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Recruiting: Recruiting more Boys

Hello everyone. Thanks for your responses to my query about recruiting
boys. Here is a summary of the responses I received. I also had some
more success finding discussions of the topic in places such as Choral
Journal and Music Educator's Journal, and would be happy to pass on
those references to any who email me in person at joyanne(a)augustana.ca

Much of the discussion may end up being specific to certain ages or
contexts - for instance, I am dealing with Elementary aged children, not
higher grades, and I have a community choir and so only rehearse one
evening per week. Some of the responses are ideal for high school,
church choir, multiple rehearsals etc. Skim and pluck what you can from
it all!

- "give them solo parts (they are usually good - for which boy would
take that kind of risk if they were not ????) The ladies treat them
'special' - give them organizational jobs - or chairs, windows,
cookies!!!
In Canada - it's hockey mentality - any boy who works in choir is
serious - usually academically sound. I just tell them - to look at the
pop singers - the Three Tenors - MALES everywhere!!! - and it starts
with a good choir. Good luck!"

- encourage modeling from men's groups (both live performances and
listening to recordings) - make a point of showing off the variety of
interests these men (or high school boys) have outside of choir.

- demonstrate styles that are tailored to men's voices - barbershop,
doo-wop

- many respondents wrote to encourage the establishment of an all-boys
ensemble (with one example of boys appearing only once the all-boys
choir was formed, and giving up when it had to be temporarily suspended)

- one stream developed (on the public forum, so many of you will have
seen it) about finding music "appropriate" to boys. Much food for
thought here, about how music and any "extras" such as choreography are
presented by the conductor/teacher, and about what music/text means to
the singers.

- "A short term committment for a specific event seemed to work to
'break the ice' as well."

- present yourself ( the conductor/teacher) at local events in which
boys are likely to participate to "let them see you supporting them"

- approach boys in person! (talk to them about choir and why you think
they should be in it when you are outside the music room)

- Help fight the stereotypes, but be aware of them. "By the time boys
are going through puberty and approaching or in junior high, even high
school, the have been inundated by advertising, role models, home
upbringing, and stereotyping as to what it means to be a male."


- "Recruit from younger grades, where they're too young to know if choir
is cool or not."

- "get the girls in the choir to recruit them". This one is an
interesting proposition to me, as mine are still at the "ICK" stage when
we talk about it (although they are fine with the boys who show up, they
just don't seem to want to talk to any new ones!).

- Have each choir member be responsible for finding one boy who should
(and might actually want to!) be in choir. (This gives me the same issue
as above, but may be useful for some). *Anecdotally, I have had lots of
success with "Bring a Friend" nights, when the rehearsal is somewhat
less formal and includes a bit more time for interaction or games. My
girl's friends just all happen to be girls!
on April 22, 2005 10:00pm
This is what my reseach has been on (boys singing/not singing). My own success in this area came within the school, by first saturating them with singing in class; next, reducing the risk by changing the parameters for singing success in class(any attempt=success, rather than successful pitching or good tone); next, starting a boys-only choir; next, generating social recognition for their participation --- there have to be social rewards, even if they don't sound good; all the while, had to really work hard on the whole homophobia thing in the school, really clamping down on it and getting the kids to implement their own 0 tolerance, since that was the thing that kept most of them out of singing. Later on, I'd teach my boys and my girls some common rep, put them together as a mixed choir and they never even knew!!!

The strongest youth chorus organizations I've seen (London, ON and St. John, NB) have separate choirs for boys and girls, AND they keep the boys singing past the voice change (unlike the Toronto Children's Chorus,
which keeps the girls until they're 18, but seems to me to toss the boys out when they're not trebles anymore. Arg!!!

Best of luck in your endeavours.
Adam Adler
on April 26, 2005 10:00pm
My son's high school had a self-directed, extra-curricular all-male ensemble called the Testostertones - a popular choir name in high schools and colleges in the U.S. Their repertoire was pop tunes from the 40's on up, arranged for male voices and sung with panache. They were good and were invited to sing at assemblies and Senior Awards Night, so they got plenty of social reward for singing.

A high school choir director I know also coaches his school's wrestling team. He has no problem convincing male students that singing is manly.

Good luck.
Carol Boyk