Hitting the high notes | May 15, 2009 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Living - May 15, 2009

Hitting the high notes

David Kerns is a 'regular boy' - until he sings

by Susan Astbury

If your child starts banging on objects or shows an interest in music, it might be a good idea to take note. If he's a boy, he could end up attending the renowned Pacific Boychoir Academy and touring all over the world.

That's what happened to David Kerns, a 13-year-old Danville resident.

"Just as soon as David could sit up, he was playing the Tupperware with spoons," said his mother, Judy Kerns, a culinary arts teacher at Charlotte Wood Middle School.

When David was a preschooler, he and his mother participated in "Music Together," an early childhood program for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners and their parents.

"The director, Rowena Morgan, would look across the room and say, 'My gosh, look at David. He's exactly keeping time with the music,'" recalled Judy.

David next joined Contra Costa Children's Chorus as a soprano.

"My dad thought that I'd never sit still because I was really energetic," said David. "I went to New York in the second grade and we sang in Carnegie Hall with the Philharmonic, which was really cool."

When he was in the sixth grade, Judy heard a performance by the Pacific Boychoir, which has a school for grades 4 to 8 in Oakland.

"I arranged for David to meet and audition for Kevin Fox, artistic director for the Pacific Boychoir Academy. He sat in on a rehearsal and joined in as if he had been there all his life, and they invited him to join the school," Judy said.

The school, founded in 1998, is the only full-academic choir school on the West Coast, and it offers a tradition that dates back to the Fourth Century. More than 130 boys and young men receive a full academic program with daily music instruction.

"There are three pieces to being a good singer," noted Artistic Director Fox. "First, having a good voice; second, being a good musician; and third, having a good work ethic. It's very rare to find someone who has all three and David has all three."

The Pacific Boychoir has traveled all over world including South America, the South Pacific and Europe. David's first tour with them was to Italy.

"We sang in the Vatican as well as other locations," said David. "The Pope was on vacation though. We sang 12 concerts ... it was phenomenal."

Next they toured Argentina in 2007, followed by Hungary in 2008.

"We buddied up with a music school in Hungary so that was fun," recalled David. "We had a dance, some dinners, and a concert there and we went to one of their concerts."

"Generally I sing in either German or Latin but I've sung in Chinese, Japanese, Pacific Islander, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian and even English," he explained. "We learn German and Latin in school so that helps to know what we're singing about."

South Africa is this summer's destination. "We're going to travel around and sing at the biggest choir festival in the lower hemisphere," David said. "We're trying to raise the money for the trip by selling raffle tickets."

"Since joining (the academy) David has been immersed in music and he's gone from being a great singer to one of the finest boy sopranos in the country," said Judy. "He's had auditions with the San Francisco Opera, American Bach Soloists, and the lead in 'Amahl and the Night Visitors' with Trinity Lyric Opera."

"He's just a regular boy flying a kite, playing baseball, just being an eighth-grader," she added. "Then all of a sudden I'll hear him and think, 'Who's that singing?' and it just blows my mind. It's kind of fun that he can have an everyday life in Danville and then sing a solo for a couple thousand people."

"It's good to sing with the choir but after you've done a solo, it's really great to hear the audience applaud," David said.

Special precautions are taken at the academy to protect the singers' voices. "We're not allowed to yell or do anything that hurts your voice, like whispering," David said. "You're supposed to drink a lot of apple juice and Gatorade, not orange juice, milk or soda. We're not supposed to eat peanut butter before a concert."

The academy is having a Spring Serenade on May 31; visit www.pacificboychoiracademy.org for more information.

In addition to playing the drums every Sunday at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Danville, David's interests include basketball and Boy Scouts. In the fall, he will attend the Athenian School in Danville.

"It will be a huge change," said Judy. "He's a superstar right now. At Athenian they won't know anything about his singing experience. It will be all about what he can do there within their structure and their value system, which will be great."

David plans to continue singing throughout high school with the tenors and basses.

"I might have music as my minor in college, I don't know if I'll do it professionally," he said. "I've wanted to join the Air Force at one point. I've also wanted to be a vet and a surgeon. But I think I probably want to go into medicine."

What advice does David have for aspiring singers?

"You have to want to be good at what you're doing, and you have to practice and work at it," he stated. "You're not necessarily going to be good from day one. It's taken me eight years"

"But once you get good at it, it's worth it in the end," he added.