Evidently the British are having difficulty recruiting boys to sing in their school choirs according to Dr. Martin Ashley, Reader in Education with Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, Lancashire. According to Dr. Ashley, there has been a bit of backlash from most boys who think “singing high” exemplifies a lack of masculinity. The problem has become so severe that there are very few boys participating in their school choral programs. Most vocal music educators in Britain are “wringing their hands” but few are pro-active regarding the state of affairs. Dr. Ashley is determined to move beyond the “hand wringing” stage. He has two forthcoming books that may well interest U.S. choral music educators: Young Masculinity and Vocal Performance (80 000 word monograph, published by Edwin Mellen, December, 2008) and How High Should Boys Sing? (to be published by Ashgate late 2008). The latter relates to gender, authenticity, and credibility in boys’ singing.
Through dialogue with Dr. Collins, Founder/Director of the Cambiata Vocal Music Institute of America, Dr. Ashley has become convinced that music written for the Cambiata Concept is the solution in persuading British lads to find their voices once more. The approach to the early adolescent voice promulgated by Dr. Collins through the Cambiata Concept has given Dr. Ashley new hope in his crusade to revitalize singing with mixed choirs in the Isles. The dialogue began when Dr. Ashley read Dr. Collins’ article, “Preferred Practices in Teaching Boys Whose Voices are Changing” (Choral Journal, Nov, 2006, available online) in which Dr. Collins advocates the Music Classroom Approach over the Boy Choir Approach for young men who have had minimal experience singing and who have a misunderstanding about the use of the voice as they move through vocal mutation.
If you, as a vocal music educator, are having difficulty recruiting young men to sing in your choirs, Dr. Ashley has devised a clever online cartoon presentation to help them understand what is happening to them as they mature in the upper elementary grades and move into mid-level. We are sharing it with you. Here it is — it asks the question “I’m a boy, how high should I sing?” Share it with the boys in your choir and those who are contemplating joining.