DANVILLE -- When Judy Kerns' son David auditioned for the Pacific Boychoir Academy in Oakland several years ago, he liked it so much he told his mom he would walk there from Danville if she didn't drive him.

The choir expanded his horizons, says Kerns, of the now-17-year-old student at The Athenian School. It took him all over the world as well as providing opportunities to sing locally with ensembles including the San Francisco Symphony.

"There's always something exciting for these boys to work on with the music as well as the concerts," she said.

Now, Contra Costa students have the ability to participate in the Pacific Boychoir organization locally with the addition of a satellite choir for boys ages 7 to 12.

The choir, called Bravi, works on planting the seeds for a lifelong love of singing, said Music Director Xiomara Di Maio.

"Most of the young kids come with no experience," she said. "We build them up from zero by training the ear, training the voice and teaching them to read music to give them the tools to be strong musicians."

Bravi, which Di Maio began two years ago in Walnut Creek before moving group practices to Charlotte Wood Middle School in Danville this year, is composed of five members. The group focuses on classical choir music -- much of which is rarely sung in America, having been written and performed in Europe and other parts of the world -- as well as contemporary tunes.

Bravi has performed locally at venues including the Lafayette Library and the Walnut Creek tree lighting event. Each year, the group also travels to Monterey and sings at the Carmel Mission.

"Because it's a performing art, we want to expose them to the audiences," Di Maio said.

For Christian Ricco, performing lets him not only do something he loves, but also builds self-confidence and fosters camaraderie among choir mates with whom he has traveled to places such as China, Russia and Hungary, he said.

Ricco, a 17-year-old junior at De La Salle High School, is helping the next group by serving as the assistant for Bravi, in which his 9-year-old brother is a member.

"It's great for kids to get a musical experience," he said. "It's something I believe everyone should have a basic knowledge of."

Bravi is filling a niche that was untapped because the San Ramon Valley Unified School District focuses more on instrumental music at the elementary school level, said Jennifer Brown, the director of the Danville Girls' Chorus Apprentice Choir.

Brown, whose son Nate, 11, is part of Bravi, said that is unfortunate because singing can play an enjoyable and uplifting role throughout life.

"Vocal music is the instrument you always have with you," she said.

Di Maio admits that another barrier is the community's tendency to focus on sports in lieu of other after-school activities. She hopes Bravi will grow in future years and serve as a steppingstone for the Pacific Boychoir's more advanced groups.

A new session of Bravi will begin in January. Classes are $300 for the eight-week session, which includes the music and spring concert. For more information, contact Xiomara Di Maio at xiomydma@gmail.com or visit www.pacificboychoir.org.

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