Issaquah boy extends his range with Northwest Boychoir
May 26, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
Aspiring musicians yearn for a chance to play Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony or perform alongside Grammy-nominated vocalists.
Benjamin Richardson, 10, has accomplished all of the above.
A member of the prestigious Northwest Boychoir, Benjamin and his fellow pint-sized performers frequent concert halls and other venues across the Puget Sound region and throughout the state.
He also plays gigs closer to his Issaquah home: Benjamin and his mother perform at the Issaquah Farmers Market.
“You can put your emotion into music,” Benjamin said. “I enjoy knowing that I’m giving people joy.”
His mother, Rochelle Pearson, plays viola in the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra. Pearson also teaches viola and violin. Her pianist husband, Harry Richardson, is the music director at Seattle First Presbyterian Church, where the family also worships. Benjamin took to music at an early age.“Even when he was a toddler, he was singing all the time,” Pearson said.
Benjamin began playing the cello when he was 3. He joined the choir when he was 5. He kept pace with the rigorous schedule of rehearsals and performances. When he was 9, he became the second-youngest boy ever to be accepted into the elite Performing Choir. In April, he won first place for his cello performance at the Performing Arts Festival of the Eastside.
“He’s done more in his short life than I’ve done in almost my entire career,” Pearson said.
The top Northwest Boychoir groups are made up of about 70 boys, ages 9-18. Many of the singers start training in first grade. They must advance through four levels of training before entering the Performing Choir. The choir received a Grammy nomination for its CD, “The Shoe Bird” — a fable recorded with the Seattle Symphony and narrated by Jim Dale, who voiced all 134 characters in the Harry Potter audio books. Though Benjamin did not perform on the CD, he learned the challenges of recording firsthand through other works the choir recorded.
“Recording was a very hard experience,” he said. “At the end, Joe sent us an e-mail telling us how awesome we did.”
Benjamin and his musician parents moved to Issaquah in 2002. Benjamin, who is home-schooled, plays soccer, table tennis and the occasional video game when he’s not rehearsing or performing.
He joined other members of the Performing Choir for rehearsal May 20 in the basement of the University Heights Community Center in Seattle’s University District. Joseph Crnko, director of the Northwest Boychoir, led Benjamin and a few dozen other vocalists through renditions of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and other standards. Crnko admonished choir members to hone their talent.
“This is a blood-and-guts moment and you’ve got to do it,” Crnko said.
The boys were practicing for a May 29 concert featuring classic American folk and spiritual music. The concert, including performances by members of the Duwamish tribe, will be part of Tukwila’s centennial celebration.
The choir is also readying for a tour of Washington, D.C., in July and an appearance at the renowned Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina.
Benjamin plans to continue performing. He has his sights set on Vocalpoint! Seattle, a group for accomplished teenage singers. For now, however, he remains focused on what comes next for the Northwest Boychoir.
“We get to sing in a lot of fun events for a lot of people,” he said.
Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.