Last month, the Afro American Music Institute’s Boys Choir won first place at the National Boys Choir Convention in Louisville, Ky., beating out three other choirs from Kansas City, Mo., and Louisville, winning a trophy and medal.

“I am so happy and proud of my boys,” Pamela Johnson said. “This was a wonderful opportunity for the choir. They have the opportunity to become great Black men.”


According to Executive Director of the National Boys Choir Convention, McDaniel “Brother” Bluitt, the competition’s goal is to “create a greater awareness among choristers and establish a mutual network of choristers who have common interest and create a network to provide on-going annual competition nationwide.”

During the competition, the young participants learned the value of their God-given talents and established a national network of friends and colleagues. Brother Bluitt said the Afro American Music Institute’s Boys Choir was chosen to compete in the competition because, “Their performance level of artistry had been consistently demonstrated over the past 20 years.”

Muhammad Ali Nasir loves being a part of the Afro American Music Institute’s Boys Choir.

“I love the choir. I can’t imagine my life without it. This is like a big, bright light. The choir opens us up to a lot of different music genres,” said the 22-year-old Pitcairn resident who has been a member of the choir since he was six years old. “It has taught me etiquette, chivalry, personal hygiene. It has taught me how to be a gentleman and we can in turn teach younger boys how to be men. This choir is a beautiful thing.”

Choir member Dorian Gooden agreed with Nasir.

“This choir has matured me,” said Gooden, an 18-year-old North Versailles resident who has been a member of the choir for two years. “Most African-American guys are doing something in the streets. This choir taught me discipline. I have learned how to listen to other people.”

The Afro American Music Institute Boys Choir was founded by Pamela J. Johnson in 1990 as a musical tribute to fathers on Father’s Day. Under the direction of her husband, James T. Johnson, the ensemble has grown to about 30 members and is renowned for its interpretation of gospel, jazz, blues, pop, and spiritual music.

“I want to build the kids’ confidence and self-esteem,” said James Johnson. “There’s a lot of love between everyone that is involved with the choir. We’re just one big happy family.”

The choir has performed at local churches and festivals throughout the Pittsburgh area. It has sung outside of the Golden Triangle at Spellman College, the Civil Rights Museum and Canada, among other venues..

Choir member James Royce Robertson has fond memories of the choir’s trip to Canada.

“It was a great experience. It gave me a taste of what the choir offered,” explained Robertson, a 21-year-old Pitcairn resident who has been a member of the boys choir for two years. “The choir gives me the opportunity to be around more African-American men and it shows the positive impact to kids and that is great.”

Auditions are open to boys ages 8 and up. Participants must possess energy and a strong desire to perform.

(For more information on the Afro-American Music Institute or its boys choir, visit or call 412-241-6775.)

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