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Age groupings for Children's Choirs in Church

Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 07:43:24 EDT
From: JudithHigb
Subject: Compilation: age groupings church choirs

Here is q compilation of the many responses I received. Thanks to all of you
who shared your information!

I am preparing a session for the Ohio Choral Directors Association Summer
Conference called *Filling in the Gap: How to Start A Youth Choir at Your
I would be interested in some feedback from the rest of you as to how you
configure your youth choirs age-wise. I am looking particularly at grades
5-12. Please reply privately and I will compile and post.
Judith Higbee
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

This past fall we re-organized our youth choir (formerly grades 7-12) and
moved to two separate choirs: a Middle School Choir (grades 6-8) and a High
School Choir (grades 9-12). Our enrollment in each choir has been around
30. It is my opinion that 25 is a minimum number for this age group so we
were just barely over that "pschological" minimum. However, the advantage
of selecting age appropriate music has been a real boon. Next year our High
School Choir will be much stronger because of the strength of the rising
eighth graders. I highly recommend this age division if your church has
enough interested youth.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Dear Judith,
At my church... the set up is
as follows:
"Carol Choir" (K-4) all kids in during Christian Ed. time on Sunday
morning (20 min. per week)

"King's Choir" (4-6) Students elect to be a part of this group; Thurs.
"Youth Choir" (7-12)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
I can tell you how the church I sang with as a youth handled this question,
since I am currently a music ed. student and not a church music direstor.
I began singing with the children's choir the first time we had one, when I
was 9. I think they advertised it for ages 8 and up. Most of us went to
the grammar school there and were in 3rd through 8th grades. In the
beginning, the oldest boy was still a soprano. But after several years,
this was no longer the case and those of us "die-hards" formed the "high
school choir". We still rehearsed with the Children's choir and the boys
with changed voices were allowed to sing with the soprano unison songs if
it was not uncomfortable for them. But the high school choir also sang SAB
songs and was composed of kids in 7th through 12th grades. Kids in 7th and
8th could be in either choir or both. Then my church also had an adult
choir who sang the Messiah every christmas and something else, like
Mozart's Requiem every spring. Some of the high school choir kids started
singing with the concert choirs, then transitioned from high school choir
to adult choir for sunday masses.
I hope this is what you're looking for. I know my director found it easier
to work with kids 4th grade and up, rather than starting at 3rd grade. And
I think, I know, the SAB choir was a great way to transition from kids to
adult choir and a great way to help the boys settle into their new voices
and still feel a part of the church. It was very important to have the
"everyone sings" philosophy and I firmly believe that's true for any church
choir but especially for children! The music director at that church left
after my senoir year of high school. The new director did not share the
same philosophy and did not want a children's choir at all. I stopped
singing there in December of that year because of the new director's policy
of "exclusion". (Okay, there's my soapbox :-)
Hope some of this can be useful to you. Good luck with your children's
choir--there's nothing more beautiful in the world!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Our youth choir takes the kids from grade 7 through the last year of high
school (approx. age 12 - 19). I'm not completely satisfied with this
division, as we often have boys in grade 7 whose voices have not yet
changed but who WILL NOT sing alto or soprano. However, the mentoring that
the younger kids receive from the older ones is nearly enough to offset the
vocal problems. The grade 7 and 8's are too few in number to make up their
own group, and they will not tolerate the younger kids of the junior choir
(grade 3 to 6). So until we have a bigger pool to draw from, I guess we'll
stay with this division.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
In our community, the high school(s) are structured with 7-12 grade in
the same building, so our youth choir reflects that. So, at present,
we have Cherub Choir age 3- grade 2, Sonrise Choir, grades 2-6, and
Youth Choir grades 7-12. This is in a 2400-member UM church in
suburban Cincinnati.
Our choir breakdown is as follows:
4 years, Kg, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd and 4th combined, 5th and 6th
Youth choir is open to anyone in grades 7-12. Juniors and seniors may
in the adult choir in addition to the youth choir, but they must be in youth
first. Hope this helps
We group 7 - 12 which is approaching normal for this area - surprisingly
enough. Fairfax County has one or more schools which contain 7 - 12 grades
(albeit separated within somewhat).
We really find acceptional compatibility and "mentoring/support" from the
older to the younger and we find that the boys changing voices can be
supported and encouraged through singing alto/tenor. It really works
surprisingly well.
I was truthfully surprised. I have always advocated the graded (really
graded) choir program and was a bit sceptical when I started working at this
church 3 years ago. The older really do relate well to the younger and look
forward to their joining the group each year. This year we have had seniors
down to 7th graders.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
The priest who recently left our church founded a modified RSCM program for
grades 3-8. I tried to start a teen choir but there wasn't sufficient
interest. At this
point, I have decided that the 8th graders keep "dropping out" of the "Youth
Choir" because they feel "too big" to be in with 3rd & 4th graders. I have no
other recourse than to allow ages 13 and up to join the Adult Choir.
Therefore, I
am hoping to change the group names to "Junior" and "Senior" choirs. I also
to organize something for the younger children, but don't have an age grouping
mind yet. Will look forward to your posting.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
In my present position, in a small parish, I put children into the choir
once they
have completed the second grade--I currently have grades 3-8. Formerly, I
in a large parish. There I had a prepatory choir for grades 1-3 and then
they entered
the advanced group. They sang every week and did SATB anthems with adults
on the other parts.

The incredible St. Thomas choir of men and boys, NYC, has boys from grades
Next year they are starting a 4th grades class due to the fact that boys
voices are
changing earlier.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
The choirs at my church (2,000 members) are divided this way:
Cherub choir: ages 4-1st grade
Charles Wesley Choir Grades2-5
Youth choir grades 6-12.
We went to this system when the Virginia Beach Schools went to Middle Schools
grades 6-8, which took 6th graders out of elementary age. It works for us. The
Youth Choir is now singing 4-part adult music, and doing it well. But, of
course, it's taken some time to build the program. Also, I drafted a couple of
guys to play guitar & bass, but they also sing. It's been great! Their
favorite composers are Stan Pethel and Michael Barrett, but they sing every
type of music.
Good luck! Let me know if you have any other questions, feel free to contact
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
My wife took over a fairly typical "children's choir" program and turned it
into something that may be a bit unusual. Once it had been reorganized,
she typically took children at age 10, occasionally a bit younger IF the
child was ready emotionally. That choir, the "Choristers," had
responsibility for the 9 am Family Service every week. The kids learned
very quickly that they had to be reliable, and of course they never really
appreciated what they were learning from that situation.

She also started a "Children's Choir" that was actually a training choir,
and spent more time doing Kodaly learning than pretending to be a choir.
Some kids needed several years to find their voices, but she gave them the
time and they did it. When the sang in services it was generally with the
Choristers, but they often had their own part to sing. It was a very
nurturing environment that allowed time for natural development.

She kept singers in Choristers, if they wanted to stay, through 12th grade.
And typically when alumni came home from college for vacations, they would
come back and sing with no feeling that they were coming back to a
"children's choir." It was a fine, musical ensemble whose members happened
to be aged 10-18!.

When the boys voices started to slip, she arranged alternate parts for
them. When she had a functioning tenor or bass, she wrote parts for them.
(Never hurts to be a composer and arranger!) Most of the boys with changed
voices were able to continue singing up with the trebles on some pieces,
and nobody thought it was unusual in any way. Both of our sons grew up in
Choristers. One is now a fine professional countertenor, just graduated
from college. The other is an excellent tenor as a high school senior. A
large number of those kids went on to keep participating in music, and
several are pursuing or training in music professionally. They couldn't
have had a better training situation! (She had them singing chant from
chant notation, and many pieces in foreign languages; she never told them
it was supposed to be hard!)

If you have any more specific question, I'd be happy to pass them on.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Our graded choir program breaks down the ages thusly...
4 year olds
5 year olds
1st grade
2nd and third grade
4th and 5th grade
6th - 8th grade
9th -12th grade
hope this helps

on December 29, 2004 10:00pm
Greetings Choral Directors! I am a choir director in public schools K-8th as well as at Pilgrim Congregational Church. The Music Minister has an adult choir of 12-15 and had been there for years. I was brought to the church because of my choral philosophy & ability to work with young voices. I am in my fourth year as Jr. Choir Director and we have 15-17 K-4th graders in a Kodaly based program of sequential learning. I've considered splitting next year and starting a 5-8th grade chorus. I cannot split it up too much more because it is a small congregation so I must be careful to keep the singers! DENNIS D
on February 20, 2005 10:00pm
I direct the children's choir at my church and we divide it up as follows:
Cherub Choir- K-3rd
Junior Choir- 4th-6th
Youth Choir- 7th-12th

This division seems to make picking music a little easier. I have the cherubs sing all usison, juniors usually 2 part, and youth usually 3-4 part.
on July 9, 2005 10:00pm
My church has 4 choirs

Senior Men/women senior ciiztens
Mens 12-Adult
Voices of Praise Grades 6-12 / Young adult
Angels Archive Youth P-12

No audition required but Voices of praise is the touring group of the church
we sing 4 part music

on October 14, 2005 10:00pm
Although it is ideal to be working with large choir memberships, but the fact is many churches do not have more than 20 choir members. These churches want to start a children's choir. I handled this situation by doing the following.

Most high school students do not want to sing with 6 year olds. So, I opened up membership to the adult choir to the high school students. This increased the adult choir by 50%. Lets remember that age is only a number. Some 16-17 year olds have amazing adult voices.

There will always be a "gray" area when doing age cutoffs. It should not be as cut and dry as a specific age or grade. When I was much younger, I had sung with adults when I was ten years old. If it wasn't for the challenging music and techniques, I wouldn't have learned so much about the art of singing.
on January 5, 2006 10:00pm
I am a 15 year old high school freshman. My church is fairly small, with about 200 members. My church used to have a Cherubs choir and Childrens Choir, but those fell apart a long time ago, before i could have been in it. There just wasn't interest in it. This past Semptember my friend and I joined the adult choir which brought membership up to about 15 if everyones there. I find it very comfotable singing SATB pieces, altough SAB goes a bit to high for me as I'm a Bass, but everyone welcomed us in and we sing right along with all the adults. I have a background in Piano and other instruments so it wasn't that hard of a transition.

Personally, I think it all depends on if the teens want to sing. If they want to sing in the adult choir they should be able to.