St. Paul's student back after four years with touring choir

For four years, R.C. McShane learned to adjust to being in new places. As a fulltime academic and music student at the American Boychoir School near Princeton, N.J., the Towson resident traveled to nearly 30 states to perform.

Now, at 15, he has to adjust to being back in a familiar place as a student at St. Paul's School.

"I had gone there in lower school and I knew some of the kids," R.C. said. "I was sort of a new kid and sort of a returning kid. It was kind of weird."

R.C. left St. Paul's after graduating from the Lower School when he was 11 to attend American Boychoir School, a small boarding school of about 50 students. According to its website, the school offers a traditional academic program with two hours of daily music rehearsals.

R.C.'s singing experience began at the Church of the Redeemer, where his family attended church, and his parents urged him to join the choir. He continued to sing at St. Paul's School, where as a Lower School student, he sang as a soprano in the school's prestigious Old St. Paul's Choir.

"The American Boychoir School's mission is to educate boys of different economic, religious and social backgrounds by their participation in a professional touring choir," said Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, music director at the school. "They learn, obviously, all the important music elements in terms of theory and performance, but the real goal of the institution is to teach them citizenship. … It's a very wholesome education that combines the expectations of a professional touring ensemble with vigorous academics."

Malvar-Ruiz remembers meeting R.C. for the first time on R.C.'s several visits to boychoir concerts before he enrolled.

"He wanted to make sure it was a right fit for him," Malvar-Ruiz said.

Ultimately, R.C. decided he didn't want to miss the opportunity the school presented.

"It was a chance I wasn't going to get again, so I decided to go for it and I really enjoyed it," R.C. said. "I went to 28 states, I met tons of people, spent hundreds of days on tour, performed hundreds of times. It was worth it, the whole entire time."

The group, which went yearly on tour for a range of two weeks to a month, traveled to big cities and small towns, staying with host families at every stop, R.C. said. Many of the performances were held in churches, and the performance repertoire included music from six different continents.

For his parents, Richard and Phyllis McShane, it was difficult to let their only child leave home at only 11 years old. But Phyllis McShane said it was the right decision.

"The music at the school is unparalled," she said. "They're probably better than the Vienna Boys Choir."

In the boarding school environment, the McShanes said they saw their son pursue his studies and take actions in a way he may not have anywhere else.

"Over those four years, he understood the rules," Phyllis McShane said. "He met them all, and he got to go on all the tours. There's no way his father and I could have provided that many vacations, but he did it in a structured setting when he was still going to school."

Because R.C. wanted to continue studying Japanese and it was not available at the boychoir school, he came home on weekends when he wasn't touring to study with a tutor. Richard McShane said he put more than 200,000 miles on his car making the two roundtrips to New Jersey each weekend.

R.C. also finds time to pursue playing golf and flying, the latter of which he picked up from his father. R.C. said he'd like to be a pilot when he grows up, but that's not how he'd like to earn a living.

"As a career, I'd like to be a physicist," he said. "I know that doesn't seem to fit with any of the things I said, but I enjoy physics and that's what I want to do."

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