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Keep the boys with a changing voice in the choir

All boys should be encouraged to sing, even if their voices aren't "there" right now

All boys should be encouraged to sing, even if their voices aren’t “there” right now

Last year the choir at The Field School Of Charlottesville started as 4 boys as an after-school club on Fridays. We now have 24 singers in a school of only 78 students. Two of the early members, two of our most responsible, attentive members struggled to find and match notes all year. Their mind knew where to go and their voice would not always getting there in time. To their credit, they hung in there – quietly, kept coming back. They kept honing their skills in other things, like group leadership and organization.

Happy, happy, happy to say that in the last 3 weeks both boys voices have started to fill in. All of a sudden I have a dependable emerging tenor and emerging baritone – they can find and match notes. They mentally know what I mean by “sing it an octave down” and now their voices just automatically do it. Can’t quite describe the relief and joy. For all of us! They each have a beautiful sound that will only continue to deepen and grow richer.

For some, the voice becomes temporarily unreliable due to a shot of hormones into the system. The body grows. Just like sometimes a kid’s legs grow too fast and he trips over himself until his body fills out more, same goes for the larynx as the surrounding muscles and cartilages figure out how to support the now larger instrument.

Today I listened to another singer – I’d assigned him to the alto part after hearing him in September. Today and discovered his range is dropping more into the tenor range.

Can’t describe the relief at knowing I’ll have at least 3 very smart musical minds able to team up and figure their way together through a tenor part and a couple of very intelligent young men able to begin to pick out a baritone line.

I have never worked so much with the changing male voice and I have been learning so much. It’s like teaching on vocal quicksand at times.

I have a lot more to learn – it’s quite an art. I’m still learning how to classify the boys’ voices properly (and would love a skilled veteran boys choir director to let me be a fly on his wall for a few days), but a good starting point for understanding range and vocal qualities is this short blog post.

We don’t require auditions for participation because it’s not fair to a boy who could be a great singer in 1-12 months to exclude him from the experience based on something that’s out of his control and is, in the relative scheme of things, quite temporary.

So we bring them in, teach them the ropes and voila! all of a sudden one day it’s there.

And we celebrate.

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