Posted: 07 November 2016

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Singing and changing a culture - Boys don’t sing - part 4

Singing and changing a culture - Boys don’t sing - part 4

Liz Bryant Head of Music, at Darrick Wood School in Kent has taken her young choir on three music tours to the continent. This summer they had a fantastic tour to Lake Garda in Italy.

In the last of her blogs, Liz offers some tips on how to get more boys singing.

Q: Is it still true that boys are generally more reluctant to sing than girls? Why do you think that is?

“It can be true although not always, I’ve found. I think it has a lot to do with peer pressure and how ‘cool’ they need to feel alongside their peers. If there are other boys there who don’t mind then it’s generally fine, but if there are dominant boys who refuse and may even bully those that try, it can be very difficult.

“However, often boys are less self-conscious so if their ‘have-a-go’ attitude can be unlocked, it can be very successful. With one really reluctant year 8 class I chatted to them about what might help, and they wanted to sit with their friends (instead of in my seating plan) so we tried this and it really did help them feel more confident.”

Q: How did you encourage the boys to join the choir and attend regular rehearsals?

“Erm, I forced them!! I made it compulsory two years ago for anyone doing GCSE or A level to be in the choir and attend one weekly rehearsal. I sent a letter home with a reply slip to get parental support. There have been some reluctant ones and some I eventually dismissed (in the summer term of year 11) because they were just a nuisance, but there were about five boys that first year who really didn’t mind singing at all, in fact two were singing as their main instrument at GCSE, so they were loud and that helped the others.

“As the next class of year 9s were opting for GCSEs, I made it clear they would have to be in the choir if they did Music, and at the options evening I had some friendly boys already doing the course chat to anyone unsure about the choir and explain that it was actually fine and they shouldn’t be put off. This was really helpful. Then I made it compulsory for everyone going on tour to be in the choir as well, so younger boys (who played in the band) started joining in, and so did a few other younger ones who saw the older ones doing it and came along because they were interested.”

Q: In what way does choral singing enrich boys?

“Pretty much in the same way as it does girls I think – they like the social side of it, and it is great for musicality. At GCSE we studied part of Handel’s Messiah and I spent two lessons just singing it – we all sang one vocal line at a time, along to the CD, in whatever octave was comfortable, and then I got them to pick a part and we sang it like a proper choir. This was great for score-reading and listening skills and I would never have been able to do this before the choir days. Some of my boys would never have sung at all, but as they discovered it they were the ones turning up on time each week, helping to set out the chairs, handing out music and coming along to the new chamber choir (which is optional) as well.

“Another boy in year 10 is a fairly low-ability pianist, so for him it’s been a way to be part of music-making with others that he wouldn’t get with his instrument. It’s helped give them a sense of responsibility and of being valued musicians alongside others which I think is very helpful for them.”

Q: In what way was your music tour instrumental in developing confidence, nurturing the choir and increasing attendance?

“It’s been good to make it compulsory for tour members to be in the choir. I was worried it would affect take-up but it hasn’t. I sell it hard in the Autumn term and because we are now singing a lot more with lower school classes, they get a taste of it and are more interested. I didn’t like it when we took the jazz band in past years and they would sit and watch the choir sing – it’s much more effective with everyone singing.

“In the summer term having a music tour to look forward to has been very helpful in keeping momentum going, and year 11s who had technically left on exam leave would still come in for the after school rehearsal each week because of preparing for the tour. It is also good for September, as everyone comes back with photos and memories and is keen to get singing again. This year they were singing “Reach for the stars” by S Club 7 in the back of the coach most days, especially the boys (!) and they have already asked if we can do that in choir next term. I might just be persuaded!”

If you’d like to contact Liz or discuss a choir tour for your school, please call Senior Account Manager Alahree McDonell on 0208 772 2868. Or click on the links to find out more about our school choir tours and all our school music tour destinations.

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