Troy 11-year-olds hit the high notes

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published October 27, 2011

 T.J. Bouque and Annie Youngs, both 11 and from Troy, take the stage at the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit as members of the Children’s Chorus.

T.J. Bouque and Annie Youngs, both 11 and from Troy, take the stage at the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit as members of the Children’s Chorus.


T.J. Bouque, 11, is a bit different from his sixth-grade classmates at Boulan Park Middle School.

He’s not so crazy about video games, but he is crazy about singing.

He and 11-year-old Annie Youngs, who attends Avondale Middle School, travel to downtown Detroit to practice and perform with the Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus up to four times a week, for up to four hours at a time.

The MOTCC was founded in 2007. Children ages 10-16 audition to perform operatic music with professional performers onstage at the Michigan Opera Theatre, on Broadway, in Detroit.

“They kick you out (boys) if your voice changes,” Bouque said.

For girls, their tenure is over at age 16. Megan Warzecha, chorus administrator, explained that after age 16, girl’s voices sound more like adults’ than children’s.

Warzecha said the general director of the MOT, David DiChiera, always wanted a children’s group as part of the company, to educate the next generation of singers. Before 2007, children could audition for parts on an as-needed basis.

One of the boys at Bouque’s church was in the MOTCC and told Bouque about it.

“He said, ‘You’d love this choir,’” said Bouque, who is in his second year with the chorus.

Youngs is in her first year with the group. Her mother saw the audition opportunity, and Youngs tried out and got in.

Bouque and Youngs have both been singing, in their words, since they were “little kids.” Bouque has been doing so since he was 2 or 3, when he sang at First United Methodist Church in Birmingham. At age 4, Youngs sang in the Broadway Babies program at Kensington Community Church in Troy.

Both have also been active in community theater, including with the Bloomfield Players Community Theatre and Avon Players.

Bouque said MOTCC chorus director Suzanne Mallare Acton is “very strict” about things like how words should be sung. And the chorus sings in German, Latin and Italian, as well as in English.

“She stops until everyone looks (at her),” Youngs added. “She’s making us better singers.”

The hardest part, for Youngs, is harmony.

For Bouque, it’s “putting the time in and getting there.”

Dianna Hochella, who serves as MOTCC assistant director and conductor, also serves as choral director at Claque Middle School in Ann Arbor. Warzecha teaches music at Shrine Catholic Grade School in Royal Oak.

“We have a really a great staff,” Warzecha said. “We all work with kids all the time. It’s a lot of fun.”

Warzecha said the caliber of young singers and the number who audition have grown each year. Each member must re-audition every year. This year, about 200 children auditioned for 50 spots.

“We have a lot of fun and breaks in between — we talk and eat,” Youngs said of singing with the chorus. Her dream is to be on Broadway.

“I like it because nobody else at school likes singing,” Bouque said of his involvement with MOTCC. His dream is to be up on the opera stage as one of the principal singers.

The two have gotten to be good buddies, and they often sing while carpooling on the drives to downtown Detroit for the rehearsals and performances, a commitment Youngs’ mother, Susan, compares to the travel sports teams log.

“It’s no different than travel soccer or hockey,” Bouque’s father, Mike, said. “You find something your kid loves, and it’s not such a chore.”

The MOTCC will perform through May. For information about performances, visit