In my March 2016 blog I wrote, ‘So, why should boys sing?’
And now, it’s Thursday evening and my group of 10 – 13 year old boys who make up our Tour Choir, with deep concentration on their faces are rehearsing a very difficult, three-part, a cappella piece from the Baroque era and it’s hard to believe there could ever be a problem getting boys to sing. But the example of these engaged boys belies a reality music teachers and choirmasters have been battling to change for years . . . that fewer and fewer boys are willing to sing, and even those who start out, have a tendency to stop when they reach puberty. Not important to the boys is that singing improves learning skills and critical thinking, helps the respiratory system [heart and lungs] and triggers good endorphin chemicals in brain functions.
The perception that [especially young] male participation in choirs has declined far more than that of girls was for a long time largely anecdotal. But thanks to recent research we now know it to be true. Figures released reveal more than one in five boys still don’t sing at all – ever!
In 2017 a published study was released based on interviews with 400 hundred boys aged eight to thirteen, in which the majority confessed they were afraid to continue singing into middle school and junior high because of concerns about seeming effeminate, coining the term, ”melancholic boys” to describe those silenced by the fear of ‘homophobic bullying’.
So what can be done to dispel these fears in our boys? I believe there are at least two influences capable of transforming boys’ attitudes . . . enthusiastic teaching and suitable male role models. And for most boys, the best examples are other boys like them. If you want 10-year old boys and older to sing, they’ve got to see other like-minded boys and 16-year old boys singing!
I have been to a number of all boys schools and actually when boys are all together, there isn’t the awkwardness of being around girls, which is an issue in mixed schools. There are real gender issues around that difficult age when the boys voice starts to mutate downward.
Also, getting boys engaged in singing and keeping them engaged as they get older, depends on who the inspirational figure is. If you’ve got a music teacher who truly likes singing, it makes a huge difference, especially if it is a male teacher. My hypothesis is that where boys singing is promoted, boys are singing and singing well!
I want to spread the idea that singing with other boys is just like attending a football game with other boys . . . just another activity that boys like to do together!
May it be so.