Jaden Roberson, who is 9, began singing while taking showers. “When I was just a kid,” he told me.
Thomas Nash, 18, began singing in his church’s youth choir — when he was 2.
Ra Shaun Jones, 15, learned to sing by listening to his grandfather, who was a member of a men’s chorus at his church.
They are just some of the impressive youngsters you’ll find in the D.C. Boys Choir, a 30-member group of music lovers who seem to have been born with a song in their hearts. And thanks to some big-hearted Washington-area residents, the boys will be singing their hearts out during a week-long tour of Italy.
Against all financial odds, they are set to depart Thursday.
Three weeks ago, the choir was $75,000 short of the $165,000 needed for the trip. And even shorter on ways to close the gap. At stake was an invitation to sing during High Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and during Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
There were also invitations to sing at prestigious venues in Florence and Milan and during stops in other cities. There was even a request for the choir to participate in the 750th anniversary celebration of the birth of famed Italian poet Dante Alighieri.
Dante is best known for his masterpiece “The Divine Comedy.” But there was nothing funny about the choir’s predicament.
Eleanor Stewart, the choir’s director, put out a request for help that was reported in this column June 10. Much to the delight of the choir, readers pitched in to save the day.
“I was elated, thrilled,” said Stewart, a former music teacher for D.C. Public Schools who started the group in 1993.
Although she retired in 2000, Stewart still kept the choir going. Over 22 years, she has taught more than 700 boys how to sing — in several foreign languages, no less — as well as to read music.
“Many times, I just didn’t know if we would make it or not,” she said. But somehow, she never fails to help her boys.
Not only did donors send enough to close the shortfall, but there was also enough left over to help some of the boys buy better-fitting jackets — and make sure everybody’s jacket was the same shade of red. They also were able to get travel bags to keep their outfits from wrinkling.
Rest assured, they will be looking as good as they sound.
Joe Coleman, former lead singer with the Platters and a longtime supporter of the choir, had raised thousands of dollars for the cause with a benefit concert. During an earlier interview, he expressed a sentiment about the choir that seemed to resonate with lots of readers.
“I just feel they represent the best of what we have to offer and they deserve to be in the spotlight,” said Coleman, of Potomac, Md. “When youngsters are doing all the right things, and you know it’s hard, then we need to let them know that we are proud of them.”
And if the boys didn’t know that already, they sure do now.
“I was touched that the people of the community wanted to help us get exposed to a whole new country,” said Thomas, a tenor, who has been with the choir since 2008. He recently graduated from Banneker High and will attend Lincoln University in Pennsylvania this fall.
Ra Shaun, an alto, has been with the choir for almost three years. “I’m excited,” said Ra Shaun, a 10th-grader at Forestville Military Academy in Maryland. “This will be my first time out of the country.”
Jaden, the 9-year-old, will be among the youngest on tour. He’s a fifth-grader at the Shabach Christian Academy, run by First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Prince George’s County.
During my visit to his home in Mitchellville, he reviewed the words to a song that the choir will perform in Italy. “Nella Fantasia,” he said, practicing his accent and then translating a line in the song.
“It means, ‘In my fantasy, I see a world of justice,’ ” Jaden said.
In reality, it means a dream come true.
To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/milloy.