Choir director seeks to make better citizens, singers

Anthony Trecek-King is the artistic artistic director of the Boston Children’s Chorus. “Music changed my life,” he said. “Why not provide that opportunity for other people?”
Anthony Trecek-King is the artistic artistic director of the Boston Children’s Chorus. “Music changed my life,” he said. “Why not provide that opportunity for other people?”
Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Anthony Trecek-King never intended to study music, let alone become the director of a children’s choir. He had wanted to be an engineer since he was 10 years old. So, when he received a scholarship to study music, he considered it a temporary detour.

Today, Trecek-King, 36, is the artistic director of the Boston Children’s Chorus, an arts education organization that uses music to unite children, ages 7 to18, across diverse socioeconomic, racial, and religious backgrounds.

Boston Children’s Chorus, which began with a handful of children, encompasses 500 singers in 12 choirs in five locations. “I’m sharing my love for music with a new generation of musicians,” said Trecek-King. “Music changed my life. Why not provide that opportunity for other people?”

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Do children need to audition for the choir?

It’s a quick and easy audition. We try not to turn people away if they really want to do this. It’s more about how well the child can focus rather than musical talent. Kids learn at their own pace.

What is a typical rehearsal like?

It starts with a warm-up. We practice sight reading and then go through the paces. What makes our rehearsals different is that they are somewhat democratic. Singers have a lot of input into what needs to be done. Once in a while we’ll also have a discussion about something completely nonmusical, such as racism or homelessness. We’re trying to develop not just singers, but also better citizens.

How do you communicate your ideas as a conductor?

Mostly it’s nonverbal, with gestures, such as the way I move my hands. Or perhaps it’s the way I look. All these send a message to the singers. It’s cool when things are clicking. But when the hands break down, which is inevitable, I’ll use an analogy, “I want this to be like this.” As a last resort, I’ll demonstrate and sing the way I want them to sing.

What do you hope audiences take away after a concert?

I hope they are immersed in the experience. It’s a journey between me, the choir, and the audience. The audience has two to three minutes to get the message of the music that we have been working on for weeks.

What CD would you bring to a desert island?

I wouldn’t take anything. I don’t relax by listening to music. If my wife and I are traveling in a car and hear a song, I start analyzing how I might tackle that particular piece or how I can get my group to sound that good. It turns into work-related thoughts. So I would just bring myself and make my own music.