CINCINNATI — For anyone who has ever asked how to get to Carnegie Hall, the directions are quite simple – if not easy.
“It’s been a lot of practice,” said Ryan McLagan, who just finished the fourth grade at Villa Madonna Academy in Northern Kentucky.
On Thursday, McLagan and 43 other Cincinnati Boychoir Ambassadors began a seven-day summer tour of New York City. Part of that tour includes performing at Carnegie Hall on Sunday. The elite-level choir made up of elementary through high school-age students will sing alongside other groups from around the country as part of the Masterwork Festival Chorus.
Cincinnati Boychoir artistic director and CEO Christopher Eanes estimates the Ambassadors have spent nearly 200 hours preparing for the tour, which is the Boychoir's annual, year-end event.
“We’re not just going there to sing at Carnegie Hall,” Eanes said. "We’re actually going there to do quite a bit of exploration of Hispanic culture.”
Part of the Ambassadors hours of practice involved learning to sing songs in Spanish for two free concerts they'll perform outside of the Carnegie. One performance is being held at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Bernard and the other at the Church of The Transfiguration. The group is also scheduled to visit Highbridge Voices, a children’s choir program similar to the Boychoir, tour Ellis Island and explore various places to eat.
“Travel, we feel, is an incredible part of a young man’s journey,” Eanes said. “One of the things we’re trying to accomplish at the Boychoir is first of all to expand the orbit of the boys."
For nearly 10 years, Eanes, along with his wife and Boychoir managing artistic director KellyAnn Nelson, organized and chaperoned summer tours that have taken Ambassadors to the other side of the country, and world.
The group has sung and toured festivals in Los Angeles and the Southern United States. Last year the Ambassadors traveled to South Africa.
“We choose it very carefully based on what we want to learn about the world,” Eanes said of every summer tour.
Before traveling to South Africa, the Ambassadors studied apartheid through a partnership with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. They also learned traditional South African songs to perform while there.
“We were able to sing and really immerse ourselves in the culture there,” said Ryan Devlin-Bergman, a senior Boychoir Ambassador. "We were able to sing the South African songs in the way that the South Africans would sing them.”
The New York visit is Devlin-Bergman’s eighth summer tour as a Boychoir Ambassador. The trip to Carnegie Hall will be the last tour for both Devlin-Bergman and Eanes.
Devlin-Bergman is attending the University of Dayton in the fall, where he will study mechanical engineering. Eanes and Nelson are moving to Washington D.C. for new jobs after a decade managing the Boychoir.
"It's been a fantastic experience for me and really allowed me to grow into the man I am today," Devlin-Bergman said of spending 10 years with the Boychoir. "It allowed me to kind of explore my own leadership skills."
Eanes said he knows he's leaving the Boychoir in capable hands. In May, the Boychoir named Katie MacDonald its new executive director. MacDonald comes to the organization with a resume that includes for-profit and non-profit experience.
There are also young Ambassadors like McLagan with many more summer tours ahead of him to continue the Boychoir's mission of education and enrichment.
“I’ve learned to always be able to work together as a team because you can’t do everything in life by yourself," McLagan said. "You have to have people you can rely on to help you out."
And that is sweet music to Eanes' ears.
"Everybody has the opportunity to succeed and when they do, it's just a fantastic thing to watch," he said. "It's really been a privilege."