Frequently Asked Questions


What is NCYC?

The National Catholic Youth Choir is a liturgically-based choir open to Roman Catholic youth entering 9th-12th grade. Camp dates generally fall between mid to late June and may include early July. The program takes place each summer on the beautiful wooded grounds of Saint John's Abbey and Saint John's University in central Minnesota.  Camp includes a multi-state tour, concert performances, CD recording and of course fun!  What is unique about the National Catholic Youth Choir is its liturgical focus.  The singers learn about the Catholic liturgy and how the treasury of sacred music (Gregorian chant, Palestrina, Mozart, Bruckner, Poulenc, Duruflé...) fits in Catholic worship today.  The choir also sings contemporary and newly-written music, some of it specially commissioned for the NCYC.

The conductor of the choir is Andre` Heywood.  Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, a monk of Saint John's abbey, is the founding director of the choir.

Where is Collegeville?

Collegeville is in central Minnesota, 75 miles northwest of the Twin Cities on the Interstate. There are two Catholic colleges within 5 miles offering coordinated, coeducational programs: Saint John's University for men in Collegeville, and the College of Saint Benedict for women in St. Joseph. Most of the camp takes place at Saint John's, but some of it is at the Saint Benedict campus. Both colleges are sponsored by Benedictine religious communities. 

What is Saint John's?

Saint John's is a monastery, a university, a graduate School of Theology and Seminary, and home of the St. John's Boys Choir, the Ecumenical Institute, the Saint John's Bible, the Arboretum, a Guesthouse, and much more.

Why participate? What is special about NCYC?

Past choristers speak very highly of their time at NCYC. They say it is enjoyable, fun, inspirational, educational, spiritual, and informational. Many past choristers are still in touch with friends they made at NCYC. Choristers have had their faith renewed and have become excited to be a believing Catholic. They are very proud of the great music they make. To see exactly what choristers have said about their time at camp, click on the chorsiter comments link on the homepage.

What are the main features of the camp?

The schedule includes 6 or more hours of choir rehearsal each day; religion and music classes; prayer and worship; recreation and sports; community and friendship; free time. The last days of the camp are spent on tour.

What does a typical day at NCYC camp look like?

7:00am Morning prayer with Monks (optional)
8:00am Meet for NCYC morning prayer & Breakfast
8:45-12:00pm Rehearsal
12:00pm Lunch & free time
2:00-5:30pm Rehearsal
5:30pm Dinner & free time
8:00-9:30pm Rehearsal
9:30pm Compline
10:15pm Small groups
10:30pm Quiet Time
11:00pm Lights Out

What does a typical day on a NCYC tour look like?

8:00am Breakfast with host family
8:30am Host family drops off choristers at church
9:00am Activity or travel time
12:00-12:30pm Lunch
12:30pm Free Time
1:30pm Activity
1:45pm Travel Time
4:00pm Arrive at new location (unload & set up)
5:00pm Dinner (provided by church)
6:00pm Rehearsal
7:00pm Concert
8:30pm Reception

How do I audition for the choir?

A vocal recording must be submitted with an application form and two references for your application to be considered complete by the deadline. You may either send in a CD or email a MP3 recording (more information on this process can be found within the application form). The audition requires both of the following pieces:

1. A major scale up and down on any vowel sound (i.e., looh or laah). 2. One stanza of song or hymn as found in any standard hymnal or worship aid from one of the following: "Jesus Christ is Risen Today," "O Come, All Ye Faithful," or, "America the Beautiful."

Who are the staff?

NCYC is a program of the School of Theology and Seminary of Saint John's University. Staff include the founding director Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, a monk of Saint John's Abbey. The choir conductor is Andre` Heywood, artistic director for the St. John's Boys Choir. Mandy Wolvert is the Office Manager who works with choristers and family during the entire pre-camp, camp and post camp process. The staff of camp leaders may change from year to year and consist of current and past students of Saint John's University and the College of Saint Benedict and current graduate students of the Saint John's School of Theology.

Recognizing NCYC staff work with minors, all camp staff go through a State of MN Child Protection Back Ground Check,  receive annual training on safe boundaries, ethical work with minors and review and sign the NCYC staff code of conduct policy.

Audition and Acceptance

Who is eligible for NCYC?

Any Catholic student going into grade 9, 10, 11, or 12 in the fall of the school year following the summer program applied to. (ex. Student applies for the summer NCYC program of 2016 and will be a 9, 10, 11 or 12 grader the fall of 2016.) Students must be able to be present for the entire camp in order to be accepted. The National Catholic Youth Choir admits U.S. students of any race, color, and national or ethnic origin. 

How do I apply for the choir?

Three things are submitted: an application form, two references from other people, and a vocal audition recording. The student application form and reference form are both available online.

When are the applications due?

 The end of  March. Due dates are listed on the application form.  Decisions of acceptance are generally made in early April. Notices are sent via email to both parents and choristers.

How are choristers selected for participation?

Once choristers submit all of their application materials by the March 31st deadline (see also "How do I apply for the choir?"), our conductor will begin the selection process. Choristers will be notified by mid-to-late April.

How selective is the process?

NCYC strives to select the most highly qualified applicants and a good vocal blend of sopranos, altos, tenors and baritones. The final member count varies from year to year depending on the number of male and female applicants and this sought after vocal blend. Some years it may be quite competitive for women if their applications out number the males. Males are always encouraged to apply!

Registration Fee

What does the camp cost?

Fees are listed on the application form. One fee covers the entire camp and tour including all meals, lodging and tour travel expenses. The registration fee does not cover travel to and from home. Choristers may wish to bring a small amount of spending money but this is optional.

Are there scholarships?

Yes, there is a scholarship based on financial need or a merit-based scholarship. For the financial need scholarship, choristers and/or their families can request an application from the assistant director after they have been accepted into the choir. NCYC requires a copy of the first two pages of the current year's tax return along with the completed scholarship application. First time choristers can apply for the merit-based scholarship within their application to the choir.

How do I apply for a merit-based scholarship?

Two merit-based scholarships of $500 are available to first-time participants. This merit-based scholarship is completed within the application to the choir. Instructions are given in the application form. To apply for this merit-based scholarship, you submit a recording of yourself singing a classical piece of music (suggested length 2-4 minutes). It does not have to be a sacred piece and it may be accompanied or unaccompanied. If you are accepted to receive this special scholarship, you will be expected to either sing a solo or cantor during camp.

Is there other financial assistance?

Yes. Many choristers in the past have received assistance from their Diocese, high school, home parish and/or from Catholic organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, the Council of Catholic Women, and similar groups. Their home parish or school or choir may also be willing to assist with a fund raising activity such as a special breakfast or dinner, bake sale. Your parish may also be willing to host a special collection during weekend Masses.

Assistance may also be available through city, county or state arts boards. Sometimes local music companies or Chamber of Commerce organizations may have programs that offer financial assistance opportunities.

NCYC encourages students who apply to begin seeking out any and all local financial assistance opportunities before their application to NCYC is accepted because if they are accepted there is a limited time frame of approximately two months before registration fees are due.

Supporting NCYC

How is NCYC financed?

The chorister fees cover less than half of the total cost of the program. The remainder is made up by donations from many organizations and individuals. Parents of accepted choristers are invited to donate as much as they can beyond the registration fee to cover the actual program costs.

Further Information

Could we host NCYC in our town?

We hope so. We select tour venues on the basis of local organizers' readiness, church with good acoustics and piano and pipe organ quality, possibility of drawing a good crowd, local fundraising and support and availability of host families. If you are interested in hosting NCYC, contact us at 320-363-3154, [email protected]

How do I get further information?

If you still have some unanswered questions contact:Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, founding director and chaplain: 320-363-3233,[email protected]

Mandy Wolvert, Office Manager: 320-363-3154, [email protected]
Andre` Heywood, choral conductor: 320-363-2558, [email protected]