Conference Morsel: Retaining Young Male Singers
Date: April 3, 2014
(An excerpt from the interest session “Oh Brother! Success With Boy Singers,” presented by Julian Ackerley during the 2014 ACDA Southwestern Division Conference)
Believe it or not, being a boy in today’s world is challenging. Emotions are often shut down in a macho mentality. Boys are generally energetic and curious but also very sensitive to how they are viewed by others, especially their peers. They have split personalities. Boys can be loud, boisterous, vulgar, rude, crude, and insensitive to others…..and at the same time be polite, emotional, helpful, responsible and excited to learn. You never really know which boy will show up to your rehearsal.
Emotional literacy is an important aspect of male development. Boys need to be helped in cultivating their emotional awareness giving them the vital connections and support they need to navigate the social pressures of youth.
Music can help through their development but missing males in vocal programs has been a problem for many years. Boys are known to be bullied if they express themselves through song. If music, and particularly vocal music, is perceived as being less than masculine, boys who engage in singing will be punished, usually from their peers. There seems to be a persistent social stigma of male singing, especially boys.
To retain boys in our choral programs we need to keep things demanding, fast paced and fun! Create an esprit de corps in which the boys learn to work together and set goals. Teach solid vocal techniques that gives them confidence. Affirm their musicianship and their maleness. Pump their egos. Oh, and be sure to have fun!
As an advocate of male singing at all levels, I feel it is very important that we create a culture where male signing is valued and respected.