Where do boys with Changed voices go from boychoir?
Thanks for all the results! This is a LONG compilation! polly
Here in Maine we have a director, Stewart Shuster, who has a policy of
retaining the kids through voice change. His groups are:
The Southern Maine Boys Choir,
The Southern Maine Girls Choir, and
The Young Mens Choir
These groups rehearse almost always as a cohesive group, twice a week,
though at times he'll take the more mature male voices aside to rehearse
separately. In performance, about 70 percent of their works are sung as a
complete choir of about 24 voices, and the balance are split between the
Girls, The Girls and the (treble) Boys, and the Young Men, depending on the
The repertoire for the Young Men ranges from baroque to the early 1900s,
including a number of Randall Thompson works. The guys REALLY enjoy
singing, from "day one" (minimum around 8 years old) until they leave at the
end of high school. In fact, they keep coming back when they're in town,
which is a real thrill for everyone.
Stewart is a close friend and associate of James Litton who directs the
American Boy Choir, down your way (Princeton). You might get in touch with
him, or with Stewart, who I know would enjoy communicating with you.
Stewart's e-mail is
Also, if your computer will do it, you can listen to our gang singing by
visiting their Website at
great, but you'll get the idea right away. Also, if you'd like, you can
take a peek at our own Website
happy HearFones user" (or something like that) you'll see a Boys Choir
member (recently become a tenor) -- my 14-year-old son Sunil.
In August, Ray Miller and I were invited to Stockholm to host a workshop
session on HearFones at the Fourth Pan-European Conference on the Voice. It
was really great, and we met a lot of wonderful people -- from Ingo Titze
and Johan Sundberg to doctors, voice therapists and opera singers. Many,
many speakers gave 15-minute presentations, one of whom was Chris Barlow
from the University of York (England), who spoke on "Singing Voice
Development in Adolescence."
Chris started as an eight year old in one England's 40-odd cathedral choirs,
rehearsing 2 to 2-1/2 hours a day, mixed boys and girls.
He mentioned a popular "old wives tale" (hope that's not a sexist remark)
that you should never train a child until he or she is at least sixteen, and
he intended to explore its roots. Boys vocal folds grow about 10 mm, or
about one octave drop in pitch, during puberty (girls typically drop about 2
to 3 semitones).
Chris used electrolaryngography (it's not as bad as it sounds) and looked at
electroglottograms and recordings of kids' voices as they progressed, to
produce scatter plots of the pitch vs. the way the vocal folds open at a
variety of singing pitches, which he showed us as slides. You could see the
patterns broke down -- for both girls and boys -- into about five
distinct ranges or registers of performance (we might say over the range
from "chest voice" to falsetto") as students became more and more trained.
For male adolescents 16 years and up, there were only about three or four
ranges, but they were more-or-less the same whether or not the subjects had
been trained since before puberty. His conclusion is that most of the old
You can look at some of his work on his way-cool Website at:
Be prepared for a surprise! ;-)
I'm sure if you wrote Chris at
his findings with you -- probably even a copy of his paper. He's a really
And his English is pretty good too.
Pete Mickelson, President
"the HearFones folks"
I saw your post on ChoralNet. I am programs coordinator for Cambiata Vocal
Music Institute of America, Inc., which is a non-profit organization that
administers to the needs of singing organizations containing changing
May I draw your attention to Cambiata Press, although not directly
associated with us, they sponsor our website and we are certainly
sympathetic to their virtues and aspirations. They publish music written
specifically for singing organizations containing changing voices. Although
their primary market is churches and schools, please understand that much of
their music is masterworks, folk songs, hymn arrangements, spirituals, etc.
designed for semi- professional boys and children's choirs. You may view
their titles in their catalog online at:
Once you have boys whose voices have begun to change you will find music in
their catalog which allows you to continue to sing SSA with an added fourth
part written in the bass clef for those voices as they change and
afterwards. This allows you to have a children's chorus with members who
stay with the organization through high-school. Much of their music has
three parts written in treble clef and one part written in bass clef.
On the CVMIA website are several articles your may read which will enlighten
you relative to the cambiata concept. Simple link to:
I particularly recommend the articles entitled Tenets of the Cambiata
Concept and Singing Four-parts with Mid-Level Students.
Finally, the Cambiata Press website is:
Go online and sign the guestbook at the bottom of the homepage. You will
receive an automated request from Dr. Don L. Collins which will ask you to
describe your situation. Tell him what you have expressed in your post on
ChoralNet and he will send you some complimentary music for your perusal.
You may also view and hear some of their music online, however, most of what
is online is probably more apropos to the school situation. There are a
couple pieces in the Mixing Melodies Makes Marvelous Music Choral Series
which might interest you. Click on
to read about the series so you will understand how to use it. Then click on
You may need to download a little plug-in called "Scorch." Click on any of
the part-combinations on the above page and if the music does not appear,
click on the word scorch at the bottom of the page and follow the
instructions which will appear. It only takes a few moments.
I hope this information is helpful.
If the idea is prepared well with the boys, having the changed voice
boys sing in their head voices and continue participation can be a
boon to your group. Best example of this with a wonderful choir is Z.
Randall Stroope and his Bel Canto (the top ensemble in Nebraska
Children's Choir program of several hundred singers). They sang at
the ACDA National and I heard them at Southwest ACDA in Houston this
past March. Stunning singing by an all-treble choir. Since I've done
lots of research and written two books about the boy's changing voice, I
was very surprised to find that this is the norm for Randall. I talked
to several of his junior high and high school boys after their Houston
workshop. Their speaking voices were obviously changing or changed.
I tested them on the spot (informally of course). One or two fellows
said "I'm a baritone, but I sing alto in this choir." They thrive on
it--because of the incredible musical experience with Randall. It
doesn't hurt them. It's a new possibility, I believe, for children's
choirs. Or maybe I've been out in the Kansas plains too long and don't
know that it's the norm in other places.
What do you think?
P.S. You might check out my new book, Strategies for Teaching Junior
High & Middle School Male Voices--Master Teachers Speak, published by
Santa Barbara Music. You can look at the contents on www.sbmp.com.
Lots of "stuff" in it--and 41 master teachers were my resource.
Dr. Terry Barham.
Director of Choral Activities
Emporia State University
Emporia, KS 66801
Most of the mixed childrens choirs in Melbourne ask
boys to leave when they can no longer sing in a treble
range. One choir (the choir I once sang in) briefly
experimented with retaining a small group of boys as
part-time members of the existing advanced treble
ensemble, singing the occasional SAB or SSAB
selection, however after a year they reverted to
treble only. I'm not particularly sure why they chose
not to continue that arrangement.
I think ideally Yarra Ranges would like to establish a
separate SA(T)B ensemble for older teenagers, but at
the moment we don't have the numbers to sustain such a
group, so any short-term solution for us would have to
involve somehow integrating the boys into our existing
Alternatively, we have close links with a local adult
choir, Yarra Valley Singers, and two of our boys have
joined that group as tenors while continuing to sing
with us as altos. Some of our older girls have also
joined Yarra Valley Singers.
Yarra Ranges Childrens Choir
Though I do not direct a community children's choir, I do have almost 30
years experience dealing with the changing boy's voice (I teach middle
school). I get kids in my school who have been in community children's
I can say that one of the most devastating things to a boy singer is
this: You have gotten them excited about singing and confident with
their voice that is unchanged. To "let them go" as their voice changes
gives them the message, in many cases, that they can no longer sing.
Therefore, they stop singing after the children's choir. Boys must be
led through the change and be helped to learn how to use the new voice.
They will probably not learn it on their own. They will only be
frustrated by their inability to do what they once did, then be
discouraged, and quit singing. I have known several boys who had
beautiful soprano voices and many successful singing experiences, who
were told to drop choir when their voices "broke," and they never sang
again. They felt they could never do what they did before.
If you only wish to keep your choirs as treble choirs, then help them
find someplace else where they can continue to sing and learn how to use
their developing voice under the care of a knowledgeable middle school
teacher. The single biggest issue in middle school music is the
changing voice (male and female) and how to deal with it. Please do not
leave your wonderful boy singers out in the cold while the girls of
their age continue to sing. This is the age we loose boys to
singing--or keep them forever.
To have them continue in your group, you will have to re-think the
structure to include them. Choosing repertoire: a never-ending search
that requires your specific knowledge of their exact ranges--not just
the extremes, but primarily what notes they are COMFORTABLE singing.
Then, find repertoire that can accommodate that comfortable range.
There's the rub. My experience tells me that there is not many pieces
made for the comfortable ranges of the changing boy's voice, even with
all the research and studies that have been published in the last 20
years or so. The typical "Baritone" part in the SAB pieces that are
supposedly published for this age (F below middle C to D or e above)
really comfortably fits very few boys going through the change. I do a
GREAT DEAL of arranging and re-writing. The COMFORTABLE part is
important, because otherwise they learn to sing with much tension and
even pain. And again, they quit. The other aspect is that those
comfortable ranges don't stay constant for very long--2 or 3 months if
you are lucky. You could start learning a piece and by concert time, it
may no longer work very well for the voices you have.
I'm sorry; this turned out to be rather long. There are no simple
answers here, and it is a VERY important issue to choral music. I hope
this helps somewhat!
RE: your quote--I agree, if fact, my experience has been that they can
exceed even my greatest expectations!
Crystal Lake, IL
I don't often respond to choralist messages, but this one resonates with me.
The solution I like best is that they move into a youth SATB choir. In our
community almost all middle schoolers sing in an SSA children's community
choir. But, we also offer an SATB youth community choir that is VERY good,
and all changed voices move into this group if they have the musical
experience required for it. It consists mostly of high school singers. You
won't have enough singers for this yet, but you can move toward this. Others
I've witnessed stay in an SSA group and sing in their head voices. This has
NOT been beneficial for their vocal development. They often have trouble
understanding and using an appropriate tone when they sing TOO much in their
head voices. I have also seen several children's choir organizations that
lets them go when their voices change, but I don't like that message.
Oregon State University
As a conductor of a small choir with boys both changed and unchanged, I work
with all. I find that most of the repertory for unchanged voices works fine
for the changed voices. As well, there is added texture of having the
changed voices in the choir.
An added plus is the leadership these older boys offer the younger ones.
The one caveat is that you have to be careful about where to put the
unchanged boys. They can't be too near the changed voices, or they will try
to dig in.
Hi - I also have children's choirs. After years of letting them go, I
made a separate boys choir for those whose voices had changed. We rehearse
immediately after the older choir, and the high school girls can stay for
first half hour for SATB stuff (and because they want to see the boys) and
last half hour I do TTBB. It works - if you can stand all those hopping
Sue Fay Allen,
Amherst Bel Canto Choirs
An alternative that occurs to me, if you really want to keep the A choir
all treble, is to make the B choir both treble and SAB or SAC, and move the
changing voices down without making it seem like a penalty or a negative
Best of luck in making your decision!
In the '60's and '70's my husband and I directed a very successful boy
choir, usually of treble voices; however, we had an outstanding group whose
members wanted to continue after their voices began to change. We solved
the problem as long as it lasted by turning the group into an SATB group for
the duration. It was great fun, and both the boys and the two of us have
very fond memories of that time. The choir even sang at our wedding.
Incidentally, the members of that boy choir became the cornerstones of their
junior and senior high school choirs as they grew older. In that way,
keeping the boys singing, rather than casting them aside, surely paid off to
our town's eight junior and five senior high schools and their various
Ann (Mrs. Robert B.) Buchanan
Retired Choral Director,
Hanna High School,
I had a men and boys choir which sang SATB music, so I moved the changed
voices onto the alto part. It worked well. The same would work with SSA
One of my tricks in the 2-pt. rep (if you have a beginning choir) is to have
the changing voices sing the treble I part an octave down.. this usually
places them in a cambiata range, and keeps them as a section, without
putting pressure on their voices... To differeniate this from the procedure
of just allowing them to sing whatever is in their range (most conductors
are happy if their boys lips are moving, with ANYTHING coming out of them)
They just have to be musically aware that this is what their conductor is
asking them to do, so they can develop their reading skills as well.
Dover Union Free School District, 6-12 Choral
Martha Shaw of the Spivey Children's Chorus in Morrow, GA, does an amazing
thing. She keeps her boys well into change, but uses their voices both in
treble and in baritone range. She will program all treble music on the
half of her program, and you are sitting there, looking at these big
bruisers, 16 years old and such, in the back row, wondering, what in the
world??? Then she switches to SATB music in the latter part of her program
and those guys shift down! It's amazing and very impressive. I wish I
tell you how to reach her. Perhaps she will answer your query herself.
But the bottom line is that you should keep them. How wonderful it is (and
what a change from the way it used to be!) that her guys feel "special" and
very crucial in her ensemble. It is a goal all of us who work with children
Been a while since we've been in touch. I find that if a treble (boy)
has been well trained, he will retain a usable treble singing voice for a
time, after his speaking voice has shifted. (Of course boys are often prone
to a "proto-macho" display of a deepening speaking voice, sometimes to comic
effect.) So we tend to hang on to those in process of voice-change, using
them for alto or Treble III singing, and such unison work as they can
handle. After all, they know the ropes and can read well and sing in tune.
But we are careful not to force a changing voice. We ask the singers to be
sensitive to the feel of their voices and not to over-extend.
We work as a treble choir, but also as a choir of men/boys. So
eventually they become "apprentice" tenors or basses in the men's section,
usually after a year off, to let the voice settle into that familiar light
adolescent baritone, from which it can go either tenor or bass, depending on
the forces of nature and nurture. They do NOT sing loudly (not permitted).
We have mature men to take care of that. But they sing to get acquainted
wtih the new voice and how it works.
Not a perfect arrangement, but it seems to work.
Brooks Grantier, The Battle Creek Boychoir.
You need to encourage these boys to continue to sing in their head
voice/falsetto through the change. Henry Leck of the Indianapolis
Choir advocates this strongly. These boys have the ability to sing with a
very wide range if you encourage it.
I usually place these boys in the alto section to encourage part-singing,
some our our tunes are in unison, so it still stretches their range. The
boys who are in your choir want to use their voices, and I have found they
love to sing high.
Yours in song,
Cecil Shoemaker, music director
Bach Chorale Children's Choir
schoolvmail: 765-772-4750 x1339
Never underestimate the ability of children. They can surprise you when
presented with a challenge!)
ChildrenSong of New Jersey