The Man Behind The Arts in Houston

The Houston Boychoir will be honoring Jonathon Glus, President + CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance, at our 4th Annual Scholarship Luncheon. We sat down with Jonathon, to discuss growing up in an artistic family, the Houston Arts Alliance and the cultural atmosphere of our city!

1.WhaIMG_5371t is your background in the arts?

I am not an artist. I grew up in a family of business people who placed a great emphasis on the arts. My father played about 12 different musical instruments, owned a jazz club at one time and both of my sisters are singers. In fact my father’s great dream was to have a family band. We grew up with art around us, it has been an integrated part of my life. In fact, I never knew that it wasn’t part of everyone’s life until I went to college. I do what I do now, because I realized not everyone has access.

  1. How did you get involved with Houston Arts Alliance?

I was recruited for the Houston Arts Alliance in 2007 when the board was looking for someone who was very eager to build a new model for a public-private local arts agency. I was eager to take on the challenge. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to work with a very smart invested board who wanted to build a new organization to serve the entire city.

  1. In your opinion, what is the fundamental purpose of Houston Arts Alliance?

My main purpose is to ensure that every American should have complete access to arts. In a country as affluent as the United States, it should be a natural and fluid part of our lives.

The work of the Houston Arts Alliance on a daily basis, in a very practical sense, is investing in arts organizations and artists through grants; helping to produce stronger arts organizations through capacity building; beautifying our public spaces through civic art; and elevating the cultures of our very diverse city. Ultimately the purpose of HAA is to advance the city in the best way possible through its arts culture.

  1. What is the biggest challenge regarding the public’s perception of arts in Houston?

The perception of Houston as a cultural city is quickly evolving, we’ve had great institutions for a long time. However, I don’t think Houston has done a great job of talking about them because we’ve been busy building them. In addition to that, we need to talk about Houston- not as a great cultural city- but as a city of great art. We need to start changing our narrative so that we’re talking about the fact that this is a vibrant active city that has so much theatre going on. People know that Chicago is a theatre city, people know that London is a theatre city. People don’t think of Houston as a theatre city and we need to tell that story a lot more.


  1. What are you most proud of achieving in and through HAA?

I’m most proud of strengthening, reinvigorating and bringing additional resources to our HAA capacity building programs.  We brought the Arts & Business Council to Houston to provide a variety of resources to the field; we’ve partnered with the Houston Endowment to expand our incubation services to start up organizations; and we will soon be launching the new Jamail Family Innovation Grant and the Heimbinder Program Support & Expansion programs soon.


  1. What advice do you have for anyone who would like to get involved with the arts community?

CEO’s say that their biggest need is creative thinking, so training as an artist is giving you skills that- in addition to your craft- can take you to many places in life that are important. As a culture, America is waking up to the fact that the forces of being trained as an artist is really important to the way we function in communities now. I think there’s never been a better time to be an artist in this country than right now! And I say it with great envy because I am not an artist. I took dance for years, clarinet for years, piano for years! When you train as an artist there is a fundamental way of looking at life that  drives everything that you do. You may make a career of it or you may not, but it will always be a part of you enhancing your world and the world of your community.

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Houston Boychoir Parents!

Our parents involved at our boychoir picnic!

Our parents involved at our boychoir picnic!

One of the most valuable resources in our organization is- hands down our parents! Without parental input and support we would never be able to run a successful choir and help create responsible men out of the boys who come to us. At Houston Boychoir we know and appreciate the value of our parent volunteers. They are awesome caring people who have a multitude of talents that include: sewing, photography, writing, art design, costuming, marketing, video, sales, organizational skills, accounting and book-keeping, cooking, nursing, event planning, communications, design, business, musical skills, sales, computer skills, and so much more.

Parents provide the backbone to our community and it can frequently be seen in the success of the boys whose parents are involved most! But now, scientific studies prove that parental involvement is beneficial to the child, to the parents and to the entire family.

1. Parents are able to be involved in more after-school programs than in-school programs because it usually coincides with their work schedules. Milton J. Little, Jr., President of United Way Atlanta says, “Research shows that students are better off in after-school programs linked to their school activities and where their families are involved and engaged with what they are learning and how they are spending their afternoons.”

Parent pic 1

Our parent fetching water for boys!

2. By being more involved in these programs, parents are more able to monitor their child’s progress and have regular correspondence with the teachers to ensure their child is receiving the right attention for his specific needs.

3. Parents are also educated about the specialized activity their child is involved in, which in our case, is being in a choir and singing. Parent’s musical knowledge and ability can even be built up as they become more involved in what their child is doing.

4. Parents involvement also makes it possible for the organization to do more with less. When parents volunteer less money is spent on staff and more resources are available in direct programming for boys, allowing provision for as many learning opportunities as possible.

Parent pic 2

Parents getting together to plan future meals.

5. Parents involvement can also support more positive parent-child relationships at home (Priscilla Little, Research and Strategy Consultant). Children feel more encouraged when they can see their parents involved in the after-school program, and can go home and discuss it with their parent.

We know parents and their children have many opportunities for after school engagement, “But all these innovative programs and expanded opportunities will not, in and of themselves, make a difference if each of us, as parents and as community leaders, fail to do our part by encouraging excellence in our children.”
– President Barack Obama

So here’s to our parents, we salute you!

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San Antonio TMEA trip!


Peformance time!

Houston Boychoir was extremely honored to perform at this year’s Texas Music Educator’s Association on February 13th! TMEA was great– hats off to Colleen Riddle for organizing the Elementary Division. It was fantastic hearing other choirs and it really added to the development of our group.

The boys had a great time after the show,  exploring Texas history, riding the river and experiencing the fiesta of San Antonio!

Here are a few pictures of our San Antonio trip!


Preparing for the show!


Riding the river!


Our awesome directors!


Cooling down with some ice cream!


Dinner with the spirit of fiesta!

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How Houston Boychoir can help your son!

So your son has trouble concentrating on his homework. He’s constantly in trouble at school for not listening to the teacher. He can run miles around you without taking a break and never seems to be worn out. What’s wrong with him? you think to yourself everyday. The answer is, absolutely nothing. He’s just a boy.

Jonathan&MatthewAccording to Dr. Anthony Rao, who is a nationally-known expert in child psychology, boys have more difficulties in their schooling career than girls generally do. Boys are diagnosed with ADHD three times more than girls are, and are expelled at a rate of four to five times more often than girls! Those are numbers that cannot be ignored.

Houston Boychoir challenges these statistics and creates an environment that teaches and shapes boys into young men; training them to be responsible and mature while still enjoying their youth. Dr. Rao points out the benefits of choir specifically for young boys by highlighting what choirs do.


Your son gets lost in his own world often? A choir targets this by training him to stay focused enough to be in sync with the other voices. Maybe your son is impulsive, disorganized and easily distracted. A choir trains him to stay on note and in time to the music, he has to learn how to practice and commit to his part- all helping him to keep his concentration. He is taught to channel his extra energy in an artistic and constructive way and is positively reinforced when he is rewarded by the attention he gets when he performs.

Teaching your son how to balance his energy and work towards a common goal with his friends is probably the most important lesson in a time where boys find it easier to get distracted and have more pressure to excel in school. If your son has problems in any of these areas, enrolling him in Houston Boychoir could give him the structure and discipline that he needs! Not to mention, the outstanding vocal lessons he would receive! ChamberWinter2014

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First Tour

Being a rookie on tour can be very challenging and very rewarding. Tour is full of singing and rehearsals and calisthenics, can’t forget the calisthenics. When on tour you have to be on your toes at all times. You have to be ready to sing anything from Non nobis domine to the Glendy Burk.

Another big part of tour is the home stays. Home stays are a thing we do where nice people invite us to spend the night at their house. When I first heard the idea I was a little confused, the idea of spending the night in a complete strangers house was little scary, but once I actually met my home stay family they turned out to be very nice.

On tour we can be singing anywhere from a church to a assisted living facility. As Mrs. Nelson says, “Singing, it’s a thinking mans game.” My first tour has been a very fun experience and I can’t wait untill next season so I can do it again.


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Touring: The Invaluable Experience

Each season Houston Boychoir embarks on a concert tour, somewhere. It could be across the state or it could be across the country. But, in this, our 50th anniversary season, 25 incredibly lucky boys traveled across the globe to South Africa.

The choristers think this is their big reward for working hard all year and being in the choir. As their director, I know their reward comes in all they learn.  If you are one of those angels who have supported Houston Boychoir in all they do and even more this season with the grand tour, here, in their voice is how much you impacted a bunch of pre-teen boys.

On Tour:

I learned how to be responsible and how to manage time wisely. These two things will get me far in life…Liam A. 8th grade

Sometimes long bus rides with your friends are more fun than short plane rides and patience and flexibility really are keys to being successful…Nicholas V. 7th grade

I learned how to pack efficiently, lead a group responsibly, and how to interact with new people with a different world view…Jonathan Z. 8th grade

On tour I learned how to quickly put on my formal uniform while still doing it correctly…Coleman H. 6th grade

I learned how to be responsible for myself! Keeping track of my stuff, waking up at the right time, spending money in controlled amounts, and making sure I keep up with the group.  I think these are important life skills that are necessary to succeed…Patrick J. 6th grade

On tour, this tour especially, I learned patience. Being with a younger person and trying to understand their position is what has helped me learn this skill. There are too many things I could write for what I learned but I will just focus on one. The greatest thing I learned was maturity, a lesson that I am grateful for…Jacob M. 8th grade

I learned on tour that many countries are as modern as America and in the choir I learned that if you work hard, you will make the group better…David G. 5th grade

I learned how to pack my bag, how to be ready when it is time to move and how to listen for instructions…Royce S. 6th grade

I have learned how to pack my own bag and how to organize myself…Elliot S. 5th grade

On tour I’ve learned about communicating with people I don’t know (strangers). The home stays challenged me socially because I have trouble catching on but from now on I have a better idea of what to do. I am less shy from this experience…Gerry M. 6th grade

The thing I learned from tour is that you have to be formal for most of the time and you can’t be rude to anyone. What I learned from the choir this year is that you always have fun and you are a professional…anon.

As the directors and staff ready for a new season and new boys we look with enthusiasm for all the learning we can do along side these remarkable boys. Thank you for all your support and see you at the concerts.Image


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Musings with wifi

It will be a quick post. Technology is so easy at home…life is so easy at home. On the road, life is unpredictable. So wonderful for us here. An unforgettable experience that these boys will remember forever. Today they have made new friends with South African singing boys…The Drakensberg are fantastic and lovely hospitable people.

I’m at a loss for words, South Africa is just amazing. We had a scrumptious breakfast on the balcony of our hotel, in front of a breathtaking sunrise. The warm, beaming sun isn’t the only thing that blows us away though, after about a half hour drive from the hotel, we arrived at a beautiful beach, overlooking the Indian Ocean. The water is crystal clear, and it’s a beautiful bright blue. You can actually see what’s in the water, unlike some other beaches I know….Galveston :) A crisp cold water brushed our feet as most of us ran into the water with great excitement. Now we’re on our way to Drakensberg, on a 5 hour bus ride.
Lots of the other guys are playing games on the bus. However, I think there’s something else that we’ve all learned on our journey here so far, and that is how privileged we are in America, and how on many occasions, we take these privileges for granted. Some of the really simple things we have in the US aren’t found here. Take going to school, in the US, most of our public education here is free or of a low cost, because we pay taxes and such to the government. In South Africa though, many families can’t afford to pay for their child’s education, so going to school here is a serious privilege. On some of the bus rides before, we’ve passed by some poor communities, and I think that made us all reflect on how we should all appreciate all we’ve got back home in America. We all look forward to our time in Drakensburg, and hope for a great time there.

After the beach in Durban, we headed for the mountains. Our stop along the way took us to a waterfall in Howick. The artisans were out selling their wares. My favorite was an artist selling batiks from Malawi. The boys were happy buying and buying, spending their Rand. Matthew bought a wooden, carved letter opener he will have check or the plane will think he has a spear!!

Lunch was relaxed under a grand old tree and for a minute, it didn’t feel like tour but more like a relaxed vacation with a big family! Ms. Holt found a wonderful shop and dragged Ms. Nelson where the two ladies got into a buying frenzy. Mr. Bey had to go and drag them out of the shop and the boys were happy at last when they reemerged and got on the bus so we could be on our way.

We are traveling through the mountains, climbing.

Musings of a Traveling Singing Boy (or chaperone)
Every day on tour, especially an international tour, brings another adventure… what will we get to eat, what mode of transportation will we get to travel by and what new stories will we get to write? South Africa is definitely better than advertised. The landscapes and cityscapes are simply remarkable and they should only get better as we transition from the coastlines to the mountains. To steal a slogan from a South African bank (that was actually used as a sermon illustration on Sunday), “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” It’s the “simplicity” of music that has brought us on this journey and that I sincerely look forward to tomorrow in Drakensberg as boys from opposite sides of the world will join in voice, mind and heart.


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