One commonality between my experiences singing in the middle school and high school choirs was the largely disproportionate ratio of male to female singers—a ratio that did not exist in the more advanced choirs offered by the two programs. Conversations since with other middle school and high school colleagues around the Southeastern United States echoed similar experiences with their introductory ensembles, especially when a tenor/bass choir for new students was not offered. It was clear to me that I needed to learn more about teaching strategies for these out-of-balance ensembles.
This article will seek to offer strategies to help choral educators to engage and retain middle school singers. These strategies include the singer’s self-efficacy, voice change and matching pitch, repertoire selection, and how to arrange repertoire to fit the needs of the choir. While at times the focus is specifically on helping retain males in a choir of mostly females, the suggestions presented here will positively impact the entire choir.
The low participation rate of males in choir as compared to females is nothing new to the literature and has been a topic of discussion in music education conversations for much of the century. There are potentially many reasons as to why male participation in choir is disproportionate; Frederick Swanson offers three possible reasons. Though an older source, these are still applicable today:
(1) Male voice change. Males undergoing voice change can have lower self-efficacy beliefs and neglect to sign up for choir for fear of not being good enough or are embarrassed of their changing voice.
(2) Singing becomes an elective. During the elementary years, singing is often a core component for all students in their music education; beginning in middle school, singing becomes elective and students could potentially sign up for other electives or choose to pursue athletics.
*Visit acda.org/chorteach to continue reading the full article. Choose the Winter 2023 issue.