Choir School stands in solidarity with those seeking justice, and we pray for reconciliation, compassion, and healing for our community, our city, and our nation.

In hope and peace,
Amy Francisco

Launch of Head of School Search

We have launched the search for the new Head of the Saint Thomas Choir School. A search committee, with representatives from the church and the school (see below), has been formed and has begun its work under the leadership of Warden Kazie Metzger Harvey. Carney, Sandoe & Associates, a well-recognized consulting firm and one of the largest firms that focus exclusively on the educational sector, was selected to aid us in this process. Senior Consultant Bob Vitalo is actively engaged in assisting the search committee with its work. A detailed position description is available here: Head of School Position Description. The recruitment of candidates, both nationally and internationally, has commenced.  In the late summer/early fall, we will interview semi-finalists.  Finalists will visit and meet members of the school community early in the fall. Our goal is to have a selection and an appointment by October or November.

Please do not contact the Choir School directly about this appointment.  Instead, kindly reach out directly via email to Bob Vitalo:  robert.vitalo@carneysandoe.com

 

Preliminary Stages of the Search

We are in the first stages of a search for the new Head of the Saint Thomas Choir School. Even with all the change to life as we know it as a result of Covid-19, this update is to brief you as to the process which we will follow so that we can identify and hire the best possible Head of School. We want to be ready to move ahead as we enter our second century.

First, we would like to announce that Amalia Francisco has graciously agreed to serve as Interim Head until the summer of 2021. The school is fortunate to have Amy on staff and we are confident that the School is in excellent hands. Amy has our full support and we know that every member of the school community will be committed to providing any assistance she may need to be successful. As we commence the search for a new Head of School, Amy has informed the Choir School Committee and Vestry that she will not be a candidate so that her focus can remain solely on making sure that the next year and a half provides the best possible experience for the students and faculty. This will also allow her to be best placed to help with the transition to a new Head of School.

 

Search Committee Appointments

We are pleased to share with you the members of the Search Committee, who represent alumni, parents, faculty, staff, vestry, the music department, and an independent educator. Together, we will work diligently in the weeks and months ahead to conduct a thorough process according to the National Association of Independent School guidelines to identify the best candidate to lead The Choir School into the next decade.

  • Kazie Metzger Harvey, Warden, Chair of the Choir School Committee, Chair of the Search Committee
  • The Rev. Canon Carl Turner, Rector of Saint Thomas Church
  • Amalia Francisco, Interim Head of the Saint Thomas Choir School
  • Dr. Jeremy Filsell, Director of Music, Saint Thomas Church
  • Vance Wilson, Educator, Writer, Headmaster Emeritus, St. Alban’s School, Washington, DC
  • Rachel Segger, Parent ’15, ’19, ’23, Music Associate, Trinity on the Green, New Haven
  • Julia Babson Alling, Parent ’22, Annual Appeal Manager, Office of the Presiding Bishop
  • Pamela Lewis, Vestry Member, Retired Lead French Teacher, Hunter High School
  • Miriam Allman, Houseparent of the Saint Thomas Choir School
  • Aaron Primero, ’05, Alumni Association President, Choir School Committee Member

 

Search firm selected

After evaluating an impressive group of executive search firms, we chose Carney, Sandoe & Associates (CS&A) to partner with us in our Head of School search process. CS&A is a well-recognized consulting firm and one of the largest firms that focus exclusively on the educational sector. Through their offerings of leadership placement, strategic planning, and executive coaching for independent schools, they have developed an extensive network and meaningful connections with top talent worldwide.

We are excited to work with CS&A Senior Consultant, Robert Vitalo. Bob focuses on retained head of school searches, senior administrative searches, and strategic planning with boards and heads. With experience in elementary, single sex, Episcopal, and K-12 schools, Bob works with a wide range of schools on their leadership needs. Bob has been a frequent presenter at NAIS, NYSAIS, NBOA, and CASE.

Bob served as Head of School at The Berkeley Carroll School (NY) from 2006 to 2019. Prior to BCS, he served as Headmaster at Fairfield Country Day School (CT) and Head of School at Media-Providence Friends School (PA) where he also held roles as Assistant Head of School and Head Teacher of the Lower School. He also taught at Grace Church School (NY) and in New York City Public Schools. Bob has served on committees and boards for the New York State Association of Independent Schools, Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, and International Coalition of Boys’ Schools, among others.

Bob received his B.S. in education from New York University and an M.A. in psychology from Columbia University. He has served on the boards of independent schools, a charter school, and several child advocacy groups. Bob resides with his wife in New York City.

Questions about the search and referral of potential candidates can be sent directly to Bob at:

robert.vitalo@carneysandoe.com

 

The Search Process

Our collective responsibility as a Search Committee is to conduct a comprehensive national search and manage the process of nominating the next Head of School. We will strive to make this search as inclusive as possible, taking into consideration the input of many constituents while balancing community participation with respect for the privacy of candidates. This careful balance, along with a flexible schedule, will enable us to attract superior talent.

 

Timetable

Even working remotely, these next few months will be a busy time. While our consultant will not be personally meeting with faculty and staff, alumni, parents, and vestry, he will be conducting surveys and speaking directly to as many people as possible. The purpose of these interactions is to hear as many perspectives we can as to what the School community seeks in our next Head. To ensure that all voices are heard, we will send a confidential electronic survey to the Vestry, Choir School Committee, Faculty, current parent body, and Alumni Association. This will be a critical step in the process and we strongly encourage your participation if you are one of those constituent groups. Feedback received from these telephone conversations and electronic surveys will help us identify the qualities, skills and characteristics that the incoming Head of School should possess. As the COVID-19 situation may improve in the coming weeks and months, we will continue to explore all ways that school community members can have a voice.  Our consultant will use all this valuable input to prepare a position profile that will be used to formally recruit candidates. A detailed position description will then be posted on the church and school websites as well as CS&A’s. Recruiting begins in late spring, or as soon as possible, and goes into the summer. By late summer/early fall we will be interviewing semi-finalists. Finalists will visit the school and meet with members of the school community early in the fall. We are hoping to have a selection and appointment by October or November.

Given the Choir School’s strength and excellent reputation, we fully anticipate many talented candidates across the country will be attracted to this incredible leadership opportunity and vibrant School community. We have established a new search webpage where you can send comments and candidate recommendations. We will also post the position description there when available.

We truly believe that this will be an exciting and fulfilling process as we proceed into the next 100 years.

 

The Rev. Carl Turner

Rector, Saint Thomas Church

 

Kazie Metzger Harvey

Warden, Saint Thomas Church & Chair of the Choir School Committee

 

COVID-19 Response and Information

We are thrilled to announce that Saint Thomas Choir School will be opening the 2020/2021 school year with a temporary residence at the Incarnation Center in Ivoryton, CT!  Fresh air, a large, idyllic campus and most importantly, the ability to learn, sing, socialize and play together in the safest way possible.

We have been spending the last two weeks of our school year at camp at the Incarnation Center for decades.  Thus, it was a natural thought when we began our scenario planning for 2020/2021 to consider this familiar campus as a possible, temporary home for our school while we wait out the COVID crisis.

Our re-opening plan is predicated upon the idea of the school being a self-contained, germ-sharing pod in which the school will take a number of precautions at the beginning to establish the pod and then will be able to remove some of these restrictions, allowing the boys to play together, learn together, and sing together. We feel that, under the current pandemic conditions, this plan is be the safest way for us to bring our community back together in person, and will provide the best experience for our students and teachers.

We will also be able to provide a robust musical experience for the boys under Dr. Filsell’s direction, and plans are underway to establish a schedule that offers the choristers the opportunity to perform in several services each week for our pod-community in Connecticut under the oversight of a chaplain, helping the boys to stay connected to Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and helping them to continue the tradition of musical excellence upon which the Choir School was founded over 100 years ago.

In formulating our plans, a Fall 2020 Scenario Planning Working Group was assembled of school administrators, faculty members, and medical personnel. The Working Group has been meeting once or twice each week since early May to discuss scenario planning. Members of the Working Group have focused on different areas of school life, and have spent hundreds of hours reading articles, studies, and governmental guidance; speaking with infectious disease experts, pediatricians, and school medical personnel; working with experts in risk management and in school legal issues; attending many webinars produced by NYSAIS, NAES, NAIS, OESIS, NATS, OneSchoolhouse, NEASC, and the Klingenstein Center; meeting individually with over fifteen heads of other independent schools; and meeting frequently with other key stakeholders in the Saint Thomas community. The goals of our planning are to be prepared to educate the students safely regardless of how the pandemic shifts, and to be able to provide a positive educational experience to our students consistent with our mission and our values.

All of the conversations generally during the COVID-19 crisis and particularly in planning for Fall 2020 have served as powerful reminders of how strong and resilient our community has proven to be, and of how lucky we are to have such a talented, committed group of educators and dedicated, engaged families and students.

We have divided the academic calendar into quarters for this upcoming year, and will re-evaluate the plan in advance of each quarter. After our time at Incarnation Center and a two-week vacation, we will either be transitioning back to New York City if health and testing conditions allow us to do so, or making a planned transition to distance learning.

As always, all of our plans throughout this pandemic are subject to change at any time: flexibility will continue to be our watchword as we monitor the ongoing medical developments, health conditions, and government requirements to make sure that we are keeping our community as safe as we possibly can.

Timeline of actions and decisions taken

March 2: The Choir School advised parents that it was closely monitoring the growing crisis, taking steps to reduce student exposure according to guidance issued by the New York City Department of Health and advised parents to be mindful of CDC travel restrictions when making Easter break travel plans. A letter and Frequently Asked Questions Guide from the New York City Department of Health with information about the coronavirus and general flu prevention measures was distributed.

March 10-15: Under the guidance of Interim Head of School, Amalia Francisco, faculty quickly developed and implemented a plan for distance learning using Zoom and Microsoft Teams in all subjects, including choir, voice, and instrument lessons.  All of the boys were instructed in how to use Zoom, including a full, practice day at school prior to the boys leaving to trouble-shoot any issues and  ensure a smooth transition.

March 15:  All students returned home, bringing their school-supplied laptops with them. Residential faculty and staff remain at the school and are following all protocols to remain healthy and safe. All other faculty and staff are working remotely.

March 17 and 18: Ms. Francisco hosted two online meetings with parents to present more information on the Choir School’s plan, give parents instruction in how to use the Zoom platform, and address any questions and concerns from parents.

March 18: Distance learning began with a full schedule from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. All regular classes continue with both faculty and parents reporting a successful transition to virtual classrooms. Father Turner reiterated the Church’s commitment and ability to maintain the Choir School and the entire Saint Thomas community during this uncertain period and into the future.

March 20: Plans for virtual student recruitment begin to ensure that prospective students and their families can continue to move forward with their applications and auditions.

May 15: The Fall 2020 Scenario Planning Working Group, composed of Mrs. Wentling, Mrs. Allman, Dr. Gilbert, Ms. Hruska, and Ms. Francisco, began meeting weekly to talk through the different possible scenarios for Fall 2020. Our goal was to think through the number of different paths the pandemic might take over the next several months, and to prepare so that we are ready for whichever scenario we find ourselves in both in September and as the year carries forward. Always, we worked to keep the health and well-being of the boys and of our entire community at the center of our thinking. Throughout this process, we have come to realize that flexibility and nimbleness will need to be our watchwords as we move forward: with so much information changing so rapidly, we will need to be prepared to adapt to shifting circumstances, perhaps without much advance warning. By engaging in scenario planning at this stage, however, we prepared our school community to able to take a path that has already been at least roughly charted, and to move between such paths if necessary.

August 8: As a result of the current state of the pandemic and New York’s updated guidance about school reopening, the Choir School Committee, Vestry, and school and church leadership have decided that we will be opening the 2020/2021 academic year with a temporary residency at the idyllic Incarnation Center in Ivoryton, CT, where we will conduct all of our school activities for the first quarter of the academic year.

We will continue to update this page and send out emails to all community members on changes to this fluid situation and appropriate responses for our community.

Alumni reflect on 100 years of Saint Thomas Choir School

A wonderful write-up by Egan Millard at the Episcopal News Service:

“That means the students’ experience is marked by intense and disciplined immersion in the rich Anglican choral tradition, singing at least five services a week in the church, as well as international tours, concerts with symphonies and unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Thomas Carroll (class of 1988, and the son of a 1945 graduate) remembers singing the world premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem Mass at St. Thomas Church in 1985 with Plácido Domingo and Sarah Brightman.”

Read “As the only choir boarding school in America turns 100, alumni reflect on its lasting influence” at Episcopal News Service.org

The Epoch Times: Noble Singing at Saint Thomas Choir School, 100 Years On

Lorraine Ferrier of The Epoch Times writes about “North America’s only choral boarding school”

“For the choristers, it’s not only about singing. It’s about personally holding themselves to the highest standards, having that reverence and professionalism. Jonathan believes it’s important to “set an example, whether kneeling or sitting, not talking, showing respect for whoever is [there], and showing that you really care about what you do and how you do it.”

Read “Noble Singing at Saint Thomas Choir School, 100 Years On” here

Listen Magazine: “A Musical Boarding”

Damian Fowler writes for Listen Magazine about “a particular kind of education” found at the Choir School:

“After rehearsal the boys attend classes, which include English, science, French, math, art and, of course, Individual music lessons. (Most of the boys play a musical instrument, too.) The boys also have a good amount of time to play sports and run around the gym or Central Park, which is a block away. But come 4:00 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday, the boys walk two-by-two down the street to Saint Thomas Church, don their scarlet cassocks and become choirboys singing Evensong with the full choir.”

Read the full article here (PDF).