• 48°

Boyle teen to sing, study with American Boychoir

By KENDRA PEEK
kendra.peek@amnews.com

As a little boy, in the backseat of his mom’s car, Kaeden Ford knew he was going to be famous some day.

“Every time when I was little, and I was in the car, every time when I was with my mother (Whitney Pittman), I was in the back of the car and I would sing all the time. I would say, ‘I’m going to be famous. I’m going to be famous when I grow up.’ And she’d tell me, ‘I know you will,’” Kaeden said.

It seems the 14-year-old is on the cusp of making that dream come true, as he’s been accepted to sing with the American Boychoir from Princeton, New Jersey. He gets to attend the choir school in New Jersey and tour with the choir around nation — maybe even around the world.

Kaeden said he’s most excited about “being able to sing every day.”

But going that far from home does make him a bit nervous.

Kaeden, who lives with his grandparents Michael and Alycea Pittman, will live with a host family in New Jersey, likely the family of another participant in the choir, and attend the private school, which is especially for members of the choir. His grandmother likened it to being a foreign exchange student.

The American Boychoir was founded in 1937 in Columbus and moved to Princeton in 1950. The mission for the all-boys choir is to take 12 boys in fourth through eighth grades and train them to be members of one of the best choirs in the world.

Later on in the school year, the choir will begin traveling to perform. The teachers will go too, continuing the lessons as they travel around the United States.

The school year begins after Labor Day.

Kaeden got his big break earlier this year, when their tour brought the American Boychoir to Danville’s First Presbyterian Church. As a member of the Danville Children’s Choir, Kaeden performed with his group before the main show.
It was during the performance of the American Boychoir that Director Fernando Malvar-Ruiz announced open auditions for the American Boychoir would be held and anyone who was interested could meet him beside the piano after the show.

“I didn’t think I was actually going to get in. She did not think I was going to get in,” he said and smiled, talking about his grandmother.

Pittman admitted that she had her doubts — Kaeden has a beautiful voice, but she wasn’t sure it was at a national-competition level. She was also surprised when Kaeden wasn’t more nervous about going to school in New Jersey.

“Kaeden’s up front with the group and after, I’m making my way up front to get him so we can go home. He goes, ‘I’m going to try out. I’m going to audition.’ I said, ‘Kaeden, this is based in Princeton, New Jersey.’ He said, ‘Okay.’”

“To be really honest, I said, ‘You know, you’ll probably never see this person again. Just knock his socks off, and he can critique you and help,’” Pittman said. “Everybody that listens to (Kaeden) sing, we all love him. And he’s always loved to sing. I thought, ‘It’d be nice, a total stranger, giving him some pointers.’”

Instead, she said, Malvar-Ruiz’s eyebrows shot up.

“He said, ‘I want him. I want him,’” she said. “And Kaeden’s going, ‘She didn’t think I could do it!’”

The teen attended camp this summer and at the end of the week, just before his departure, Malvar-Ruiz came up to his grandparents again, saying that he wanted Kaeden to be part of the choir.

In both instances, he was offered full, or almost full scholarships. Without those, she said, it would have been a lot harder to make it happen, as it would have been like a year of college.

“Everything we kept thinking and putting up obstacles, doors just kept opening. I told him, we just have to trust God,” Pittman said.

While he admits it makes him nervous to commit to a full year away from home, Kaeden said he is going to give it his best effort. He said he also remembers a line from the sitcom “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” which states that if you are afraid, you should count to 10. Then, count to 10 again and continue counting to 10, because anything becomes easier to handle in 10-second intervals.

Being away from his friends will be hard, specifically friends like McKenzie Stearman, Alyssa Wray, Delaney Dennis, Skyler Wilson and others who have been supportive, encouraging him to do what is best for him.

Since being accepted, Kaeden has been learning how to play the piano thanks to his friend Casey Huggins Smith. He said he also has to thank Karen Logue, managing director of West T. Hill, who has taught the teen so much since he started performing on her stage.

“She has helped me become a better actor. I want to thank her a lot,” he said.
Kaeden danced with Champions Elite Dance in Lawrenceburg for two years, but has had to take time off to prepare for the choir. Kaeden said he wants to pick it back up because he “enjoyed” dancing.

While he’s been singing to his family his whole life — staging performances for his grandparents from about the age of 4 — it wasn’t until he decided to sing during Christmas one year at the family’s church, Lexington Avenue Baptist, that others learned of his talents. Phil Quinn, the church’s minister of music, gave him the first chance and has been encouraging him to sing there ever since.
Others have encouraged the teen to follow his passions, such as his “Aunt Rita” Zirnheld, a close personal friend of Alycea Pittman’s, and Rachel Barrett and Tyler and Meredith Pittman, his aunts and uncle.

“I feel like this is a godly thing. Sometimes I wonder why God gave me the talents I have. But I’m glad I got the talents from him,” Kaeden said.

Currently, his talents are leading him beyond his comfort zone. But, he said, “You have to be brave in order to do something,” giving credit to another friend from the theatre, Lydia Graham, who has followed her talents to The Juilliard School this year.

Kaeden said he would like to possibly attend the School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Lexington to complete his high school education.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.

SO YOU KNOW

To learn more about The American Boychoir and the upcoming schedule, visit americanboychoir.org or find the organization on Facebook.