Last weekend in Davis, CA, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aaron Humble and Adam Reinwald of the Cantus men’s chorus based in the Twin Cities.
One of the things the singers said which struck with me was about how they consider it part of their mission to inspire boys to sing.
It’s not the first time that I’ve heard this mission from organizations that are centered on the singing male. Every boy choir in the land talks about the importance of getting boys into choruses and keeping them singing even through the challenging vocal change time during puberty.
But it was only yesterday while attending a concert in Boston by the Youth Pro Musica children’s chorus that the importance of encouraging boys to sing hit home.
Youth Pro Musica is like so many youth choruses around the country, which is as much as to say that it is peopled by ten times as many girls as boys. Despite Glee and The Voice, singing still seems to be an occupation that is considered to be feminine in nature.
In the more senior groups that comprise Youth Pro Musica, I spotted only two boys. I think there were around the same number in the younger group. Poor things, the more senior boys were dressed like waiters (see the photo above) and, I guess because their voices had already changed, they were forced to sit out of pieces that were only for treble chorus. Plus the group’s concert mood and etiquette was rather rigid and stolid — especially considering that it was supposed to be a festive holiday concert. The kids didn’t exactly look like they were enjoying themselves as they sung their way through Vivaldi’s Gloria, a few other Baroquey bits and the odd Christmas carol or two.
If I were a teenage boy, I certainly wouldn’t want to have anything to do with this lot. Show me to the nearest Wii.
And yet finding ways to engage boys in vocal music activities — and keeping them engaged through the vocal change — is one of the most important things you can do as a parent, teacher, vocal coach or other responsible adult. Countless studies have been done that show how much children benefit from singing, particularly in a group.
I am beginning to think seriously about what other means can be used to bring more boys to vocal music — I’m not just talking about choral music. Any kind of singing will do.
More singing boys = fewer wars.