Boys Choir of Harlem founder dies
THE ASSOCIATED PRESSMarch 24, 2007Walter Turnbull, whose Boys Choir of Harlem started in a church basement and went on to international acclaim before spiraling into scandal, has died, his brother said Friday.He was 62.Turnbull died just after 3 p.m. in a New York City hospital, said his brother, Horace Turnbull. He said Turnbull had suffered a stroke months earlier."He was a genius of a man who managed to take his talents in bringing out song in young people who had no training," said U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who helped raise funds for the choir.The Boys Choir of Harlem, founded with 20 boys in the basement of a Harlem church in 1968, has performed at the White House, at the United Nations and for Pope John Paul II.It has released albums and been heard on the soundtracks of films such as "Jungle Fever," "Malcolm X" and "Glory." Beyond musical training, the choir provides educational and personal counseling to hundreds of inner-city children ages 9 to 19.But in recent years, the world-renowned choir fell into debt and faced charges that Turnbull ignored reports that an employee had sexually abused a student. The 50-boy choir was evicted from its home last year and now has a reduced, mostly volunteer staff.In late 2002, Frank Jones Jr., who directed the choir's counseling and summer camp and chaperoned members on trips for more than two decades, was convicted of 24 counts of sexually abusing a 15-year-old student and sentenced to 2 years in prison. In 2003, city investigators concluded that Turnbull and his brother Horace Turnbull "failed to report serious allegations of abuse" of the student by Jones. Moreover, the investigative report said, the Turnbulls continued to allow Jones to be near students.City education officials evicted the choir from the Choir Academy of Harlem, a public school, in February 2006. Susan M. Shapiro, a lawyer for the city, said the choir was evicted because choir officials reneged on a January 2004 agreement to make administrative changes "in the aftermath of sexual abuse allegations, which were substantiated."The choir has been rehearsing at another Harlem church, but it was difficult for the group because most of their equipment was still at the academy."We're really not functioning on the high level that the Boys Choir is used to functioning on," Walter Turnbull said in April 2006. But, he added, "People really need to know that we are here and we're serving children."Rangel said fundraising will keep the choir going. "The boys choir is not going to die with the great doctor," he said.
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