Exclusive Report: West Point Visits Boys' Choir of Tallahassee

This is a military school recruitment like no other.

A world renowned premier leader development institution turns to the Boys' Choir of Tallahassee for the possibility of turning the young boys into a few good men.

Major Mike Burns says he's seen the Boys' Choir of Tallahassee on the Oprah Winfrey Show and heard that the group sang for President Barack Obama's inauguration.

But, hearing the choir for himself, he says, "It surpassed all expectations."

Even better was hearing a surprise performance of them singing the West Point alma mater.

Burns, a West Point Minority Admissions Officer, says, "It resonates something inside of you. When you're a graduate, you can't really explain it to anybody that's not a graduate. The fact that these guys took time out of their schedule to learn the alma mater, and they sung it perfectly, that meant so much."

Major Burns and other recruiters from West Point Military Academy in New York came to Tallahassee to visit the Boys' Choir.

Eleventh grade Boys' Choir member Timothy Brooks says, "It made me feel happy to make them happy. Even though I'm not a graduate, I haven't even seen the place yet, but, it made me feel special to make them feel special because of what I was singing. It's a wonderful feeling."

It all started back in 2009 when Leon County Judge Charles Dodson says he learned that the academy had a relatively low percentage of minority cadets.

Dodson, who was a West Point cadet for his first two years of his college career, told the academy about the Boys' Choir.
Dodson says, "I'm just really excited about this for the boys and also for West Point."

Major Burns says about 1,200 out of 13,000 applicants get admitted to West Point.

Seven percent of the cadets are African American.

Burns says African Americans make up only 15 percent of the U.S. Military.
Eleventh grade Boys' Choir member Ka'Ron Brown says, "It's a great opportunity and I heard so much about West Point. I'm just excited."

As nice as they may sound, it takes more than harmony and melody to make it into West Point.

Of course, physical fitness is a huge part of getting into the military academy.

During the three weeks leading up to the recruiters' visit, the Boys' Choir took their hard work from the stage to the track for a hard-core work-out.

Tenth grade Boys' Choir member Urban Phillips says, "At home, I do push-ups and I do sit-ups. I got a pull-up bar, push-up bar and run a lot. I want to go to the military because everybody through my family went to the military."

Choir member Grady Jefferson is also in the 10th grade. He says, "It helps me to better myself because I look up to people who have discipline, who have a good work ethic. If you're at West Point you have to have a good work ethic."

Because academics is also a major part of West Point, choir members also paid special attention to their study halls each week.

Eleventh grader Gabriel Figgers says, "My dream is to be a very successful person and to have other people look up to me like I look up to the people at West Point."

Forbes.com named West Point as the Best public college or university in America for undergraduate education.

Major Burns says it is 4th in national level scholarships.

He says no African Americans have won any of those scholarships in the last 25 years.

Major Burns spoke with all of the high school students in the choir. He says, "We just know that you guys are special. This trip, us coming all the way from New York, was specifically to come and talk to you guys."

Judge Dodson says, "The music is simply the dessert, that's the icing on the cake. The strong academics, the discipline, the responsibility. To watch Mr. Lee direct one of these practices, it's like watching a great football coach. Those boys got their eyes focused on him, they're watching everything."

Earle Lee, the Director of Boys' Choir of Tallahassee, says, "That's the prescription: come in, work hard, do your homework, have discipline, respect, and learn and lots of discipline."

Lee says with that, there's no limit to how high the boys can go.
Major Burns says he wants the Boys' Choir of Tallahassee to visit and perform at West Point.

He says he plans to keep in contact and build a relationship between the academy and the choir.


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