Peacocks do it. We know almost all of the bird cousins do, but so do monkeys, whales, wolves, frogs, bats … and it’s the males that do it best. So what’s up with humans? Or to be more specific: modern, western-culturalized human males? Why is it so common to hear men say “I can’t carry a tune in a bucket” and grin sheepishly? What stops them from opening their mouths and working out those music-makers in their throats? Do most of them choke on their Adam’s apple at puberty or something?
“Singing is girl-y.”
“I don’t have a good voice.”
There is one experience that keeps coming up in conversations I have with adult men when I ask if they ever sang when they were younger. It usually follows this sort of pattern: “I like to sing … I still sing in the shower. When I was younger, someone told me to shut up. So I did.” Too often, that person was a music teacher who probably said something like, “John, why don’t you just sing softly for right now.” A line that got interpreted to be, “You’re making a mess of it so stop.” The result? A grown man who won’t sing a tune in front of anyone. “No way, no how, never.”
I’m on a bit of a rant right now. This is my fourth year in this school and I can’t seem to make any sort of dent in the boys-don’t-sing culture. In my HS choir this year, I have 3 boys in a class of 26. Two of them are there because they needed another class and there was nothing else for them to take. Those two can’t match pitch. And why not? I think it’s because they have not sung much of anything since 5th grade music. And that was seven years ago. The other boy in the class was in choir two years ago with me. When he was in it back then, he wasn’t that great, but he made progress. This year, he’s the lead male singer – he can match pitch and even hold his harmony. I know that if they gave me a chance I could help them sing well … but why won’t they believe me? Or give themselves a chance?
I’ve tried what recruiting methods I know …
1) try to get the girls in the class to convince boys to join
2) talk to boys I know (the direct recruit method)
3) talk to the school counselors to make sure that they let the boys know chorus is a valid course choice for a guy.
Nothing seems to be working right now.
So I’m stuck adapting music written for women’s choirs because I don’t have enough boys to cover the tenor and bass parts of regular SATB music. It’s easier to put them all on an alto part in an SSA piece than it is to put girls on tenor. Not that it does anything to help my cause of getting boys to join choir.
In the mean time I’m day-dreaming of radical plans like …
… getting the soccer coaches to let me come to practice and teach the guys harmonic war chants
… turning a fourth-floor practice room into a sound lab and starting a guys-only music tech club
Any other ideas are welcome.