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Eric Willner Advances To State Boys Tour Choir

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March 10, 2011

By Holly Brook Cotton
Benfield Elementary School fifth grader Eric Willner was recently accepted into the Maryland State Boy Choir for his harmonious vocal talents.
“This is what I was born to do. I love the music, the texture, the form, the feeling, the way it’s arranged,” said Willner.

His earliest memories of music are from when he was 3 or 4 and made up his own songs; the words and music “just coming to him.” His mom, Sharon Willner, would record him while he banged on pots and pans. By the time he was six, he had a real drum set.
Willner recalled the story of the 80s band INXS pulling seven-year-old Eric up on stage to play the maracas at the Maryland State Fair. “He was a born performer,” Sharon Willner beamed. “It’s what he loves. It makes me feel good that he’s found something that he really enjoys, that makes him happy.”
Willner adds that she knew Eric was going to be a serious singer when she watched him sing Viva la Vida by Cold Play at the Benfield Variety Show three years ago. “He wasn’t afraid… just got up on stage and was naturally good at it.”

Benfield Music Teacher Kathleen Sullivan noticed Eric singing at a school workshop. “He just commanded the whole stage,” recalled Sullivan. “He is like a one man show; he entertains everyone.”
While Eric was singing high and low pitches, Sullivan stopped him right in the middle of the exercise and handed him the Maryland State Boy Choir brochure. “She had a big smile on her face and looked really happy,” Eric said.
The Willners appreciated Sullivan’s enthusiasm and are grateful to Mr. Yakaitis, Eric’s clarinet teacher and to Deborah Brown, his piano teacher. In a recommendation, Brown wrote: “I quickly recognized Eric as one of the most talented, musically bright students I had the opportunity of teaching.”
For his Maryland State Boys audition, Eric sang The Star Spangled Banner. When he learned he was accepted, he said he felt awesome. “I was excited to be getting the opportunity of a lifetime,” he commented.
Within three weeks, the founder of Maryland State Boy Choir, Frank T. Cimino, moved Eric up to Treble Choir and recently he was advanced two levels to Tour Choir, the highest in the group. Eric describes “Mr. Frank,” who recently retired, as a “good guy” and one of his best friends.
Eric, who is looking forward to singing in D.C., Michigan and Canada, states he has been able to meet some really nice friends and mentors from all over the state. He also loves seeing the sites and taking pictures to remember them by.
In the fall, Eric will be attending Bates Middle School, a magnet school in Annapolis that specializes in the Visual and Performing Arts, and he is excited to be going to a place where other children share his interests.
When he isn’t singing, Eric loves playing with his Boxer Buster, drawing, and writing songs. He also enjoys going to festivals, traveling to Ocean City and spending time with his grandparents.
Eric offers this advice to others pursuing music: “Know that it is part of who you are and just keep doing what you like.”

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