Young opera singer is already reaching for the stars

by Len Lear
Posted 7/6/23

Chestnut Hill's Ethan Monberg is just 12, but the rising eighth grader at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy is already a musical luminary.

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Young opera singer is already reaching for the stars


Chestnut Hill resident Ethan Monberg is just 12 years old, but the rising eighth grader at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH) is already a musical luminary. A member of and soloist with the Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale as well as a member of the Philadelphia Vocal Conservatory, the local preteen is a much-admired singer, pianist and composer.

And on Thursday, July 13, he will be performing the leading role of Amahl in the beloved opera, “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” by famed Curtis Institute graduate Gian Carlo Menotti, about a shepherd boy who encounters the Three Kings on their way to Bethlehem. The full concert performance of the opera, which is free to the public, will be part of “Christmas in July,” featuring more than 40 musicians at the 100th anniversary celebration of Cooper River Park in Camden County. 

Ethan’s musical talent was clear from an early age. He started taking piano lessons at age 3, and when he was in the third grade, his music teacher, Roland Woehr, suggested that he try out for the Philadelphia Boys Choir, which was holding auditions at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church.

“So I did,” Ethan told us. “And here I am!”

“Ethan is a sensitive musician and an elegant singer. His soprano tone is luminous and characterized by a freely spinning tone production and pristine intonation,” said Woehr, who is the director of middle school boys' vocal music at SCH. “He also possesses both the energy and the skill to split his time between orchestra at school and the boychoir of our middle school boys division.” 

Even more important, Woehr said, is that “Ethan is a consummate young gentleman” who works hard. 

“He learns all the parts first and fastest in order to model those same soprano parts for the singers in his section,” Woehr said. “He has been crucial to the success of each piece of music that the Middle School Boys Choir has sung this past year, most especially the Laudate Dominum from Mozart's Solemn Vespers, which he helped to lead at our Winter Concert at St. Martin's Church.”

Ethan, who is learning both jazz and classical piano, began composing two years ago when he was introduced to the music notation software MuseScore. He now takes composition lessons with West Chester University professor Sabrina Clarke. 

He is now composing an opera called “The Mime,” which tells the story of a mime who is trying to warn townspeople of a sea monster, and has performed one scene of that opera at the Philadelphia Vocal Conservatory Opera Camp.

Who are Ethan's favorite composers?

“In the world of classical composers, I like Bach and Chopin,” he said. “I like singing and playing Bach, and I also like Chopin for piano. I like John Williams as well because I also want to do film scoring … I think growing up to be a conductor and a composer could be nice. Film scoring also sounds cool.”

Aside from music, Ethan enjoys robotics, coding and chess. “I really like building robots, and coding helps me do that,” he said. “Chess is just fun.”

An only child, Ethan is quick to credit his success to the support of his teachers and parents, Matthew Monberg, a scientist at Merck pharmaceutical company, and Jennifer Monberg, who is a lawyer. 

“Mr. Ashby (Michael Ashby, vocal technical teacher for the Philadelphia Boys Choir) has helped me so much with learning the music for 'Amahl,'” Ethan said. “Mr. Jeff Smith, the director of the Philadelphia Boys Choir, also helped and gave me the opportunity to sing the part of Amahl, which I am so thankful for. Mr. Woehr, of course, got me started with singing and has been so supportive.”

For more information about “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” call 1-866-226-3362 or visit