Why is it so difficult to recruit male singers?

From the Front of the Choir

By Jennifer Noxon

This question is a very common refrain among community choir leaders. In fact, recruitment posters and ads often say “basses and tenors especially welcome”.

There’s something special about the blend of voices in the lower and higher vocal registers. And just why, you may be wondering are men’s and women’s voices different? According to classically trained baritone Howie Reith,,”Testosterone causes the vocal folds to grow longer and thicker. Longer and thicker vocal folds produce sounds with longer wavelengths, which our ears hear as lower pitches. Women aren’t exposed to as much testosterone, thus their vocal folds don’t change size as severely. Their voices thus stay higher pitched.”

As leader of the Rhythm & Song Community Choir, I feel particularly lucky to have a 1:5 ratio of male to female singers in two of my groups and hope that ratio will rise over time. The problem is, in the third group (Monday afternoons), the two men are considerably outnumbered. And, as confidence and clarity often come with the support of a critical mass, these two singers need some company! Thankfully, several women who have lower voices are happy to sing the lower harmonies with them – but the sound is not quite the same.

When I asked the two much-loved but lone wolves for suggestions as to how to recruit more male singers, one replied, “Offer free beer!”. And so, while I take time to consider this, I sent around a short survey to the other male singers in Rhythm & Song whose responses are below…..

Why do you come to sing?

  • love to sing but tired of singing on my own
  • to develop my limited musical skills
  • used to sing in choirs as a boy
  • to develop my voice, learn to sing in harmony, sing and connect with others
  • initially persuaded by ‘she who must be obeyed’, but now come willingly

What keeps you coming back to choir?

  • improved vocal ability and breath control i.e. my singing is improving!
  • learning through call and response is a great mental exercise – good for memory especially for the aging brain
  • leave each session feeling exhilarated and satisfied after singing in harmony with others
  • great stress relief – after a tough day at work I experience joy and happiness
  • enjoy singing, even though I don’t sing well
  • fun group of people
  • diverse song choices, easy-to-learn arrangements, short and longer songs, different rhythms, songs from different cultures as well as songs in English
  • we sing A LOT

In what ways have you benefitted from weekly sessions (physically, socially, vocally)?

  • great activity to share with my partner
  • my singing is improving, as is my ‘ear’
  • pick up songs and harmony parts more quickly
  • more confident that I can actually carry a tune
  • as an ex-smoker I have poor lung capacity – but this has definitely improved over time
  • I can sing more comfortably in the lower part of my range
  • have made lots of new friends

My hope is that the experienced or wannabe male singers in Mississippi Mills will read this and be inspired to come and give singing with Rhythm & Song a try. What do you have to lose? Oh yes, one last thing, tenors and basses are especially welcome but if you don’t know what you are, contact me and we’ll figure it out

There will be a four-week early summer session in Almonte. Teens and adults of all abilities are welcome. The summer session runs weekly between Wednesday June 13 and July 4 from 7:30 – 9:00pm. Fees and other info at www.jennifernoxon.com/choir.

Questions and to pre-register contact Jennifer – randsalmonte@gmail.com.