While there was a lot of turnover in 2014-15 (as there often is at small private schools, as well as at the public schools our children have attended), I am very pleased with the young, enthusiastic, and dedicated teachers now at the school. My son's middle school teachers are working on advanced degrees and are very knowledgeable and enjoy sharing this with the PBA students. My son is learning a lot from them, and it is such a remarkable improvement in all subjects and at all levels over the public middle school that our older son attended.
I am not big on homework for the sake of homework. I want it to be meaningful and something they can't easily do in the classroom. So I find the balance just fine for the majority of my son's classes in middle school. Their English teacher has been successfully coaching them on how to write better (with great results for my son!). They put on a well-rehearsed and hilariously funny performance of Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors, and wrote much about it as homework and had many in-class discussions. When my son needed more advanced math work, his math and science teacher found websites and a mathematics of music book for him to work through. This is all "good" homework, not too much and not too little.
The very nature of the discipline and teamwork with which the boys must approach their accomplishments in music and concert tours carries over into the rest of the school. The rules are strict but the rewards are high.
PBA is a fantastic fit for our son, now in 7th grade. After visiting an open house in 4th grade, our son decided he wanted to “sing and travel the world” and to leave his beloved public elementary school a year early to attend PBA in 5th grade. As a family, we are grateful for all the experiences and opportunities PBA affords him, from world-class music training and performances, to enriching academics and dedicated teachers, to a community of overall kind and well-disciplined boys (yes, even middle school boys can be polite and caring!).
I'd think twice before sending your son here. There's been nearly 100% turnover of teachers in the past year (the most senior is the part-time Spanish teacher, who's only been there 18 months) and a 35% decline in enrollment - not signs of a healthy organization. The musical education is great, but the quality of the academic education has nose-dived recently - it's mediocre, at best. Unless your son is planning to become a professional singer (and maybe even then), I'd skip it.
Great is not a word that I would use to describe this school. There are three major concerns: The first is priorities. The reputation of the choir is priority number one. Your son is important only insofar as he contributes to the choir and he will be expected to arrange his life around rehearsals and performances. The school is mainly a way to supply the choir with boys who sing beautifully and rehearse daily, but not much more than that. The second concern is how the school understands boys. They advertise as boy friendly with pitches like we understand boy. However, they basically view issues and problems that boys present from a moralistic perspective rather than one informed by knowledge about child development. The school lacks a learning specialist and a counselor and that becomes evident very quickly. A third concern has to do with planning and management of local and international tours. There have been problems related to the care and well-being of the boys. When our son was at the school very few of the staff members who chaperoned tours were parents and that really showed in terms of how they responded or not to the boys physical and emotional needs.
Pacific Boy Choir Academy is truly a unique educational and character development experience for young boys in 4th through 8th grades. The school is located in Oakland, CA and its enrollment reflects the bay area's diverse community. In addition to rigorous, dynamic, broad and challenging academic classes, the combination of hard work with extraordinary accomplishment, yields lifelong lessons for impressionable young boys in the area of both teamwork and personal responsibility. The opportunities this school has given my 12 year old son are simply incredible. From performing classics in Russian, German, Latin and French with professional symphonies and opera companies to traveling internationally and learning through those experiences, I am so grateful my son has this opportunity to attend Pacific Boychoir Academy. Once he graduates, while in high school, my son will continue to participate in performances and trips as part of the academy's "changed voices" and "continuum" choirs. It's an experience of a lifetime!
I think this school is the one of the best kept secrets in Oakland. My son has attended since the 4th grade. He is now in 7th. I am considering holding him back a year so he doesn't have to leave. Just kidding! (Sort of.) The academic program is challenging and creative. They do a serious in depth study of a different Shakespeare play every year. It takes months and all of the kids are completely into it. They learn to really read with depth, and this is the mentality that guides the entire academic program.The musical education (up to two hours a day) they get is definitely unsurpassed, and probably unequaled anywhere in the US. They also keep a rigorous and exciting performance schedule. There is enough diversity among the student population that any kid who liked music would be happy here.My son feels safe, and cared for, and valued and he is proud of his accomplishments and proud of his school. We love this place.