After 80 years, America loses its boy choir school

After 80 years, America loses its boy choir school


norman lebrecht

August 16, 2017

Message received from Princeton, NJ:

August 15, 2017

Dear ABS Community,

I am writing with difficult news about the American Boychoir School.

Over the course of the summer, our anticipated enrollment for the 2017-18 school year declined unexpectedly. Students whom we had expected to return decided not to do so, and our recruiting efforts for new students failed to materialize at the levels we had seen in recent years. At present, we believe we would have only 19 to 21 boys with which to open the school in three weeks. This is at best the bare minimum for us to be able to present a professional choir that is up to our standards. In addition, at that level of enrollment, the amount of tuition we can expect to collect, after taking into account substantial grants of need-based financial aid, would be sharply lower than we had anticipated. Even with the continued generous support of the ABS community, the anticipated revenues would not support our operations, which include the satisfaction of our obligations under our Chapter 11 Plan of Reorganization. We worked very hard with our committed staff to try to fashion a reduced-cost “break even” budget within these revenue constraints; it just could not be done.

Our enrollment and budget projections for this school year are only part of the problem. As I explained last spring, to be in a position to open the school confidently this fall, ABS needed not only to finish last school year with a balanced result (which we did, thanks to an outpouring of contributions in May and June), but also to raise additional funds as working capital to give ABS a cash cushion that would carry it through the fall semester, while we waited for holiday concert revenues and contributions to cover operating costs. I told you then that ABS needed to raise a substantial portion of that working capital before this September. We have worked diligently to try to locate additional working capital from our donor base, and we have had some limited success. When we take a hard look at the numbers, however, it was clear that ABS does not have enough working capital to get through the fall semester.

When the lower enrollment and related lower tuition revenue are taken together with the constricted cash position, the conclusion is as clear as it is unpleasant: 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. If the school were opened in that position we expect that we would be forced to close it within one or two months. We cannot do that to our students, to their families, or to our staff.

On Monday evening, after a second extended meeting in as many nights, the Board of Trustees decided that the school cannot be opened this fall. We will proceed to wind down operations as soon as practicable, return all tuition deposits, notify Rambling Pines that ABS will not renew its lease, address the impact on our staff and students, and cancel all concert commitments.

I know this is deeply upsetting news for all of you, just as it is deeply upsetting for all of us. We regret the result for our students and for our staff, and for our long history as an American music institution. We simply could not see any other way. After all of our financial struggles over the past several years and a successful year of operations in 2016-17, we are stunned that our enrollment was not what we had anticipated it would be and that we do not have confidence that we have the resources to continue.

We thank our staff for its dedicated work, and we thank our families for trusting us with your boys. We hope that they will look back on their time in the American Boychoir School as a great learning experience and that they will flourish in the years ahead.


Rob D’Avanzo
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
American Boychoir School



  • Jerome Hoberman says:

    Maybe if it weren’t only boys…