For over 20 years, Forum Music Festivals has welcomed a 90-voice boys’ choir to perform at festival. Are they pledges to the Vienna Boys Choir? Nope, they are from a public middle school where their teacher made singing a very cool thing to do. At this school, singing in the Boys’ Choir is a tradition. And by the reception they get at festivals, school assemblies, and community events, the boys continue to enrich the legacy. Take it from me, when a boys’ choir sings at festival, it is usually a showstopper!
Choral directors are always in search of male singers for their choirs. As you plan on recruiting boys for your middle school choral program, consider the following ideas.
- Develop an All-Boys Chorus. In an all-boy group, boys concentrate on singing without feeling shy about singing in front of girls. Single gender instruction also allows you more time to focus on the changing voices of male middle school singers.
- Simply, invite them. Use your existing boy singers to reach out to incoming sixth graders. A video of your current boys’ choir entices both students and parents. A sincere invitation really appeals to the student who is looking for a place to belong.
- Enlist your current singers to perform for the school or sing for the daily announcements. A brief performance at Back to School Night or Open House encourages parents to encourage their sons to give it a try.
- Encourage your boys to enlist their friends to join. Maybe an after-school visit to the choir room will show potential recruits that they can have a lot of fun singing with their peers.
- Get to know the boys in your school. Attend sporting events and enlist the help of coaches. Have your choir perform the National Anthem at sporting events. Being visible and showing how much fun it is to sing speaks louder than any recruitment poster could.
- Be funny, reassuring, and create a “Safe Zone.” Maybe an All are Welcome pitch – No Auditions. I saw one choir at festival where each boy wore a shirt that said, “Real Men Sing!”
- Enlist faculty members. I’ll bet there are some other teachers who would be willing to get together and sing at an assembly. Even if they don’t sound fabulous, students will love it!
Once you have them in choir, keep the momentum going.
- Most boys enjoy competition. Is there an in-class game that you can incorporate to make boys feel successful?
- Sing it Charades – put the name of a singer on a card, then have students act them out or sing a song of that singer.
- Name that Tune. Divide the choir into teams. Play a tune without words and have them guess. Keep score and the winning team gets a prize.
- Rounds – Divide the choir into two teams. Teach everyone the same round and have them compete for adjudication (maybe the principal?) Winning teams get a prize.
- Musical Pictionary. Divide into teams. Use a white board or paper. The “artist” gets a word that describes musical notation, then draws a picture for his team to guess it.
- Copy rhythms during warm–up. You sing or clap a rhythm, and they must follow. Make it controlled silliness while incorporating a little rhythm lesson.
- Start a reward chart and let the weekly winner conduct warm-ups. You can reward for behavior, attendance, or whatever you wish to encourage.
- Select songs that they can sing well and that appeal to them. For example, the musical theatre genre has tons of literature that interests boys – “Newsies,” “Hamilton”, “Aladdin,” “Oliver,” “Lion King,” – the list is endless. Keep in mind, though, that you are conducting the choir in front of you, and you must consider their actual range and changing voices.
- Be good. Middle School students want to be part of something that is excellent. Help them sound great! Work on matching pitch, no matter where they are in their changing voices.
- Introduce varying cultures and languages in your music choices.
- Teaching a boys’ choir is different from teaching a girls’ choir, particularly in middle school. They may move more, so give them time to stand and shake off their restlessness. Goofy behavior will crop up during class time. Ignore it, laugh about it, or stop to explain why it’s inappropriate – your choice, but be prepared to deal with it. Use humor while encouraging proper conduct.
- Introduce male role models that sing– take them to a college concert of doo-wop, collegiate a cappella, or vocal jazz. If your high school ‘s choral program has strong male singers, invite them to your classroom for an exchange concert between the high school and middle school singers.
It absolutely must be fun!!! Include festivals and travel. Let them show off a bit. To quote the movie Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come.” You are building musical memories to last a lifetime.
We’d love to help. Include Forum Music Festivals in your program and showcase your boys! Adjudicators love supplying positive feedback and encouragement. And they will get to hear and see other choirs perform (maybe even some boys’ choirs.) Contact us at 1-888-76-FORUM (763-6786) and let’s get started on the journey together!