Boys can hit the right note

July 8, 2013
Credit: Michael Swan, Flickr

Enormously popular reality TV singing competitions attract plenty of male contestants, but getting school-age boys involved in singing remains a serious challenge for music educators.

Monash University researcher Dr Clare Hall from the Faculty of Education studied of a group of dedicated and highly accomplished choirboys to better understand the factors at work.

Dr Hall said current programs such as The Voice and Australian Idol appeared to have had little impact on the view, commonly held at schoolboy level, that interested in singing were 'girly' or 'queer'.

"So how do these choirboys find ways to resist or discouraging cultural messages that say singing is a 'soft option' for boys?" Dr Hall said.

She analysed the strong relationship between choirboys' musical dispositions, their mothers' support and music teachers' practices to develop sociological insights into how musical identities can be formed.

"Early in life children regulate their musical dispositions according to what they think is acceptable for their gender," Dr Hall said.

"The choirboys in the study are extremely proud and passionate about their singing, and they don't see themselves as feminine at all, despite realising this is how others may view them. They realise they have valuable skills that set them apart from others.

"But being a 'different' kind of boy from the norm isn't easy. It takes huge amounts of and emotional resources."

One of the most significant influences in a boy's musical development is his mother's attitude, she found.

"The mothers make great investments in their children's musical education. These are the kinds of investments we more commonly associate with mums and their children's sport," Dr Hall said.

"The choirboys rely on their mothers emotionally to weather the ups and downs it takes to become a high-performing musician."

Supportive music teachers were also crucial: the choirboys in the study all had teachers who encouraged them to sing and empowered them in some way.

"It is not only male teachers who role-model and influence boys' gender identities. Often it's the female teachers who give boys the emotional resources to cope with being a 'different' kind of boy," Dr Hall said.

Dr Hall plans to continue the study of boys' experiences of to learn how others from a range of social and cultural backgrounds find ways to pursue their musical aspirations despite the difficulties.

Explore further: Struggling male readers respond better to female teachers

Related Stories

Struggling male readers respond better to female teachers

August 23, 2007

Boys with difficulty reading actually respond better to female teachers, according to a new Canadian study. Research shows that boys develop higher positive self-perceptions as readers when they worked with female research ...

Probing Question: Can anyone be taught how to sing?

July 26, 2012

Think back to the last birthday party you attended. When the candles were lit, did you join everyone else in belting out the "Happy Birthday" song -- or were you too self-conscious to do more than mouth the words? Our everyday ...

Recommended for you

Early human diet explains our eating habits

August 31, 2015

Much attention is being given to what people ate in the distant past as a guide to what we should eat today. Advocates of the claimed palaeodiet recommend that we should avoid carbohydrates and load our plates with red meat ...

Just how good (or bad) is the fossil record of dinosaurs?

August 28, 2015

Everyone is excited by discoveries of new dinosaurs – or indeed any new fossil species. But a key question for palaeontologists is 'just how good is the fossil record?' Do we know fifty per cent of the species of dinosaurs ...

Fractals patterns in a drummer's music

August 28, 2015

Fractal patterns are profoundly human – at least in music. This is one of the findings of a team headed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen and Harvard University ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.