Training Pubescent Boys in a Single Gender Environment
by Nancy Cox
Gender separation in the junior high/middle school vocal music program has been discussed for many years. Often times scheduling problems interfere with the concept, but with positive requests and information to counselors and administrators, this problem can be solved. Separating the sexes is a guarantee for getting more boys into the choral program.
It is a fact that pubescent boys have vastly different vocal problems from pubescent girls, and those problems need to be addressed separately without fear of embarrassment. It is imperative that the boys feel as if they are in a safe environment where all students share the same vocal problems. Additionally, they can be introduced to masculine choral and solo literature. As a result of this process, they are not as afraid of failure as they are in the presence of females.
Realistically, girls, at this age, are both physically and emotionally far beyond the boys. Feelings of inadequacy and insecurity with their own levels of vocal, emotional, and physical maturation virtually disappear with the absence of the girls.
Positive factors that result in the training of young males in this manner include: establishing a healthy form of competition between the boys and girls classes; fewer discipline problems when the other sex is not present, therefore eliminating the “flirt factor”; can coincide with single gender P.E. or other athletic classes; and training techniques designed specifically for the male or female can be implemented. The most positive aspect of training boys with their male peers is that the boys with unchanged and changing voices will be able to see and hear the natural progression of the male voice through examples set by those voices that have already changed, therefore allowing their peers to guide them through the changing process and toward vocal success.
The selection of choral music for this age boy or girl is much less challenging when pursuing single gender pieces that are designed to fit specific needs. For example with the unchanged, changing, and changed boys voice, many composers and publishers have begun writing and publishing outstanding literature with specific problems in mind. Consider the number of problems that need to be addressed with mixed gender music. Is there danger when that boys voice is forced to sing a part that is not in the appropriate range and could possibly damage the vocal mechanism? Are you willing to take that chance?
If inadequate teaching techniques are correlated with music that is inappropriate for the changing boys voice, permanent damage can be done to that delicate, ever-changing vocal apparatus. As choral teachers we are expected to deal knowledgeably with the voices we train. Once the damage is done, it can never be undone.
To your administrators and school boards this message should be presented: We are teachers who care about our programs, our students, and good singing. Please afford us the opportunities we seek to offer quality Music Education to the students who pass through our programs and our lives. We depend upon our Administrators, our Board Members, the parents of our students, and the communities we live in to provide the forums we need to make outstanding choral programs out of mediocre ones. And training the genders separately is one vehicle we can use to accomplish our goals.
Nancy Cox, ACDA National Chair
JH/MS Choral Repertoire and Standards
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© Copyright 2002 Nancy Cox Used with permission