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See Bobby Hill Live at the Kimmel Center

Ring in the New Year with Bobby Hill, the New Jersey Boychoir, singers from St. Aloysius Academy, the “Hilltones” from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the Archbishop Carroll High School Choir, and the Find Your Instrument! Choir @ Lingelbach Elementary School, which was able to keep its art programs running through the endARTSlessness campaign.

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Watch Bobby Hill sing "Pie Jesu"

Watch then 14-year-old Bobby Hill take the stage during an impromptu performance for the Pope.

The Citizen Recommends: Bobby Hill & Friends!

The teen famous for serenading the Pope debuts his new voice for a charity fundraiser on New Years Eve

The teen famous for serenading the Pope debuts his new voice for a charity fundraiser on New Years Eve

When Bobby Hill, best known as the boy who sang for the Pope, performs his first ever full-length solo concert at the Kimmel Center on New Year’s Eve, it will also mark another first: The debut of his new grown-up voice.

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The Keystone State Choir singer shot to fame two years ago, during Pope Francis’ 2015 visit to Philadelphia, when event organizers forgot to cover a 60 second set change between The Fray and Aretha Franklin. Steve Fisher, Hill’s choir director, offered his 14-year-old protege, who blew everyone away with a short, stunning rendition of “Pie Jesu.” Then he gave the Pope a rock (which was a memento from the choir’s trip to Antarctica), told actor Mark Wahlberg, who hosted the festival, that he loved his performance in Ted, and hopped off the stage.

Since then, Hill has spent six weeks learning opera in a tiny town near the Tuscan border in Italy. He flew to Indonesia to sing a few songs at an extravagant wedding which included a pop-up cathedral inside a hotel ballroom. He recorded with the Czech National Symphony Organizer in Prague. But he says his favorite experience so far was performing at the Democratic National Convention last year, because he got to meet the politicians he follows in the news.

Soon, he’ll add to that list a New Year’s Eve concert at the Kimmel Center, where he’ll show off his new vocal skills as a tenor. Hill, who was a boy soprano until last February, got a voice teacher for the first time when his voice started changing. The hardest part of the transition was learning new songs and to sing in a different way. Luckily, the process only took him two weeks.

“I was blessed in that respect,” he says. Hill can now sing tenor classics like “You Raise Me Up,” as well as other staples of what he calls “tenor-dom.”

His goal for the campaign is to shift cultural attitudes towards the arts. “It’s always an afterthought,” he says. “But outside of food and shelter, it’s what really keeps somebody going and their life fulfilled.”

Hill’s performance is a fundraiser for the Commonwealth Youthchoir’s  endARTSlessness campaign, which works to lift children out of creative poverty by making sure schools in Philadelphia and Camden have at least one arts program. Hill was asked by Fisher, the charity’s founder, to be its spokesperson.

He says he is excited for the opportunity to pay forward the opportunities given to him, especially because he has always had access to the arts. Hill’s parents put him in his church’s youth choir when he was three and a half. Before singing for the Pope, he attended practice once a week; in the past two years, he has focused even more on his singing. He also plays guitar, piano and violin.  

His goal for the campaign is to shift cultural attitudes towards the arts. “It’s always an afterthought,” he says. “But outside of food and shelter, it’s what really keeps somebody going and their life fulfilled.”

Hill is also involved in Find Your Instrument!, a CY program that has established choirs in six schools. The Lingelbach Elementary School Choir, a Find Your Instrument! school, will be joining him on stage at the benefit. “It’s a lot of their first times just being in the Kimmel Center,” he says of the students. “It just exposes them a lot more than they would have been.”

The show will be co-hosted by Quincy Harris, from Fox 29 and Cherri Gregg of KYW Newsradio 1060. The Archbishop Carroll High School’s Choir will be performing, as well as the New Jersey Boychoir for their first time ever.

After the concert, Hill has a day off before going back to the grind of school. “But I’ll probably take a weekend after the concert is done to go skiing,” he notes.

Sunday, December 31, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m., $20- $50, Perelman Theater, the Kimmel Center, 300 S Broad St. Purchase tickets here.

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