Guys in the Middle: To Sing or Not to Sing?

“Young adolescence is a time of social, emotional, cognitive, and physical change. By the time they leave grade eight, most middle school students will have experienced the greatest period of physical change of their lives. Choral teachers who work with adolescent choirs need to recognize these changes and embrace them as part of the excitement that each rehearsal brings.” — Patrick Freer, 3/11/09


MENC’s informal Question of the Month (QOM) survey (November 2007) asked members if they noticed a drop in boys’ participation in chorus during grades 6–9.

Of 468 responses, 69% replied they had seen a drop in boys’ participation in chorus in these grades.

When members were asked what they thought caused boys to drop out of choir,

  • 50% said it was the stigma of singing in a group
  • 50% replied it was boys’ embarrassment about their voice and how it was changing
  • 61% replied competing activities kept boys out of choir

Here are the most common reasons for boys dropping out of choir (from 11/07 QOM):

  • The perception that chorus is for girls. Girls sing better. REAL men don’t sing in chorus. It’s not masculine to sing.
  • The ”coolness” factor
  • Scheduling difficulties and competing activities
  • Girls, girls, girls (sense of self consciousness around girls)
  • Influence of family members: my Daddy won’t let me….says I gotta play ball, says only sissies sing; parents concern for music being one more activity for their child to handle.
  • Peer Pressure, fear of being made fun of
  • Boys think they can’t sing; their changing voices

Previous Article: Motivating Middle School Quitters

Additional Resources:

“Choral Warm-Ups for Changing Adolescent Voices”, Music Educators Journal, March 2009.

“Boys’ Changing Voices in the First Century of MENC Journals”, Music Educators Journal, September 2008.

“Between Research and Practice: How Choral Music Loses Boys in the ‘Middle’,” Music Educators Journal, November 2007.

Forthcoming (Fall 2009) MENC/RLE Publications:

TIPS: The First Weeks of Middle School Chorus by Patrick Freer
Getting Started with Middle School Choir, 2nd Edition by Patrick Freer

Patrick K. Freer is associate professor of music education at Georgia State University. He is a leading expert on working with adolescent choirs.

Sue Rarus, March 17, 2009, © National Association for Music Education