A Letter from the Chairman of the Board
June 11, 2015
Dear ABS Family and Friends,
I write today with good news. At a meeting earlier this week, the Board of Trustees voted to move forward with the work necessary to open the American Boychoir School this fall under a "homestay" model. The vote was unanimous.
That is indeed cause for optimism, but there is a lot of hard work in front of us. I'd like to explain how the Board is thinking about the three critical components we need to execute on our mission: financial support, a physical location and, of course, boys.
We have made significant progress in fundraising. Generous responses to our emergency plea exceeded our $350,000 goal, which has given us a bit of cushion as we go into the planning phase for the next school year. I have told you that we need to raise a very substantial amount of money in advance of the school year in order to be on a sound footing when school opens, and that remains the case.
As we work towards those large fundraising goals, we have received an outpouring of help from good friends of ABS. Just this past Monday night in New York City, nineteen of our boys, including boys from as far away as Wisconsin and North Carolina, returned from their summer vacations to perform at a private event designed to introduce new supporters to ABS and its mission. I'm sure it will not surprise you to learn that the boys were a huge hit! We hope to schedule more events like this in cities around the country this summer and in the fall. In addition, some of the major donors of the School have indicated their desire to create a formal, separate fundraising structure to support ABS's mission, a structure that will assure major donors that their gifts will be applied to the future needs and operations of the School.
With regard to our location, we are in the process of pursuing a lease for a day school campus in the Princeton area. Our traditional boarding model would be converted to a homestay model for this school year, with boys living in local homes-at least two ABS boys in each homestay home. We have engaged a homestay consultant and have been working with him to learn about and implement this new feature of our School. He will work with us throughout the coming school year to coordinate and supervise the entire program. We have also been in touch with various families that have offered to serve the School as homestay hosts.
You are likely wondering whether this change is intended to be permanent. It is not. The Board believes that the best operating model to achieve ABS's mission is one in which we include boys from around the world on one fully-integrated boarding campus. At this time, however, we do not have an integrated campus option readily available to us, and we simply do not have the funds to acquire or operate one. Over the next year, we intend to work to raise those funds and to find a long-term boarding home, but in the interim we plan to operate ABS on a day school campus using a homestay model.
I should add that there are a number of locations in the Princeton area that have classroom and rehearsal space available for a day school operation. We are pursuing several of these options now and are confident that one can be secured in the coming weeks.
It is our goal to have a detailed homestay plan, including the final decision about the location for the day school in place as soon as possible (hopefully by the middle of July), at which time we will give you a full report about that plan. We are also continuing to discuss with our attorney the necessary steps to take to obtain approval of the Bankruptcy Court for our plans. While there is a great deal of work still to be done, much has already been accomplished, and after extremely careful consideration the Board has concluded that the plan is feasible.
With regard to the boys themselves-and it is the boys and the music they make that motivates all of this effort-Board members have been in touch with our current families to gauge their interest in returning to ABS in this new form, and we have been encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive responses we have received. We will contact each current family to confirm their enrollment at the appropriate time. We know that parents will have many questions about how this school year will work. Three of the Board members are current parents and have been asking the questions that any parent would ask. We all look forward to talking to you more about our plans.
In addition, we are conscientiously recruiting new students so that ABS will be as strong as possible as quickly as possible. All of us, including our Music Director Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, have every reason to expect that this year's choirs will be filled with strong voices.
As you know, many of our boys require substantial scholarship assistance in order to attend ABS. Providing this assistance is one of the main purposes of our Annual Fund. A successful Annual Fund is essential to our achieving the necessary level of operating revenues; actual tuition revenues are not enough. We will be reaching out to parents and alumni to try to accelerate and enhance the Annual Fund so that we will be able to recruit and retain as many talented boys as possible. In that regard, I am very pleased to report that we have already received more than $235,000 in pledges for next year's Annual Fund, representing more than 26% of our budgeted Annual Fund income. This is a great head start, and the more pledges of operating support we receive now, the better-positioned we will be to achieve our reorganization.
Because we believe that the ABS community can and will build a future for the School and the boys, we are also going forward with our immediate summer plans. Our outstanding summer camp, "The American Boychoir Experience" will operate from June 28 to July 4. We have twenty-three boys signed up to attend it, in addition to several current ABS students. In August, the boys will sing Mahler's Symphony No. 8 at Tanglewood with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra under the direction of Andris Nelsons. More details on these events will be available very soon.
The Board is excited about all of these developments, and we hope you are, too. We think that an exciting future is within reach. I must caution you, however, that we are still operating under the supervision of the Federal Bankruptcy Court, and we will be subject to court oversight until ABS completes a reorganization under Chapter 11. We will be working throughout the summer on myriad tasks necessary to prepare for a new year in a new place with a new model, including seeking court approval for our reorganization based on a solid long-term financial plan. After all, giving organizations a "fresh start" is why Chapter 11 exists in the first place.
We will be reporting to you often as our plans develop. We may hit some bumps along the way. When we do, we will let you know, and we will be asking for your help.
On behalf of everyone at ABS, please accept our gratitude for your patience in the past many weeks and for your steadfast and inspirational support for the mission of The American Boychoir School. We are looking forward to the future.Sincerely,
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Click here read the letter from April 10, 2015
Click here read the letter from May 19, 2015