American Boychoir School Files for Bankruptcy, Needs $350,000 to Finish the Academic Year

american boychhoirThe American Boychoir School filed for bankruptcy today and is struggling to meet its financial obligations for the rest of the school year.

The head of the board of trustees informed parents and supporters of the move and the school’s dire financial straits in a letter today.

“As you know, ABS has struggled financially over the last several years. We opened in September with the expectation that we would be able to complete the school year notwithstanding the considerable challenges we faced,” the letter from the head of the school’s board of trustees reads. “In the past several days, an internal review of the School’s finances has revealed to the Board that the School’s true financial position at this point in the year is considerably worse than previously understood. As a consequence, the Board has been compelled to consider several drastic alternatives, including closing the school immediately and ceasing operations.”

The board voted to filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy instead, hoping supporters can raise the money to operate the school for the rest of the academic year and beyond.

“Staying open depends on the School’s ability to raise the cash to cover our payroll and other current expenses going forward,” wrote Rob D’Avanzo, chairman of the school’s board of trustees. “If we are not able to do that in very short order, cancellation of the remaining concert schedule and immediate closure of the School will be the only alternative.”

School officials estimate that $350,000 is needed to operate the school for the rest of the school year. Another $3 million is needed for the school to continue to stay open after this academic year.

“I know this news is shocking. It is painful to have to convey it and particularly painful to have to do so abruptly. I wish the circumstances were different,” D’Acanzo wrote. “In addressing this latest crisis, the Board’s focus has been to choose, from an array of unappealing choices, a path that would give the boys and their teachers the best possible chance to complete this school year.”

One of the reasons the school has had financial troubles in recent years is because of several lawsuits by former students who said they were sexually abused at the school. The New York Times wrote a story about the abuse in 2002. One of the victims led the battle to have the state’s charitable immunity act amended. The law no longer protects charitable organizations that, through negligence, put children in danger of being sexually abused. As recently as last year, a former school dean was charged with sexually assaulting an 11-year old student in the boy’s West Windsor home.

The full text of the letter is below.

April 10, 2015


As you know, ABS has struggled financially over the last several years. We opened in September with the expectation that we would be able to complete the school year notwithstanding the considerable challenges we faced.

In the past several days, an internal review of the School’s finances has revealed to the Board that the School’s true financial position at this point in the year is considerably worse than previously understood. As a consequence, the Board has been compelled to consider several drastic alternatives, including closing the school immediately and ceasing operations. For now, the Board has decided to pursue a different path, one that preserves the possibility of completing this school year and its planned concert schedule.

As the first step on that path, the Board has voted to have the School file to seek the protections of Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. That filing was made in Federal court this morning. The legal consequences of a Chapter 11 filing are varied and complicated, but this decision gives the entire ABS community the opportunity to supply the financing that will allow the School to finish its school year and then make plans for the future.

For this plan to work, we need your help. We need an outpouring of support, and we need it soon. I need to be as clear as possible: staying open depends on the School’s ability to raise the cash to cover our payroll and other current expenses going forward. If we are not able to do that in very short order, cancellation of the remaining concert schedule and immediate closure of the School will be the only alternative.

It is our best estimate that to operate for the remainder of the school year we will need to raise $350,000. In pursuit of this goal, members of the Board have agreed in the last 24 hours to make new contributions to the School totaling $31,000. Those contributions will be made by early next week. It would also help tremendously if parents who have tuition installments remaining could pay them in full as soon as possible. But that will only be a start. Many of you have been approached in recent weeks as part of our annual fund-raising efforts; we need your support now to get to the end of the school year. A more significant level of funding estimated at $3 million will be required for the school to successfully emerge from Chapter 11 and continue operations into the future.

As many of you know, the Concert Choir is about to leave on its spring tour of Texas and the Southeast. We expect that tour to proceed and succeed. Where the School will stand upon the boys’ return is the critical question. We have an educational mission to complete, and we also have some wonderful concerts on the schedule. But at present we simply do not have the resources to carry ABS through the spring to graduation. We have no choice but to put that in your hands.

I know this news is shocking. It is painful to have to convey it and particularly painful to have to do so abruptly. I wish the circumstances were different. In addressing this latest crisis, the Board’s focus has been to choose, from an array of unappealing choices, a path that would give the boys and their teachers the best possible chance to complete this school year.

I promise to report back to you in a few days, once the Chapter 11 process has progressed a bit and after we have seen how much money has been raised in the immediate aftermath of this announcement. At that point the Board will be in a better position to formulate clear plans for the coming weeks, and I will be in a better position to communicate them to you.

Until then, I assure you that we are doing all we can to continue delivering on the School’s worthy mission. On behalf of ABS and the boys, I thank you for your patience in these difficult times and for your support.

Very truly yours,

Rob D’Avanzo,
Chairman of the Board of Trustees


  1. While I’m sure there are many great teachers and administrators doing fine work there, the school as an institution brought this hardship upon themselves through negligence and complicity regarding the horrible systemic abuse of young children that went on for years for which they denied responsibility.

  2. This abuse happened in the 1970s. Shall we continue to punish the young talented boys who gain so much from this invaluable institution ? So many boys from all over the country are able to learn and thrive in this very special environment and many of them are on scholarship. Abuse happens in all walks of life, and all institutions. Should we compound the problem by punishing innocent boys now ?

    1. I hope the school finds a way to continue as a healthy origination that is both financially and ethically responsible.
      But the abuse occurred at the school from the 60’s through at least the 90’s, not just in the 70’s.

      1. Brega and Edward, there is record of abuse beginning in the 60’s . Prior to that there is no record, but the individual removed from the school in 1968 had been with the institution for a decade already. After many years of effort in the 70’s to hide such matters, things calmed down in the 80;, although I understand there was another event in the 90’s. After the NJ Supreme court case ABS worked hard to protect its students. Unfortunately, as the article above shows with the Dean being arrested, it has happened again, and its likely these young men are still at risk. Are they they at more risk then any other private school? I don’t know, there are few boarding schools in the US that take children as young as 4th grade and I suspect in that lies the problem. Further, when you put children just prior, and going through puberty, together, all kinds of experimentation happens, no matter how vigilant the parent. ( This is documented as far back as the 50’s with Masters and Johnsons.) One child’s game can easily become another’s child’s torment. The idea of a place for talented youngsters to learn is a good one.. this model of boarding children this young, has proven across time to be unwise, even with managerial effort.

  3. We should be very proud of The American Boychoir School and the fact that it is located in our community. It is the premier boychoir school in the nation and represents the best that an educational institution can offer to extremely talented boys. Every one should be doing all they can to finanically support this wonderful school.

  4. Alums of all ages talk about how positive and life-changing The American Boychoir School was and still is in their lives. I pray for anyone who has suffered from abuse anywhere and to eradicate these evils but not erase the good. Do we eliminate all schools that have had an evil person at some point or eliminate the Catholic Church? The current staff and boys are not responsible for, nor supportive of that past and everyone involved with the school knows to put the safety of the boys at the top of their priorities.

  5. This school is an absolute treasure. My son has been a student for three short months, and the amount of positive change I have observed in him is greater than I ever could have imagined. The school, the teachers, the staff, etc are to be lauded for their efforts, not to be continually punished for truly abhorrent, evil behavior of those long gone. The school has gone to great lengths to prevent this from happening, were that not the case, I can assure you, I wouldn’t have uprooted my son mid year to enroll him at ABS. This school continues the most beautiful of missions. These boys are beacons of light in our society, they deserve to placed on the highest pedestal for the joy they bring to thousands upon thousands. Please help us to continue that mission, and moreover, to bring it more and more boys across the country! It is that impactful.

  6. We uprooted our family two years ago from Arkansas to move to New Jersey so our son could sing with the American Boychoir. And while the move has been difficult in some ways, I do not regret it at all. This school has had a tremendous positive impact on our son. It’s truly awful to think about the abuse from so long ago and the negative impact it had on those boys. I can’t even imagine. I don’t think it is fair, however, to continue to hold the school responsible when none of those people are here anymore. The current school is wonderful and gives our sons the opportunities to travel all over the world, to perform with top-notch groups/performers, to rub elbows with the likes of Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates, and to find a sense of belonging where they might not have otherwise. The people at ABS are supportive, lovely people who only want what is best for those boys. It is worthy of supporting!!

  7. I can’t believe your reporter included the bit about the former school dean last year. He did not abuse boys while he was employed at the school. The lawsuits to which you refer were from a different era.

  8. My son has been a chorister at The American Boychoir School for three years. When we arrived on campus for an open house, we immediately realized this was where he belonged. When one signs up to send their talented son to ABS, they become part of a family unlike any other. The unique and remarkable experiences our sons have, we as parents cannot personally give to them. One day our sons will look back and realize what an amazing experience they have had during their time as choristers. Watching my son and his brothers grow into fine young men has been unbelievable. They all have learned to be resourceful, independent and respectful young men because of ABS. The abuse that has happened long ago is horrific. I cannot even imagine what this must have been like for the victims and their families. The staff, faculty and administration today work hard to provide an amazing middle school experience to each and every boy. As a parent, to watch your son perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Nathan Gunn, Canadian Brass….the list goes on, is truly moving. Please consider supporting ABS so that this wonderful organization can continue to provide future choristers with this same amazing middle school experience. May Brothers Sing On!

  9. While I in no way excuse abuse and can’t even imagine what hurt those boys felt, it is unfair to punish the present members for past sins. The American Boychoir is a national treasure and I sm honored for my son to be a part of it. The boys are taught how to be true gentlemen and are among the kindest of kids I’ve ever met. Please support this school!

  10. This organization has been flailing for a decade.They sold their property( ~$6m), used up their endowment($2-3m) invested unwisely in the “Princeton Center for the Arts” and lost it all, raised enough cash to keep going and now find themselves still $3 million short. With 2 months of school left they suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves $350, short. Who is keeping the books???This is their second or third ” save my school ” campaign in three years. Is this a wonderful opportunity for some boys. Absolutely, Was there sex abuse, absolutely, multiple times over multiple years. However that is not the cause of the failing. They recovered from that every time. The truth is Great Art, does not mean great support. Ask the Met, the NY Phil, the New York City Opera any number of symphonies with large fundraising apparatus, all of whom are falling short on their goals. A new model is needed… the world is moving on….,,,

    1. The world is moving on to what George? Continuing to erode and rot from within? If that is what you mean, I entirely agree. Moving on as society embraces misogynists, hate, avarice, etc and other content in our modern music? Saving a school such as ABS is vitally important. I take the subway everyday in NYC, I weep for the future of this nation given the behavior, lack of respect, et al I observe from todays youth day in and day out. The music is the carrot at the school, the mission is developing young men of great character, the kind of young men that we will need to grow into leaders as they develop. No one can deny the past mismanagement of funds, and the school will perhaps need to embrace a new model. That being said there is new blood on the board, and I am confident in the direction in which we are heading.

      1. Well thats nice, If you think you have new business model, with new management that will achieve your objectives in an ethical and moral manor, Go for it. That is not what your press release says. Instead it asks for $7000 a child for 2 months (based on website enrollment of 50). That is the second or third “save our school” request in as many years, and under new management, each one happening at the end of the year. ( What are you on now, your 6th President in 7 or 8 years?) This is good governance? This is fiscal responsibility? This is efficient management of non profit resources? No, this is arts non profit management at its worst. If you don’t like what you see on the streets of NY, then go help out those kids. You will find the money goes much further, and it is just as rewarding.

        1. We live in a country with a 17 trillion dollar deficit, do you speak as passionately about the waste, fraud, and abuse of our tax dollars as you do on this subject? I do, vociferously at that. Am I happy about this? Of course not. The entire point of this exercise is to enact meaningful change, and believe me that is coming. That said, these boys work diligently from 8am to 6pm every day. This short term raise is to make certain they can finish what they started and no one deserves to reach the goal line more than them. Then the long term issues will be addressed in prudent manner. Now glad to speak about the cherubs in New York City. Talk about a model which needs to be blown up, the public school system is it, more money spent per capita than any other industrialized nation and yet we rank at the bottom in terms of results.

          1. Bottom line is, you are short $350,000 to close down a bad business model, and you think you have to do that before you launch a $3.0m campaign for a new one, details to come. In my experience money rarely flows to a failure, and often to a dream. Crying wolf… again… with the managerial reputation ABS has, and has just demonstrated again with a major miss in a budget, and the extraordinary investment you are (asking for $7000 a kid? really?), tarnishes your ability to sell forward as well as complete your current goal. It is typical of arts organizations to repeat fund raising successes( as the last save our school campaign was). The problem is eventually someone yells “Humbugs!” and they are right… Good Luck with it all.

            1. Exactly the school has been suffering from the same financial problems for the years. Time to give up! The boys, the staff and the facility are all suffering from the financial problems.

    2. Being fiscally irresponsible is what this is!! They need to shutter the doors and figure out how to restart and make The American Boychoir what it used to be before all the abuse and various problems. The current boys are not receiving the same excellence in education as choristers of the past simply because the school is broke and broken.

  11. I’m afraid I am neither surprised nor upset by this news. My son was physically and emotionally bullied at the school by other students and because he was never allowed to be with an adult without another boy present, he could never speak in confidence about the bullying with an adult. (Another legacy of the abuse scandal–kids were forced to be together and could not be alone for a moment.) The school seemed to care little about individual kids–just wanted a group of smiling choir boys. The administration’s attitude belied the mission of music as the impetus to learn moral behavior. My son was punched, shoved, and called names, yet the administration blamed my son for not fitting in and didn’t invite him back although >he< had broken no rules. They said that my son wasn't right for the school, because he complained of being bullied, although he was and still is an exceptional singer and is a bright, kind, very well-liked and happy person at his high school, involved in the choral program at the highest level. A year after my son left ABS, the school finally had to expel the boy who had hit and bullied my son, for further misbehavior toward other kids. My son never got an apology. We get fundraising letters from ABS regularly…describing the school as we wish it had been but knew it was not. The academics didn't measure up and staff was falling sick with serious illnesses. Bad choices were made; the move seemed over-ambitious. Perhaps the very notion of a boychoir is an outdated artifact of sexist attitudes (no female voices in the church, no female musicians) and pedophilic inclinations in the church choirs. Perhaps the argument that boy sopranos produce a pleasing tone is as outdated as saying that castrati also do. The instruments of today have different timbres. Perhaps it is time to allow that choral music to be sung by mixed choirs?

    1. Unfortunately you are not alone in your story. I think the time for the American Boychoir has expired.

  12. I really feel for the boys and the families. I’ve had a chance to get to know two families
    who’s boys had a chance to thrive at ABS after their public school experience
    included taunting and teasing the boys for an interest and talent in choir and
    other music, with little support from the public school teachers and
    administration. While a boychoir may be
    an archaic or eccentric concept, there are numerous other schools and programs
    with their own eccentricities (there are cooperative farm schools, and other
    arts and athletic focused programs, etc, etc) and as long as they are serving
    kids well why not have these options in the mix. We all know special teachers, camps, and
    programs that we love and cherish for our kids, that may not reflect the modern
    or mainstream, and I know that if I had a child who had felt bad in school, and
    then found a place that worked especially well for, and celebrated them, I
    would be heartbroken if the school were faced with closure. However, if any of the families I know approach
    me in fundraising, I will have to say this, rather than rally for funds at
    every ad hoc financial crisis point, the parents need instead to rally for
    better governance and oversight of the school.
    There is clearly a crisis and an
    absolute failure in leadership. The “so
    unfortunately shocked” tone of the letter is unacceptable, the school’s
    financial status should not have been something buried and hidden to be
    suddenly “discovered” by the board. The
    school needs to face the past sex abuse allegations more directly. It is deeply troubling that a person who was
    in a supervisory staff position at the school as late as 2012 had a criminal
    record as a sexual predator. The school’s governing board should include
    professionals from mental health professions
    (I believe they do, or at least have one board member who is a mental health
    professional) but also perhaps law enforcement, and, if possible, someone who
    represents a specific commitment to addressing the prior abuse events, which
    were unconscionably extensive. It seems
    a bit striking that while the board includes an ABS graduate from almost every decade from the 40s, there is a
    long gap missing representation from graduates in the 70s and 80s (Board
    members on the website graduated in 49, 53, 55, 64, 70, and 71 and then the
    next year is 89 – a gap of 18 years -, then 90 and 94). If I
    were a parent of an ABS boy, I think I would be pushing for a takeover, perhaps
    a prep school, or college or university with a tradition of music could assume
    governance (e.g., Westminster), or a successful performing arts
    institution. Perhaps the choir program could continue, but
    the academic aspects of the school could be rolled into another institution and/or
    boarding could become informal, much as young elite athletes who train away
    from home develop networks for residence situations near where they train. Also, if a parent, I would also challenge
    the school regarding lost financial opportunities. Boarding schools have survived in this
    country without having a specific “product” to sell, ABS actually has one, and
    ABS should be finding a way to capitalize on performances and recordings. For those who love ABS, I support your
    efforts to save your school, but its time to face history and the failure of the
    status quo and to demand radical, creative approaches and new, responsible

    1. As a former parent of a student at this school I couldn’t agree more with this comment. The school has been financially mismanaged for too long. It is NOT a shock that they are running out of money it has happened every April for the past three years. They need to completely restructure and reboot rather than functioning a s a shell of what the American Boychoir school used to be many years ago.

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