Seven community children's choirs in Florida


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Seven community children's choirs in Florida
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Howle, Mary Jeanette McGregor, 1947-
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A great many people have allowed me to spend time, money and labor on this

study. While I have tried to remember to express my appreciation on each occasion, there

is no doubt that I have often been remiss.

My advisor, Dr. Phyllis E. Dorman, has been very patient and supportive. Her

good advice, loan of books, and willingness to go beyond the call of duty have been of

tremendous help and have been a model of good teaching.

Other committee members have also readily loaned books, answered questions,

and provided advice, and for that I am grateful. To Dr. Russell Robinson, Dr. Charles

Hoffer, Dr. Arthur Jennings, Dr. Budd Udell and Dr. Linda Lamme I offer my sincere


Robena Cornwell and her staff in the music library have often been of great help.

Their willingness to stop their own projects and help a patron in distress is highly


My parents, Clara and Angus McGregor, are due gratitude and love. They were

unfailing in their encouragement of their children, advocating that we aspire to worthy

goals and doing whatever was necessary to help us realize those ambitions. The high

value they placed on a good and continuing education planted the seed for this work.


My husband, John, has given time, money, and interest, that I may go back to

school. His expertise with the computer has been invaluable, but, without doubt, it has

been his love and support that have made this work possible.

My daughters, Virginia and Katherine, have also been supportive and

uncomplaining. My desire to teach them to strive to realize their dreams has been one of

the prime motivators of this work.

Special thanks go to friends who kept prodding me to completion. Dr. Janice

Haworth, Paul and Peggy Mains, and Dianne and Lamar Walker have provided

unwavering friendship through many of the joys and sorrows of my life, and they are

special people.

To each of these people, I offer my warmest and most sincere appreciation.



ACKNOW LEDGM ENTS............................................................................................... iii

LIST OF TABLES......................................................................................................... vii

ABSTRA CT................................................................................................................. viii


I INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................... I
Statement of Purpose........................................................................................... 1
Statement of the Problem ..................................................................................... 2
Questions Investigated......................................................................................... 8
Delimitations...................................................................................................... 10
Assumptions....................................................................................................... 11
Definitions.......................................................................................................... 11
Community Children's Choirs............................................................................. 13

H REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE..................................................................... 15
Introduction........................................................................................................ 15
Historical Overview ............................................................................................ 15
Vocal Philosophies............................................................................................. 26
Related Research................................................................................................ 39
Summary............................................................................................................ 46

1II M ETHODOLOGY............................................................................................. 48
Introduction........................................................................................................ 48
Overview of the Study........................................................................................ 48
Procedures......................................................................................................... 49
Treatment of the Data................................................................................... 57

IV RESULTS AND ANALYSES........................................................................... 59
Introduction ....................................................................................................... 59
Summary of Results............................................................................................ 61
Summary.......................................................................................................... 102

Statement of the Problem and Procedures.......................................................... 105
Discussion......................................................................................................... 106
Recommendations and Implications................................................................... 115
Directions for Future Research........................................................................ 117

A QUESTIONNAIRE A AND RELATED MATERIALS................................... 119
B QUESTIONNAIRE B AND RELATED MATERIALS ................................... 125
C REPERTOIRE................................................................................................. 157
D COMMUNITY CHILDREN'S CHOIRS IN FLORIDA................................... 161

REFERENCES............................................................................................................ 164

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........................................................................................ 175


Table page

1. Areas of Concern...................................................................................................... 60

2. Number of Singers.................................................................................................... 70

3. Gender of Singers...................................................................................................... 71

4. ChoirBudgets............................................................................................................ 95

5. Annual Tuition per Student....................................................................................... 97

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Mary Jeanette McGregor Howle

May 1999

Chairperson: Dr. Phyllis E. Dorman
Major Department: Music

The purpose of this study was to investigate aspects of community children's

choirs in Florida. Specific aspects of the investigation included (1) the name and location

of each choir; (2) the vocal training philosophy of the director; (3) the director's practices

that support the vocal training philosophy; (4) the use of vocalises; (5) the use of

auditions; (6) the use of training choirs; (7) the inclusion of a comprehensive music

education; (8) concert repertoire; (9) parental roles; (10) racial, gender and socio-

economic components of the community reflected in the choir; (11) funding; (12)

directoral motivation and commitment; and (13) where directors learn the skills needed to


direct a children's community choir.

The investigation included a direct mailing of a questionnaire to seven children's

community choir directors in Florida. Information was also obtained from interviews and

concert attendance. Results indicated that male directors attracted more male singers; girls

far outnumbered boys in community children's choirs; minority children were the least

represented; and, in order for recruiting to be successful, a well-educated community

population of at least 200,000 that supports the arts was necessary.

The most frequently cited reason for disbanding choirs was the inability of the

directors to balance the demands of the choir with those of other commitments. Directors

focused on singing, not on the concepts normally associated with music education, and

they selected music for its aesthetic appeal more than any other reason. Directors

reported very little undergraduate training in teaching children to sing, and they learned to

conduct a children's choir through independent study and practical experience.

Each director in the study auditioned all singers; and no director accepted children

who could not match pitch. No provision was made for poor singers. Individual tuition

ranged between $170 and $500 per year; travel, uniforms and registration fees were paid

in addition to tuition. Scholarships were often provided for low-income children.


The American community children's choir is a relatively new phenomenon in the

long history of choral music. The community children's choir, comprising both boys and

girls, is unique in that it draws its membership from a broader constituency, rather than

from a single social, religious, or cultural organization. This type of organization is a

relatively recent addition to the previous choral organizations for children. Separate choirs

for boys and for girls have been in existence for centuries (Shaffer, 1992), and such choirs

have participated in both sacred and secular music in worship services and concerts.

These choirs have most commonly been church or school-based, rather then community-


Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this study was to investigate facets of community children's choirs

in the state of Florida. It gathered information on (1) the preparation and training of choir

directors, particularly in the areas of child voice training; (2) funding; (3) parental roles;

(4) concert repertoire; (5) the development of singing skills; (6) corporate choir

organization; (7) the general music education of the singers; (8) scheduling rehearsals and

concerts; and (9) determining whether or not these choirs reflect the racial, socio-

economic and cultural diversities of the communities they represent.

Statement of the Problem

The Name and Location of Each Choir

Several researchers have studied the boy choir (Ackerly, 1983; Criswell, 1987;

Farrell, 1976; Rhoden, 1971; Sewell, 1990), Bolton investigated denominational

children's choirs in southern California (1982), and Farrior (1993) briefly looked at the

development of both community and church children's choirs in her study of Helen Kemp.

A review of the literature showed that Bourne (1990) included a Georgia community-

based children's choir in her study of director's instructional techniques, but there is no

study limited exclusively to community children's choirs in Florida that examines the

proposed questions.

This study did not cover the business and legal aspects of conducting children's

choirs, although they are highly important areas. They have been addressed by other

authors, particularly Welles (1995a and b).

The Vocal Training Philosophy of the Director

As directors teach their choirs, they follow various vocal philosophies. One school

of thought results in the distinctive sound of English boy choirs, while American boy

choirs are equally identifiable by a different, but no less distinctive, sound. Phillips (1993)

stated that teachers receive little training in the handling of the child voice, giving rise to

the question of where directors receive education in vocal methods for children, and

which philosophy, if any, of vocal training they follow.

To fill the gaps in their knowledge about children's voices, directors attend

workshops, read professional literature, and converse with colleagues. Knowing where

directors obtain their training is essential for the music education profession so that quality

materials can be provided in those venues.

How the Director's Practices Support the Vocal Training Philosophy

Choir directors need a mental concept of the ideal sound of children's voices, both

alone and in ensemble (Bartle, 1988, p. 7; Shrock, 1990; Swears, 1985, p. 51). Without an

idea of the desired sound and repertoire, achieving a quality product would be difficult, at

best. Once directors form their philosophies of vocal training for children's choirs, the

question remains as to whether or not they have designed activities that support those


How Vocalises Are Used in the Choirs

Vocalises can form a part of the philosophy of vocal training used by the director.

They can be used merely to warm up the vocal mechanism or to perfect the literature

while the body is being readied for singing. Alternatively, vocalises may not be used at all.

The use and purpose of vocalises form part of the total approach to children's choir

singing. This study investigated them from that perspective.

The Use of Auditions

Auditions may be used either to exclude those with vocal problems or to correctly

place those who need additional singing help, and are another facet of the director's

approach to the choir. Both points of view have fervent proponents (Campbell & Scott-

Kassner, 1995, p. 154; Phillips, 1993; Haworth, 1992).

Farrell's study (1976, p. 40) emphasized the importance of auditions. He quoted a

respondent in his study who said that the philosophy of the choir can be discovered in the

audition. Bartle (1988, p. 110) stated that a judicious use of auditions can help to avoid

future problems, including those involving health, motivation and social skills.

How Training Choirs Are Used

If auditions are a part of the admittance process, directors must decide what to do

with children who cannot pass the audition because of singing problems. Some children's

choir organizations consist of more than one choir. A concert, or senior, choir is used for

most public appearances, while a training, or junior, choir gives problem singers time to

develop their vocal skills (Shrock, 1990). Some directors may have found that training

choirs are invaluable, while others may have found that the time and expense involved in a

junior choir are not worthwhile.

Comprehensive Music Education In the Choral Program

The national standards for music education, published under the title The School

Music Program: A New Vision (Music Educators National Conference (MENC), 1994),


stated that young children 'learn by doing,' and the first Content Standard for Grades K-4,

Grades 5-8, and Grades 9-12 was "singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of

music." Professional music educators believe that children can learn to sing expressively,

on pitch and in rhythm, many different kinds of songs. Equally desirable is the ability to

follow a director and to sing music with more than one vocal part (MENC), 1994, p. 13,


While children who participate in a choir receive training in singing, directors may

also attempt to provide a deeper understanding of the music under consideration. To teach

the sounds alone, neglecting the relevant music concepts of rhythm, melody, harmony,

form, expression, and style, squanders valuable teaching opportunities. Music education

has been accused of just such waste in the past (Mercer, 1972), but it may be that

directors are now availing themselves of teaching opportunities that help children attain

the goals in the arts that every "student should know and be able to do" (MENC, 1994, p.


Concert Repertoire

Bartle (1988, p. 194) urged directors to "be fastidious" when selecting music. She

and Swears (1985, p. 161) both advised directors to select music that is worth learning. It

would be useful to both new and experienced directors to know which compositions

choirs involved in this study have used. It may also be of interest to learn whether

directors use readily available lists, such as those published by the American Choral

Directors Association or the Music Educators National Conference.

The Role of Parents

Parents occupy an important place in the choral organization. The director may

gratefully receive their efforts in collecting money, sweeping the floor, arranging parties or

distributing music, or, fearing the "stage door mother" syndrome, purposely keep them at

a distance. The management of parents can be of utmost importance to the choir, since

they are responsible for the child's participation. The parental role is an important part of

the total choir picture.

Reflection of the Community

The ideal of the 'community choir' is an organization that reflects the racial,

religious, cultural and socio-economic groups of the community as much as possible.

Goetze (1988) made the case for the choral experience to be "available to more than a

chosen few," and special arrangements may be necessary to assure that transportation,

location, and finances do not preclude any child from membership. If music educators

truly believe that music is for everyone, an issue germane to this study is the recruitment

and retention of children from every area of the community.


While operating a choir without money is possible, it would be extremely difficult

to do so. Fledgling choirs can borrow music, schedule rehearsals in an obliging church or

community center and request that children wear the ubiquitous white shirt and dark

slacks uniform, but a growing and flourishing organization eventually needs to spend

money. How and where the director obtains these funds is of vital importance to the

continued existence of the choir.


Children have access to many different activities. Participation in sports, the arts,

church and school organizations and family activities takes time that may otherwise be

available for singing. Since the child has little input into rehearsal and concert scheduling,

but suffers the consequences of any conflicts that arise, membership in the choir frequently

depends on how well this issue is handled by the adults. This may be especially important

with children from specific ethnic populations whose religious festivals or cultural

celebrations may not coincide with mainstream American calendars. Thus, an issue which

is pertinent to this study is how directors arrange their rehearsal and concert calendars and

motivate their singers to commit the necessary time and energy.

Director's Education

Phillips (1985b) stated that beginning teachers are often "ill-equipped to handle the

child voice" because they are not adequately prepared to "face the problems encountered

in teaching children to sing." Undergraduate instrumental majors are particularly lacking in

voice training, he said, but they often take jobs that require teaching voice.

If formal education does not prepare children's directors to teach children to sing,

then it becomes necessary to know where directors are receiving their training so that

choral and music education groups provide adequate resources. It may be that

professional organizations, workshops, journals and informal collegial discussions are the

training ground for educators who are concerned about their skills in teaching children to


Questions Investigated

This investigation studied seven community children's choirs as they existed in the

state of Florida in 1998. A brief history and the size of the membership were obtained

from each choir. Information was acquired about the preparation and training of choir

directors, particularly in the area of child voice training; the organizational structure of the

choirs; and their repertoire and funding. Data were acquired to attempt to determine

whether or not these choirs reflected the racial, socio-economic status and cultural

diversities of the communities they represented.

The first question pertained to the history and purpose of each choir. During the

investigation, choirs were located the choirs and a brief history of the choir, consisting of

age and reason for founding, was obtained.

It was important to examine the voice training philosophy of the conductor

because this has a profound impact on the vocal sound of the choir. The sound is a direct

result of how that conductor views the child voice. Investigation of that philosophy

provided insight into how the director regards the child's voice, its use and training. What

the director thinks about children's singing plays a key role in determining the sound of the

choir, but equally important is the technique used to implement that philosophy.

Examination of custom accompanied investigation into ideology. The practices of

directors may include vocalises and auditions, and these areas were important to this


In attempting to teach children to sing well, a director may use training choirs.

These choirs are for children not yet mature enough to perform. They are an instructional

opportunity for choristers, giving the child time to prepare for the more exacting needs of

a concert choir. Training choirs were examined as part of the director's approach to

training a child's singing voice.

The music being taught is another means of teaching vocal skills. It can also be

used to teach music concepts. While this practice is advocated in the professional

literature (Mercer, 1972), the question of whether or not it is actually used was deemed

worthy of investigation.

The selection of concert repertoire is an indication of the director's philosophy in

the areas of music education and vocal training. Preference for one composition over

another may be the result of a desire to teach a particular music concept or to polish vocal

skills. Information of this nature is helpful to composers, arrangers and publishers who are

seeking to meet the needs of the children's choir market.

While the music the choir sings is vitally important, so are parental attitudes, for

parental attitude can determine whether or not a child joins a choir, the degree of

enthusiasm the child exhibits, and the length of membership. The way in which the choir

leadership deals with parents may have a part in forming this attitude. This investigation

attempted to ascertain directors' perspectives on parents and how these interested adults

may best serve the choir.

If a choir is truly a community choir, it will include representatives from all

segments of the community, including the differing races, religions, and cultural and socio-

economic groups. This study sought to discover whether or not these choirs are culturally

representative of the areas in which they are based.

Without money, a choir's possibilities are severely limited. It is not possible to

purchase music, tour, or pay salaries. The tuition paid by singers is an important monetary

resource for the choir and this study investigated the amount of tuition and how the money

was used.

With the proliferation of activities and organizations for children, it may be difficult

for a director to design a choral program that will capture and hold the interest of young

singers. Concert and rehearsal schedules which do not conflict with the many other

practices, games and meetings which singers want to attend may be crucial to the

continued existence of the choir. This study sought information on how directors find

adequate singing time for their children.


1. This study was limited to community children's choirs in the state of Florida,

which has active choir programs.

2. Children's choirs in this study were those that included both boys and girls

whose voices were not yet changed. All children were capable of singing all of the vocal


3. The choirs in this study were community based. While they may have met in

school, church, or community facilities, they drew singers from, and sang concerts in, the

community at large.

4. This study focused on the directors and their perceptions of choirs. In addition,

the investigation examined the membership of the choirs. The opinions and attitudes of

parents and choristers were not included.


1. It was assumed that the directors of all choirs had an undergraduate degree in


2. It was assumed that the directors understood a basic choral vocabulary. Words

such as "vocalise," "audition," and "pitch-matching" were not defined on correspondence

with the directors.


Children's choir is a choral organization in which the participants have treble voices

with a range ofB' below middle C to 5th line F in treble clef (Nye et al., 1992, p. 237).

These children are typically aged eight through sixteen (Tagg, 1993), approximately

grades 3 -11.

Chest Voice is a heavy, usually loud, singing voice. It results in an inability to sing

notes in the top two lines and spaces of the treble clef staff (Bridges, 1993; Kemp, 1989,

p. 10; Phillips, 1992a, p. 43-44; Swears, 1985, p. 63).


Community choirs are not officially affiliated with a single church, school or other

organization. Choristers are drawn from the community and are not restricted to a single

organization (Bartle, 1988, p. 115).

Comprehensive music education is also known as 'comprehensive musicianship.'

It blends elements of performance, theory, history and literature and composition into

each lesson (Campbell and Scott-Kassner, 1995, p. 57).

Concepts include rhythm, timbre, melody, harmony, form, style, tempo, dynamics,

articulation. These elements of music are the larger content areas from which small

portions are selected for one lesson plan or unit of study (Nye et al., 1992, p. 58).

Conductor is also known as director. One who leads the musical ensemble.

Fundamentals of music include the basics of music: pitch, pitch names, scales,

intervals, key signatures, duration (Ottman, 1961, p. 1-14).

Head Tones/Head Voice refers to a light, concentrated singing tone in which the

vocal bands contract for the higher pitches. The spaces in the pharynx and sinus cavity are

used for a resonating chamber (Bridges, 1993; Crocker, 1978, p. 17; Kemp, 1989, p. 10).

This is different from a 'falsetto' voice (Phillips, 1992a, p. 50; Vennard, 1967, p. 250; 0.

Wingate, personal communication, April 5, 1997).

Problem singer is one who lacks some or all vocal skills. (See Vocal Skills below.)

Tessitur is the range in which most of the notes, not including occasional high or

low notes, of a particular part are located.

Training hoi is also known by other names such as junior choir or apprentice

choir. The primary function of such a group is to allow singers the opportunity to mature

vocally before becoming a member of the more advanced choir in the organization.

Vocalise is a melody sung on a vowel, often without text. Used to 'warm-up' the

vocal mechanism and prepare the body and mind for singing. These vocal exercises can be

used to prevent or correct poor vocal techniques (Erman, 1981, p. 53).

Vocal skills include the ability to sing


*with appropriate timbre, diction, posture and expression

*with accurate pitch and rhythm

*with good breath control

*with technical accuracy (MENC, 1994, p. 13, 17)

Community Children's Choirs

According to the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) (National

Directory of Children's Choirs, 1995), many communities support children's choirs today.

These choirs may provide the systematic vocal training and exposure to choral literature

that the school music teacher may not have the time, expertise or funding to provide. One

community choir director cautions, however, that "the community children's choir, no



Community children's choirs take music into a broader arena than the local church

or elementary school. The entire city provides both membership and audience. Children


have the opportunities to meet and perform with singers from other areas of the city, and

to learn music which may not be available in other programs.

A choral organization that includes both boys and girls is a relatively new idea.

Boy choirs have been in existence since at least the fifth century (Sample, 1966, p. 5) and

King Solomon used girl choirs in both temple and court (Drinker, 1948, p. 133), but the

combination of both boys and girls in a choral organization supported by the citizens of a

city, rather than the more narrow sponsorship of a particular organization is comparatively

recent. A study of this innovation, which began in the 1970s (Farrior, 1993, p. 122), will

add to the knowledge of this aspect of children's choral music.



This chapter contains an overview of the research on children's choirs in the United

States. Since there is no research related to children's community choirs, the information

in this section was obtained from research done on denominational choirs, boy choirs and

girl choirs. The review focuses on studies that discuss voice training, vocalises, auditions,

and a comprehensive music education in relationship to children's choirs. This chapter also

presents a brief history of boy choirs, girl choirs and children's choirs.

Historical Overview

Boy Choirs

Evidence that boys have been singing in established choirs for centuries is

abundant. Boethius (480-524 A.D.) cited Plato's statements regarding training boys in

music, including his advice on the kinds of music that should be used (Strunk, 1965, p.

81). Choirs of men and boys sang the chant as early as the reign of Pope Sylvester (A.D.

314-336) (Rhoden, 1971, p. 417), and boy choirs were "common at Jerusalem by the

beginning of the fifth century" (Sample, 1966, p. 5).

In America, the Episcopal church established boy choirs and the schools for

training them in the 18th century. Trinity Church in New York and St. Michael's Church

in Charleston, S.C., trained boys to sing the metrical psalms and the chants of Morning

Prayer (Ellinwood, 1953, p. 42; Farrior, 1993, p. 114; Shaffer, 1992, p. 4). Parochial

schools for boy choirs sprang up, and the movement continued to expand until the early

part of the 20th century. By "the late 1900s" there were more than 20 boy choirs in the

United States, but this number began to decline by the 1930s (Farrior, 1993, p. 115).

The first two decades of the 20th century saw the apparent beginnings of boy

choirs that were not church sponsored. The first community boy choir seems to have been

the Roney Boys of Chicago about 1900 (Rhoden, 1971, p. 417); other boy choirs existed

in such diverse locations as Miami, Albuquerque, and Chicago (Rhoden, 1971, p. 105-

106). There is some evidence that boy choirs may evolve into children's choirs, since one

study (Criswell, 1987) documented a difference of opinion in the Episcopalian church

between those who favored keeping the choirs exclusively male and those who advocated

the admittance of girls (cited in Shaffer, 1992, p. 5).

Gir Choirs

While some experts consider boy choirs to be the musical ancestor of our present-

day children's choirs (Rao, 1989), the evidence of girl choirs can not be ignored. Girls

participated in choirs in the ancient Hebrew worship service. I Chronicles 25:5-6 states

that Heman had 14 sons and three daughters and "they all served under their father for the

singing in the house of the Lord" (Drinker, 1948, p. 133; cited in McRae, 1991, p. 24).

W. F. Cook, Jr. (personal communication, January 30, 1997) also refers to Psalm 68:25

which states that maidens played tambourines in worship. He takes the reference to


"maidens" to mean unmarried girls, with the reminder that girls married at a much earlier

age than today. King Solomon used girl choirs in his second temple and in his court

orchestra (Drinker, 1948, p. 133).

The ancient Greeks employed girl choristers in the worship of goddesses. They

assisted the priestesses, and were an important part of the "religious and musical life of

Greece until long after the beginning of the Christian Era" (Drinker, 1948, p. 91-92).

Church leaders in the second century sponsored girls in church choirs. One of the most

famous girl choirs was in the parish of Bishop Paul of Samosata. Other girl choirs existed

in Jerusalem in A. D. 392, being used to sing psalms and antiphons (Drinker, 1948, p.


The most famous choral opportunities for girls were possibly those at the four

Venetian ospedali in the 17th and 18th centuries. There were eventually four hospitals, or

orphanages, that grew from trade schools into excellent music schools performing music

by Pergolesi, Vivaldi, and Hasse (Mariani, 1997; Meredith, 1997). Notable among these

was the Ospedali della Pieta, which Dr. Charles Burney visited in 1771. He attended a

performance and described the singing as "really excellent." In his writings on these

Italian conservatories, he made reference to girl choirs that sang the psalms in English

churches (cited in Neuls-Bates, 1982, p.67-68).

Children's Choirs

Boy and girl choirs were not a subject for debate in the early days of America, but

the poor state of church congregational singing was a topic of much concern. One of the

first music textbooks, A very plain and easy Introduction to the Art of Singing Psalm

Tunes, written by the Reverend John Tufts, was issued in the early 18th century (Birge,

1929, p. 7; Hitchcock, 1969, p. 5). This book and other books which followed attempted

to teach singers how to correctly sing the hymns used for worship. These early religious

leaders felt that a more knowledgeable congregation would sing the music as printed,

rather than adding impromptu "quavers" (Birge, 1929, p. 5), or "Turns and Flourishes"

(Bolton, 1982, p. 2; Hitchcock, 1988, p. 5; Van Camp, 1978).

The idea of children's choirs originated with the singing school, another attempt to

improve singing in the church. Singing schools began to be established in the early 18th

century (Birge, 1929, p. 8; Hubbard, 1908, p. 175). The Rev. Thomas Walter, an ardent

advocate of singing schools, wondered, in his 1721 essay, why people would assume that

singing skills were any more a matter of inspiration than reading skills (Hubbard, 1908, p.

175). The popularity of singing schools lasted for some sixty years and became a favorite

recreational and educational pursuit. Their importance to children's choral singing lies in

the fact that these schools were not for adults only, but included whole families. Children

received instruction in both music notation and singing skills (Farrior, 1993, p. 119;

Hitchcock, 1988, p. 5).

A desire to improve congregational singing led to several developments in

American music education, chief among them being music textbooks and singing schools

which taught music reading, notation, and singing skills (Birge, 1929, p. 7-11). Both

books and schools ultimately resulted in elementary school singing instruction as we know

it (Atterbury, 1991). While contemporary music education also teaches music reading and

notation, the latest national standards for music education strongly encourage concept

development (MENC, 1994). Knowledge about rhythm, melody, expressiveness,

harmony, form and style is included in a quality program of music instruction.

The Moravians, a religious movement that founded settlements in Pennsylvania

and North Carolina in the late 18th century, had a strong commitment to music education

and choral music. Their emphasis on music education and vocal instruction was not so

much a way of improving congregational singing as it was a means of maintaining

religious practices, cultivating aesthetic sensitivity, and preserving traditions. Moravian

children sang chorales and hymns for approximately forty-five minutes nearly every school

day, and, as they advanced into upper grades, added preclassical and classical sacred

choral literature to their repertoire (Mark and Gary, 1992, p. 46; Hall, 1981).

Lowell Mason, an early 19th century music educator, was also concerned over the

sad state of congregational singing. As one means of improving hymn singing, he preached

that all children could learn to sing, just as they could learn to read (Chase, 1955, p. 158;

Heller and Pemberton, 1996). This was contrary to popular opinion, which held that only a

select few who were naturally gifted could learn to sightread (Damrosch, 1908, p. 21).

Mason's music method book, Manual of the Boston Academy of Music for Instruction in

the Elements of Vocal Music on the System of Pestalozzi, published in 1834, was written

for the purposes of music literacy and vocal training (Phillips, 1992a, p. 6). By teaching

children to sing well, he could improve singing in both the present and the future.

Under Mason's leadership, the children of Hawes Grammar School, a public school

of South Boston, on August 14, 1838, presented a choral concert in the sanctuary of

South Baptist Church (Pemberton, 1988). This concert was a major factor in establishing

music as a subject in public school curricula and helped to prove his assertion that

everyone could sing.

Vocal training for children, which had begun during the singing schools (Phillips,

1992a, p. 5-6), continued in the public schools. A goal for Mason and his colleagues as

they taught in the schools, as it had been for Tufts early in the 18th century, was to

improve the singing in the churches (Farrior, 1993).

Like his brother, Lowell, Timothy Mason promoted the idea that all children could

learn to sing. While Lowell achieved fame for his activities in Boston, Timothy's similar

work in Cincinnati, Ohio, is not as well-known. Like Lowell, he was active in the

establishment of music education in the schools and in teaching singing skills. Timothy led

a large children's choir in two concerts during October, 1838, at a meeting of the College

of Professional Teachers at the Sixth Street Methodist Church, Cincinnati. The children

came from several different schools in the city. In June, a children's choir was part of the

Annual Procession and Exhibition of the Common Schools of Cincinnati (Mark and Gary,

1992, p. 152).

An outstanding children's chorus, directed by William L. Tomlins, presented a

concert at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Tomlins had begun to work with children's

groups for the Chicago board of education about 1890, and his choirs became the standard

for children's choral singing. He focused on producing a beautiful tone, borrowing

methods from both the rote and reading approaches (Mark and Gary, 1992, p. 186).


At the turn of the century, Elizabeth Van Fleet Vosseller led children's choirs at the

First Presbyterian Church of Flemington, New Jersey (Ball, 1981, p. 10). Her work with

children's sacred music led others to become interested in children's choirs. Vosseller's

choirs were church-based, another attempt to improve singing in the church (Ball, 1981, p.


Ruth Krehbiel Jacobs was a direct philosophical descendant of Elizabeth Van Fleet

Vosseller. Like Vosseller, Jacobs believed that the material available for boy choirs was of

limited use in children's choirs, and that, by teaching the child, she influenced the adult

(Ball, 1984). Because of her attempts to reach as many children as possible, and because

so many children's choir directors wanted her advice, she organized the Choristers Guild in

1949 (Ball, 1984). While the Guild existed primarily for church choirs, its advice and

suggestions worked well for community choirs as well.

As schools began to give music a place in the curriculum, singing schools declined

because the public no longer felt a need for them (Mark and Gary, 1992, p. 90). Children

learned to sing in school, and thus did not need extra-curricular vocal instruction.

About the middle of the 19th century, a 'scientific' approach to education began to

be evident and it became desirable to evaluate the subject matter (Mark and Gary, 1992, p.

166). Music teachers developed lesson plans that dealt with knowledge about music that

could be regularly tested (Mark and Gary, 1992, p. 167). It was about this time that

music series were written to help children learn to read music. These books dealt with "the

facts of music rather than the music itself' (Mark and Gary, 1992, p. 176). Children

learned about rests, clefs, sightreading, scales, meter and music dictation.


This trend continued into the 20th century. "Science" gave way to "progressive" as

a euphemism for "modern," but the emphasis on the testable facts of music remained.

Music history, analysis, creativity, and rhythmic activities were incorporated into the music

lessons (Mark and Gary, 1992, p. 187).

By 1923, Songs of Childhood, edited by Will Earhart, T. P. Giddings and Ralph

Baldwin, showed a turn toward a more aesthetic approach in its emphasis of music

appreciation and melody writing (Mark and Gary, 1992, p. 188). The Music Hour,

originally published in 1929, continued the trend. The authors stated that one of the

purposes of the book was to show that "music shall make the child happier and more

sensitive to beauty and, as a socializing force, shall enable him to adjust himself more

sympathetically to his environment" (McConathy, Miessner, Birge and Bray, 1929, p. iii).

In the 1930s, the "song approach" became popular in American music education as

teachers tried to foster aesthetic experiences in their students. By singing beautiful songs,

it was felt, children would learn to sing and become attuned to the beauty of music. "It is

the duty, therefore, of every supervisor and teacher to devote intelligently directed effort

toward securing from the class a beautiful singing tone (McConathy et al., 1929, p. 1)

The vocal training, with its breathing exercises, which had been a part of music

classes, was largely abandoned (Farrior, 1993, p. 13 ; Phillips, 1992a, p. 10). Phillips

(1992a, p. 58) argued that this neglect of vocal training resulted in the general lowering of

the child singing range. "Pitch ranges of songs in the early basal series often required that

children sing to ft of the treble staff. Today, pitch ranges generally have been lowered..."

(Phillips, 1992a, p. 16). The pitch range of early music series may have been pitched high

to encourage head voice singing, not because children naturally sang in an upper range

(Nye, Nye, Aubin and Kyme, 1962, p. 5).

The legacy of the aesthetic approach is to be found in the scarcity of children's

singing methodology in current elementary methods textbooks (Phillips, 1985a, 1985b)

and in current elementary school music textbooks (Kavanaugh, 1982). The emphasis on

teaching music concepts through songs intellectualizedd music and minimized the need for

(singing) skills development" (Phillips, 1993). We find little in elementary music textbooks

today regarding the training of children's voices (Phillips, 1983, p. 4). As Phillips said:

Current elementary methods texts emphasize the song approach almost
exclusively. In most of these sources, it is rare to find any directives to the
actual training of the child voice, outside of simple pitch-matching
exercises. The song approach literature almost totally neglects such
parameters as tone quality, registers, dynamic level, duration, and range.
What are emphasized are the appropriate means by which to teach a song
by rote and large amounts of song literature. The mastery of singing as a
skill does not appear nearly as important as the use of singing to develop
awareness of basic musical concepts. (1985b)

In the 1960s, MENC became concerned that children could make music, but could

not understand the concepts that underlie all music. To counteract this, an emphasis on

analysis and listening surfaced in music textbooks as children learned to understand the

music they were making. Children sang in order to learn the concepts which could be

taught from the songs, not for the beauty of the music or for the chance to develop their

voices (Phillips, 1993).

Ruth K. Jacobs and the Mason brothers shared a belief that all children could learn

to sing (Ball, 1981, p.10, 1984; Coffman, 1987), a philosophy advocated by Lyon (1993),


Phillips (1993), the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Committee

on Children's Choirs (Rao, 1989), Goetze (1988), Gould (No. 17), and Swears (1985, p.


Phillips (1993) and Fortunato (1981) believed that singing is a skill that can be

taught. Fortunate said:

if a child does not walk on his first birthday, we don't immediately assume
that he is not "inclined to walking" and give him up as an ambulatory
failure... we realize our responsibility to provide increased exposure
(practice) and encouragement (motivation) and assistance (teaching).
(1981, p. 143)

The church choir movement blossomed in the 1960s and 1970s, nourished by

Helen Kemp, Choristers Guild (Farrior, 1993, p. 118), and choir directors who attempted

to teach children the joy of singing. Kemp's work, begun in the 1950s, became the model

for church musicians who worked with children's choirs (Farrior, 1993, p. 127).

While church choirs were growing during the early 1960s, the incidence of singing

in school began to decline (Rao, 1993a); this trend continues today (Lyon, 1993). Diaz

(1980) found that a fifty year span of music series published in the United States showed,

among other things, less emphasis on part singing. Growman (cited in Runfola and

Rutkowski, 1992, p. 696), in her study of an 80 year span of basic music series, agreed.

Phillips (1993) attributed this decline partially to the lack of singing instruction in music

texts, but other factors may also contribute to the minimal singing opportunities. School

music programs have broadened to include a wide range of activities (Harris, 1985/1986),

all of which take time away from singing. While the first Content Standard of the National

Standards for music education calls for "singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire

of music" for all grade levels, subsequent standards urge students to perform on

instruments; improvise melodies, variations, and accompaniments; compose and arrange

music; read and notate music; and listen, analyze and describe music (MENC, 1994).

Singing and music reading are no longer emphasized, thus the need, once again, for

community choirs where children can learn to sing.

Some schools excluded arts programs, including music, from their curriculum as a

result of the 1970s "back-to-basics" movement, or as a result of funding cuts. Lack of

budget support resulted in less time for music in the school and music teachers began to

encounter difficulties in scheduling children's choirs during the school day (Rao, 1989).

Children's community choirs began to develop in the 1970s (Farrior, 1993, p. 122).

Declines in school budget and time allocations (Jensen, 1995) have led to increasing

interest and growth in community-based children's choirs. Children's choirs are not

associated with any particular school, do not depend on the whim of a principal or school

board's budget, and fill the need for singing instruction. The greatest growth and

development of community-based children's choirs has been more noticeable since the

1970s (Farrior, 1993). These choirs show a break with traditional goals of singing

instruction since they are not organized to improve singing in the church or to lead in the

worship service.

By 1983, the new concept of children's choirs was born (Rao, 1993a). These

choirs may have the benefits of being "a musical outlet for talented children, an important

addition to the musical and cultural life of our community, and, perhaps, a viable

replacement for the nearly non-existent choral singing programs in the public schools"

(Paulin, 1989).

With the growth of community choirs, a division of objectives has evolved, with

the schools educating for the consumption of the arts and the community-based programs

encouraging arts participation (Rao, 1989). Sinor (1997) worried that private performing

groups might "appear to relieve the public schools of responsibility for and cost of

providing appropriate music education." She speculated that a new elite based on

motivation and ambition, not, as had previously been the case, on financial means, might

come into being.

Since 1980, there has been a "children's choir explosion" as many new school and

community choirs have been organized (Campbell & Scott-Kassner, 1995, p. 153; Farrior,

1993, p. 124). Articles, books, clinics and workshops give advice to directors and

organizers who attempt to either fill in the void created by deleting school music programs

or to supplement the public school programs. Samuel Adler suggested that:

the expanding children's chorus movement is, to this composer at least, a
crucial development in an often discouraging musical scene and music
educational morass. I feel children can do anything as well as, if not better
than, adults, and the lasting musical effect is truly lifelong. (Adler, 1993)

Vocal Philosophies

Mursell and Glenn (1931, p. 278-279) made the point that "There are few fields of

work in music where one finds a greater profusion of impossible ideas, or wilder clouds of

mythology. The judgements of experts on points connected with vocal performance are

most extraordinarily varied and unreliable." But in spite of the many different points of

view, there were some areas of agreement. Among these were the concepts that good

techniques for children were also good ideas for adults, and that vocal training for boys

was no different than it was for girls. Age and gender did not make a difference in the

selection of method (Clippinger, 1929, p. 5; Crocker, 1978, p. 5; Ross, 1959, p. 181F;

Wilcox, 1935, p. 52, 57).

Authors also agreed that, while the technique may be unchanged, the amount of

work and the extent of knowledge that a child is capable of absorbing are not as great as

an adult's (Fields, 1947, p. 23; Phillips, 1985b; Ross, 1959, p. 181F; Weis, 1936, p. 3;

Wilcox, 1935, p. 52). In 1919, Giddings wrote:

the voice training necessary in the public schools is very simple and easy if
done in the right way. There is little training to be done except to see that
each child sings in an easy compass and does not strain his voice. (p. 181)

Field-Hyde (1947, p. 131) stated that "Something can be done with quite young

children, but it will hardly take the form of systematic study. Rather it will be in the

direction of restraining too exuberant energy." He went on to say that "More definite

training, ifjudiciously carried out, may begin at the age of eight or nine" (p. 132).

Ingram (1959, p. 82) generally agreed with this age range, recommending the age

of nine years for beginning voice training, although Gehrkens (1934, p. 89) believed that

"kindergarten and first grade or whenever the child first begins to sing" is the time to

"set up ideals of tonal beauty and habits of singing." Swears (1985, p. 8) gave directions

for developing the voices of six to eight year olds, including breath support and tone

production. Campbell and Scott-Kassner (1995, p. 127) agreed that "vocal technique can

be taught from the earliest songs by the knowledgeable teacher" and went on to state that

"children's voices can be greatly enhanced through training" (p. 131), although they

believed that private studio voice lessons are best left until young adulthood or later, when

the vocal mechanism has fully matured.

Ross (1959, p. 181G) placed the age for beginning vocal training a little later at

about ten years old and said that "children should be taught in classes." They should be

taught "normal quality, a singing diction, how to sing in the high and low voice, and how

to breathe for singing."

Ross did not suggest that children's voices are different from the adult voice in any

respect but immaturity. Since vocal methods apply equally to either gender or any age,

"how-to" articles and books written for adults, as well as those written for teachers of

young children, were used for this study.

There appear to be many schools of thought concerning the best way to teach a

student how to sing. Ross (1959, p. 26) listed 14 different "schools of teaching singing"

and stated that the list may not be complete. He described them as follows:

1. Bel Canto--"based on vocalization, registration, and vowel purity"

2. Emotional--"singing should be something you feel, rather than something you

do, and not a science"

3. Interpretative--"interpret everything you sing, even exercises"

4. Natural--"leave the singing instrument alone"

5. Psychological--"the mind sings, not the voice"

6. Resonance--"voice is resonance and nothing more"

7. Speech--"singing is speech which is prolonged and intensified"

8. Organic Co-ordination--"singing is the end product of the processes of

breathing, phonation, articulation and resonation"

9. Local Effort--"by controlling the bodily processes, one controls the voice"

10. Modem Scientific--"only science will teach you how to be a good singer....

vocal training should be considered as a special outgrowth of its parent sciences,

physiology and acoustics"

11. Phonetic placement--"vowel sounds should control the voice"

12. Psycho-Physiological Acoustical--"singing is a physical skill that requires a

definite procedure for technical development, and is psychological to such a high degree

that what the singer thinks and how he feels may unconsciously be reflected in the color of

his voice"

13. Register--"bridging the registers is an important and delicate process"

14. Respiration--"he who knows how to breathe knows how to sing" (Ross, 1959,

p. 26-27)

Many authors, while advocating one of the above methods or another not listed,

allowed elements of other philosophies to creep in. Clippinger (1929, p. 5-6) wrote that

"Like everything else tone exists first as idea," which is aligned with the psychological

approach, but went on to state that '"Every beautiful tone is scientifically produced,"

which the scientific philosophy advocates.

A variety of philosophies are found in Mursell and Glenn (1931). They stated that

"the application of science to the problems of vocal work. . is particularly valuable" (p.

278), that "the only essential difference between the use of the voice in speech and in

song is the introduction of definite pitch steps" (p. 279), and that interpretation is a vital

necessity in singing. "Greatness in a singer does not turn on the ability to do tricks with

the voice, but on the ability to express music with the voice "(p. 280). In the gendered

language of their day, they went on to stress that "we must give the child something to

express in his singing, and help him to express it. This is the foundation of vocal

education" (p. 282).

While Christy (1970, p. 3) primarily believed in the song approach, he also stated

that "singing is just as natural as speaking and, actually, is primarily elongation of the

vowels and extension of the pitch inflections commonly heard in the speaking voice,"

which is a tenet of the speech method.

Nordholm (1966, p. 17), Street (1927, p. 9), Bairstow and Greene (1946, p. 10),

Westerman (1947, p. 9) and Weis (1936) suggested that the beginnings of singing are in

speech. Weis said that "boys and girls learn to sustain the voice, thus producing the

singing tone. This leads to melodic production which is a more unusual form of expression

than the speech sounds of our language" (p. 5). Street (1927, p. 9) defined singing as

"The Artistic Intensification of Speech," and said that we accomplish it by changing the

power, pitch and duration of the syllables. Those who are studying singing are learning to

speak "higher, louder and longer" (Street, 1927, p. 11). Miller (1996) agreed that the

same functions of "vowel definition, consonant formation, and general language

perception" (p. 51) are needed in both speech and singing, but he went on to say that "the

requirements for singing far exceed the demands of speech" (p. 51), the major difference

being "temporal" (p. 52). Speech produces sounds much more rapidly than singing, and

the singer must pay close attention to "vowel definition" (p. 52).

"If children heard as much singing as talking" they would learn to sing "as easily

and naturally" as they learned to speak (Coleman, 1922, p. 100). Coleman went on to say

that a child's singing instruction can begin the day of birth by listening to family members

sing naturally and spontaneously. He believed that children learn to sing by imitation and

that a child who hears singing "habitually in his home, stands a fair chance of being able to

sing very early in his life" (Coleman, 1922, p. 100).

Wilcox (1935, p. 19) was a proponent of the organic co-ordination approach to

tone production, although the psychological approach is evident in his writing. "Voice

training, therefore, must usually concern itself in the beginning stages quite as much with

inhibiting the activity of interfering muscles as with co-ordinating and developing the

muscles which properly function in the human sound-producing mechanism." Before

singing, the singer must first think of the tone and allow the vocal mechanism to

"automatically come into normal coordination."

The psychological approach to singing attracted attention from Erman (1981, p.

50), who made the observation that the "careless negative comments" of teachers, parents

and acquaintances may contribute to the reluctance to sing, or to learn to sing. The

singer's mind is distracted and complete attention to singing is difficult. Concentration,

early training and an abundance of praise and encouragement can help to overcome these


Ingram (1959, p. 91) stated that there is a "twofold approach" to good

interpretation. She believed that it takes both mental and physical responses to present a

song correctly. "One the one the intellectual approach. We must understand the

text, the idea, the mood, and the spirit of the song... The second approach is the physical,

or rhythmic, response which children often feel instinctively."

A vocal method which dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries is "bel canto." It

reputedly produced voices of "great limpidity, extremely wide range, amazing flexibility

and beautiful quality" (Reid, 1950, p. 10) and sacrificed "every other consideration in the

interest of tonal beauty" (Reid, 1950, p. 19). This Italian method was based on instruction

in the rudiments of music notation, voice production and management, theory,

composition, correct pronunciation of vowels, interpretation and intonation (Reid, 1950,

p. 34-41).

Fields (1947, p. 328) surveyed 714 publications for opinions on the teaching of

singing. He used a wide variety of sources, including Good Housekeeping and Etude

magazines and "scientific papers and experimental reports" produced by "authors,

teachers, scientists and singers" (p. 266). While it is difficult to determine how many

vocal approaches he has documented, it is quickly apparent that there are many different

ideas about how to teach singing.

Even a cursory survey of literature on the subject reveals astonishing
inconsistencies and conflicts of pedagogical opinion. From a general
viewpoint, this diversity of opinion apparently arises from the fact that a
multiplicity of specific teaching procedures is being developed by individual
teachers without reference to the broader pedagogical principles underlying
them. (Fields, 1947, p. 3)

A method that is not widely advocated in current children's voice training

literature is what Phillips termed the '"formal approach" (1984, p. 11). In this method, the

voice teacher seeks to cure or correct specific vocal problems through the use of vocal

exercises. Christiansen (1932, p. 61) wrote that the development of "large lung capacity"

and breath control "is the principal work of the singer." Christiansen included a series of

exercises in his book that "are primarily for note-reading and tone-hitting" and "are

calculated to develop breath control and lung capacity" (p. 65).

Erman (1981, p. 53) agreed that exercises are valuable in "preventing or

eliminating faulty vocal techniques." She went on to caution that the drill patterns must be

varied and "creatively evolving" to sustain interest and motivation.

One method which currently finds wide acceptance, is the "song method."

Although Fields (1947, p. 66) devoted only a minimum amount of space to this approach,

and Ross (1959, p. 26) omitted it from his list of 14, other authors recommended it.

Christy (1970) discussed this approach by name, defined it, and gave reasons for its use:

The student starts singing songs immediately, endeavoring with the help
and guidance of the instructor to interpret each song as meaningfully as
possible under limitations of technic that then pertain... Experience has
demonstrated conclusively that the Song Approach, with emphasis
primarily on expression, is not only the most interesting to students but also
generates an enthusiasm and stimulus that result in an even more rapid gain
in technic. (Christy, 1970, p. viii)

Mursell advocated the use of the song approach:

Teach the whole song... Remember always that the song itself is the
thing. ... The time for analysis, for calling attention to this or that specific
detail or aspect of the music or the performance, is after the children have
become able to sing the song, and not before. (Mursell, 1951, p. 192-193)

Swanson also believed in the song approach:

The experiences and songs in this chapter center on singing as an activity in
itself. The related instructional objectives and listing of behaviors are
designed to be continual reminders that in an educational setting you must
point toward instructional goals, be they attitudes, increased awareness of
the expressive factors in music and the ability to respond to them, or
singing skills. (Swanson, 1981, p. 225)

Phillips (1985b, 1993), while not advocating the abandonment of the song

approach, believed that it needed to be used with caution. To teach singing by the sole use

of songs, neglecting the specific teaching of vocal techniques, is a dangerous business, he

believed. Children need to learn "good singing habits that will carry over from song to

song" (Phillips, 1985b). He went on to state that "care should be taken to avoid a return

to the days of vocal drill. Children must have time to react musically in the classroom, but

they must also be allowed time to develop the skills needed to perform musically"

(Phillips, 1985b).

Campbell and Scott-Kassner (1995, p. 131) stated that the "astute teacher" can

accelerate the development of children's voices by the knowledgeable use of songs, games

and drills. Ingram (1959, p. 87) discussed vocal exercises and the results that can be

obtained through them and stated that "exercises can be made from any sound, any word

which causes difficulty" (p. 88).

Bartle (1988, p. 7) believed that repertoire is inseparably linked to vocal

development. "Good repertoire enhances and develops a beautiful tone quality. Bad

repertoire undermines choral development." She went on to say that "many new skills

must be learned, and older skills reinforced, as the children learn new repertoire" (p. 26).


Kemp (H. Kemp, workshop, February 6, 1999; 1989, p. 28) was in agreement with

the mixture of song and formal approaches. She suggested a variety of mental images,

physical response and vocalises in conjunction with songs as techniques for teaching a

choir to sing. Stollak and Alexander (1998) agreed, stating that children can be helped to

understand the abstract concepts necessary for a good sound by the use of metaphor,

analogy, and simile.

Repertoire and techniques are of little use, however, unless the director has an idea

of the desired vocal tone. Before trying to teach a child how to sing, the teacher must first

know what the end product should be (Jacobs, 1942, p. 20, 27; Phillips, 1985b). "It would

appear that the first task of the director is to establish for himself a realistic mental concept

of the sound he wishes to hear from his children's choir" (Sample, 1966, p. 78). Unless the

conductor knows the desired sound, there is little chance of achieving it.

While directors may differ about the techniques they use to teach singing, they

agree that children can learn to sing. Age and gender are immaterial when it comes to

selecting a singing method, but the teacher must have the end product in the mind's ear

and both teacher and student must be willing to work toward that goal.

Head Voice versus Chest Voice

One concept of sound that is much discussed in the writing on children's singing is

the use of the "head voice." It is sometimes referred to as the "thin voice." Small (1998)

called it "a distinct and ethereal choral tone produced by children between the ages of

eight and fifteen," while Ingram (1959, p. 83) described the head voice as "a light,

floating, easily produced tone" and gave various techniques for cultivating that sound in

choirs. Newman (1995, p. 254) believed that a "teacher's object is to encourage young

singers to use the lighter head voice sound," later bringing that quality of sound down into

the range "between the head voice and the chest voice." He went on to suggest activities

that might accomplish that objective

Phillips (1985b) agreed that the lower, chest voice should only be used when the

upper voice is well established. He blamed the exclusive cultivation of the chest voice for a

rising percentage ofnonsingers, and a judicious use of both voices was recommended.

Weis (1936, p. 4) agreed that both voices should be used and that the head voice should

be developed first. Expert training is necessary for the use of the chest voice. Phillips

(1984) speculated that head voice singing must be taught, while singing in the chest voice

is a more natural occurrence.

Giddings (1919, p. 31) said that the two types of voices might be called the

"singing" and the "howling" registers. Children should be taught to sing softly, keeping the

song no lower than first line E, and a head voice will naturally result. Howard (1895, p.

46) agreed, stating that there are two principles of children's tonal production: "They must

sing softly" and "They must be restricted in compass of voice," as a result of which, the

chest voice "will never be heard" (p. 47).

Swears (1985, p. 62) believed that the head voice not only produces a "beautiful

sound but it also helps to extend the child's vocal range and to give greater flexibility to

the voice." The difference between head and chest voices is not merely one of range, she

stated, but also one of quality. The head voice is light and forward, while the chest voice

"may be heavy, dark or shouty" (p. 63). If the chest voice is extended into the upper

register, a definite, abrupt break in the voice may occur around the middle of the staff (A,

B, or C) as the child attempts to force the lower voice to sing higher notes. Bringing the

light quality of the head voice down into the lower range avoids the break, and the singing

will have a more consistent tone (p. 63).

Authors agreed that the head voice is the more desirable sound, and that children

should be allowed to sing in a chest voice only after the head voice has been mastered. A

head voice can be produced by singing softly and avoiding the lowest section of the treble

clef staff. This prevents the heavy, coarse sound heard by singers using a chest voice and

results in a lighter sound.

Range and Tessitura in Children's Songs

Perusal of children's music elementary textbooks from the earlier part of the 20th

Century (Giddings, Earhart, Baldwin and Newton, 1923; McConathy, Miessner, Birge and

Bray, 1944) shows a higher tessitura than is commonly found in contemporary textbooks

(Diaz, 1980). This finding corresponds with recommended song ranges of the same time

period. Hubbard (1908, p. 29) called for a range of first line E flat up to fourth space E

flat and Giddings (1919, p. 31) stated that "children of the kindergarten or first grade

should never sing below "E" (first line) or "F." They may safely sing to the "G" above

the staff." Gehrkens (1934, p. 93) agreed, saying that kindergarten children can sing songs

between first line E and fourth space E. As the child matures, the range broadens and, by

grade 5, has extended from first ledger line B to G above the treble staff He went on to

say that selecting songs with "a higher compass" will help those children whose "voice

production" may not be good (p. 94). Field-Hyde (1947, p. 136) believed that children

should generally not sing above treble clef top-line F, and that older children may easily

reach middle C and the A or B below that. Children should not be "made to sing notes

which they find difficult or tiring."

Mursell was among the first writers to suggest a change in the tessituras of

children's songs (Erman, 1981, p. 13). He stated that "the kind of high-pitched singing so

often required is not natural to them. Songs pitched too high tend to block just that kind

of spontaneous, expressive singing for which you should always aim" (Mursell, 1951, p.


Newman (1995, p. 253) advocated a narrower range, stating that D to third line B

is the most comfortable range, only extending it from A below the staff to top line F for

upper grades. Campbell and Scott-Kassner (1995, p. 130) advocated a range that is

marginally wider: middle C to third space C for first grade, widening from G below the

treble staff to G above the staff for older elementary children.

Swears (1985, p. 162) advocated keeping the tessitura of music between middle C

and fourth line D, expanding it by one or two half-steps for "mature choruses." She went

on to state that "high f's and g's should be few and far between and sung on an open

vowel" (p. 163). Swanson (1981, p. 226) concurred, although she stated that four or five

tones centering around first line E are the first to be used by new singers.

Just exactly what needs to be done to teach children to sing well is a matter of on-

going conjecture and debate. As Street remarked, "we are still hunting for a universal way


of doing it easily and well" (1927, p. 10). Phillips (1992b, p. 570) agreed, observing that

there is no knowledge base that teachers can consult to know which techniques are useful.

No one method has proven to be the perfect technique of voice training, and the ideas and

techniques being used by current children's choir directors are the focus of a portion of

this study.

Related Research

Children's choirs may not exist solely for the purpose of performance (Mercer,

1972; Monk, 1987). Those directors who do not make opportunities to incorporate the

teaching of music concepts into the rehearsal miss the chance to influence the child's

future participation in, and appreciation of, music. Indeed, said Rao (1993a), "the value of

music performance in music education can be found beyond the concert stage in the

development of musicianship, the experience of enjoyment, and the psychological benefits

of self-esteem." Choirs that are considered to be of excellent quality often teach their

choristers to become all-round musicians, as well as good singers (O0eary, 1990).

According to Phillips (1988) "choral music education... is the whole process of

becoming a musically educated person."

Elliot (1993) agreed, claiming that astute listeners come from intelligent

performers. Merely listening to others perform will not aid in the development of

musicianship, for this can only be done by being involved in the music making. McRae

(1991, p. 35) stated that "choir experiences may be the only opportunity for musical

learning for some children."

In order to make the most of the learning experience, choral literature must be

carefully selected. In choosing music, not only must the musical elements of dynamics,

tempo, form and text be considered, but thought must be given to the skill level of the

choristers (Goetze, 1988). This may be one of the most difficult challenges that a director

faces: finding music and techniques that balance the needs of the next concert with the

objective of "developing thinking, feeling musicians" (Wis, 1998).

Rao (1993a) believed that there must be a balance between the challenges provided

by the literature the choir sings and the musical knowledge of the choir. By paying careful

attention to both sides of the equation, the choir can be moved to higher levels of both

performance and learning (Jensen, 1995; Goetze, 1988). This parallels the whole-language

theory which has been accepted in education, for knowledge and performance go hand-in-


Choral literature that meets the needs of children is sometimes obtained by

commissioning a work (Ferreira, 1993). Directors have found that commissions benefited

their students because the group not only received new music written with the specific

capabilities and needs of their choir, but the children "get in on the ground level of the

composing process, which helps them to understand the work and the creative thought

that go into the "ready-made" pieces they sing" (Nolan, 1995). Boonshaft (1996)

commissioned 27 compositions for his band and felt that it was "a great learning

experience for.., students." Many works and new commissions have recently been

written for children's choirs using texts from a wide variety of sources and with a variety

of voice parts (Smith, 1993).

A holistic approach to choral music teaches singers more than the notes on the

page. Children can be engaged in cognitive activities, in addition to the physical act of

singing, which enables them to solve musical problems and to understand a unique form of

meaning (Eisner, 1981; Elliot, 1993; Monk, 1987; Rao, 1993a; Roe, 1983, p. x; Sample,

1966, p. 75). As children decide appropriate instrumentation to fit the mood of a song,

compose descants, research the life of a composer, or adapt song texts, they gain a deeper

understanding of music.

It appears that teachers are endeavoring to teach more than just the physical act of

singing, for Stafford (1987) found that elementary school music teachers regarded "music

literacy" and "increased sensitivity to music" as among the most important outcomes of

vocal instruction. His respondents also said that teachers needed to know techniques

related to the production of good vocal sound, motivational techniques for singing and

how to assess their own singing instruction.


Warm-up exercises and specific facets of the music under consideration are

included in this complete approach to choral music education. Rather than an abstract

exercise rushed through as quickly as possible so that the "real" rehearsing can begin,

vocalises should be used as a teaching tool (Brendell, 1997; Farrell, 1976, p. 110; Goetze,

1988; Jensen, 1995; Rao, 1993a; Robinson and Althouse, 1995; Whitten, 1996). Choral

learning is expedited by deriving the warm-ups from the music under consideration

(Coker, 1984; L. Gackle, workshop, February 2, 1997). "If 'drills' are to be used, let


them emerge from the songs" (Nordholm, 1966, p. 22). One of the techniques successfully

employed by the boy choirs studied by Farrell (1976, p. 156) was the use of "carefully and

sequentially developed" vocal exercises to develop vocal technique. Vocal warm-ups

"were seen as imperative to good vocal health."

Jean Ashworth Bartle, director of the Toronto Children's Chorus, agreed, stating

that her choirs begin every rehearsal with "exercises that develop the voice and ear." For

example, the children hum "major, minor, diminished and augmented triads in various

keys" (Shrock, 1990). She stated that vocal exercises "sung for their own sake... are

meaningless" and there needs to be a purpose to the warm-up (Bartle, 1988, p. 8).

Froelich (1979) found that neglecting particular aspects of a song, "such as pitch,

phrasing, rhythm, diction, or dynamics," all of which can be taught in vocalises, resulted in

groups that would not rate superior in singing performances. In his study of outstanding

children's choirs around the world, O'Leary (1990) found that the best choirs did not

necessarily have the most rehearsal time, but they made the most of the time that was

available. Using vocalises to work on choral problems enables directors to correct

difficulties and prepare the total child for singing.


The question of whether or not to audition children is an area rife with

controversy. There are those who stated that children should not be auditioned, believing

that elementary age singing opportunities are developmental experiences (Haworth, 1992;

Swears, 1985, p. 17). Others believe that an auditioned choir gives the more advanced

singing student the opportunity to "experience a refined, higher-level choral program"

(Hollenberg, 1996). Bartle (1988, p. 110-112) believed in auditions, but looked for more

than vocal skills. In addition to singing, she had the child read poetry and answer

questions which required imaginative and thoughtful answers to gauge non-musical

qualities. This helped her assesses other areas, including physical health, social skills,

vocabulary level, organizational skills, ability to read language, and, of primary

importance, motivation.

Goetze (1988) also auditioned singers, but not for the purpose of elimination. She

believed choirs "should be available to all students who express an interest in singing,

regardless of their musical or vocal gifts," but only when you knew the abilities of the

choir could vocalises and literature be selected. In choosing material to use with the

singers, you can correct deficiencies and advance the skill level of the children.

Farrell (1976, p. 31) found, in his study of American boy choirs, that directors

looked at scholastic grades, previous musical experiences and musical aptitude when new

singers sought admission to the group. A "sense of individual musical responsibility" is "a

most important element in the success of the choir," according to Ortlip (1986), and can

be gauged at the time of the interview and audition.

Once a child has been accepted into a choir, placement in a junior, or training,

choir may be required. Some organizations use these choirs to give the beginning singer

the opportunity to develop vocal skills and assess the time and commitment that is

required of a member of the organization. It is both a learning and a trial period for both

the director and the singer.


Bartle (1988, p. 112) said that her new members, called "apprentices," are seated

beside an apprentice trainer for rehearsals and sing "as much of the 'home' concerts as

they can manage." She had a Training Chorus comprised of apprentices, children who

"have a lovely sound and excellent ears but not the skills to match" (Shrock, 1990).

Membership in either the Training Chorus or the Full Chorus "is based on skill

development rather than age" (Shrock, 1990).

While directors may or may not use auditions to eliminate children from the choir,

they can use them to assess other areas that are also important in a choir, such as maturity,

interest, and social skills. Information gained in this way is useful in planning repertoire

and concert schedules and in determining what vocal skills need to be taught.


Elementary age children commonly share the values of their parents (Swears,

1985, p. 16), thus making it crucial to secure and maintain the interest of all the parents

connected with a children's choral organization. Welles (1995a, p. 5) recognized the role

of parents, and says that these "dedicated individuals.. .help the Music Director take care

of all the details that are required for the chorus itself to function." This is especially true

in a new or small organization that does not have the funds to hire workers. But she was

careful to say that parents must always function under the guidance of the director (p. 6).

When possible candidates for the Board of Directors are discussed, she omitted parents

from her list of candidates (p. 8), although she later suggested "former chorus parents" as

potential Board members (1995a, p. 17.)

The Houston Children's Choir published a Parents' Handbook (1995-96) which

provided general information for both singers and parents. It stated that "Parents are not

permitted to attend any rehearsal. We also ask that parents not enter the rehearsal

building" except for certain specified activities. It also states that when parents are present

at any concerts, they "may not in any way interfere with the... staff."

The free labor available from the parents of singers can be invaluable. Volunteers

free the director from the endless details than can be involved in the administration of a

choir. Also, parents may posses skills and knowledge in areas such as law, finance or

advertising that the director does not have. Parents mustalways work under the leadership

of the director if the choir is to function smoothly and meet the goals that the conductor

has established.

Director Education

Phillips (1985b) said that many children "never learn to use their singing voices

confidently." This is not because the children are unable to learn to sing, but because they

are not taught to do so. He blamed some music education programs, saying that

undergraduates are not given the necessary training that will prepare them to teach

children to sing. This is especially true of those engaged in instrumental studies, for they

are often not required to study voice.

Music teachers who have had little, or no, vocal training, or whose training

focused on a mature voice that was capable of matching pitch and using a head voice,

may have a difficult time making the adjustment to immature voices with significant


problems. Ferreira (1993) concurred, stating that college students have the necessary skills

and the opportunity to do great choral literature, but they cannot always make the transfer

of what they know and have experienced when it comes to teaching children.

Phillips (1993) said that new teachers often have no idea what a child's singing

voice should sound like and do not know what to do to correct vocal problems. He called

on teacher training institutes to "do a better job of preparing teachers in this most

important area of child vocal production."


With so many decisions to be made in the conducting and organizing of a

children's choir, directors and teachers needed additional resources to which they could

turn for help, and the ACDA National Committee on Children's Choirs was organized in

1979 (Rao, 1995). The first full meeting was at the 1981 ACDA National Convention in

New Orleans (Rao, 1989). The organizer of the committee, Doreen Rao, stated that the

main aim of the committee was to:

develop a national awareness of children's choirs: (a) as an instrument of
artistic excellence; (b) as a resource basic to music education; and (c) as a
means of reviving the joy of singing in American culture. (Rao, 1989)

Many community children's choirs currently exist across the United States, and the

work of these choirs and their directors has compelled publishers and composers to

improve the quality of the music they produce for these groups (Tagg, 1993). Books,

articles, workshops, festivals and research studies have expanded the knowledge base

available for directors (Tagg, 1993).

The work of children's directors appear to have long-term affect on the children in

their ensembles, for Long (cited in Humphreys, May and Nelson, 1992) found a significant

positive correlations between experiences in choral ensembles and an expressed preference

for "concert-type" music among elementary age students. Gawthrop (1997) concurred,

saying that involvement in the arts will create a life-long desire for artistic expression.

Children's choirs no longer exist solely to facilitate worship, but as a means of music

education and as a way to encourage aesthetic sensitivity in children.



This study examined the community children's choir movement in Florida. Both

quantitative and qualitative methods were used to determine the extent of the movement

and the activities within that movement, since studies of this type should employ a

combination of survey, interview and concert attendance. This chapter includes

descriptions of the population selection process for this study, the instruments used to

gather data, and methods of data analyses.

Overview of the Study

The goal of this study was to expand our knowledge of community children's

choirs in the state of Florida. The methods of inquiry used to gather this information were

similar to those used by Bourne (1990): interviews with children's choir directors,

workshop attendance, questionnaires and concert attendance. While many children's

choirs exist in the state, including those in churches, schools and private organizations,

this study used only those choirs which met the following criteria: choirs of boys and girls

with unchanged voices, primarily aged eight through sixteen, whose membership is not

drawn from a single organization.

Determining the Population

The National Directory of Children's Choirs (ACDA, 1995) was consulted as an

initial source of information because it contained the names and addresses of 3,985

people (B. Tagg, personal communication, November 7,1995) who self-reported an

interest in children's choirs. The 'Children's Choir' section of the directory listed 91

addresses in Florida and 104 in Georgia, for a total of 195. Georgia was originally

included because it was feared that Florida might not have more than two or three choirs.

In June 1996, each of these 195 people received a questionnaire (Questionnaire

A) (see Appendix A) that asked if they directed a children's choir, for information about

similar choirs which they might know, and for the names of children's choir directors

whose work they admired. Each name in the returned instrument also received a copy of

Questionnaire A.

The questionnaires were mailed with a cover letter on University of Florida

stationery which explained the reason for the information request. A stamped, self-

addressed envelope was included. Approximately ten to fourteen days after the original

mailing, a reminder post card was mailed to nonrespondents. When a response still was

not received, they received a second letter and another copy of the questionnaire. If this

letter did not produce results, recipients received reminder telephone calls and e-mail

messages (Fowler, 1984, p. 54).

Informants were also asked about areas of concern for choirs in order that

information might be acquired which would aid in the development of Questionnaire B

(see Appendix B). The mailing of Questionnaire A ceased when the information received

was redundant. A total of 282 questionnaires was mailed. Eighteen were returned as

undeliverable, while 188 were completed and returned for a response rate of 67%. The

questionnaire revealed that seventeen choirs existed in Florida and Georgia was

eliminated from the study.

Director Contact

In January 1998, each of the seventeen directors received a letter which asked

them to participate in this study. This letter outlined the study and told the recipients what

would be expected of them and promised confidentiality. The letter contained a form

which the directors were requested to sign, stating that they consented to be a part of the

study. A stamped, self-addressed envelope was also enclosed in the letter. Several

attempts were made by telephone, postal cards and e-mail to contact those directors who

did not respond to the letter, requesting that they participate in the study. Responses to

that letter made it possible to determine that three choirs were not useable: one existed

only as a teaching laboratory for students at a large state university; one choir in a small

community had ceased to exist after one year; and one choir never formally came into

existence because the director had too many other commitments.

Of the fourteen remaining choirs, four directors did not respond to the request to

participate. Follow-up letters, reminder postcards, e-mail and telephone calls were all

used in an attempt to secure the participation of each director, but there was no response

from these four. Two other directors stated that their choirs no longer existed, principally

because the directors lacked enough time. Both directors stated that they hoped to

resume their choirs at a later date. Finally, one director declined to participate, citing too

many commitments. One director had temporarily discontinued his choir, citing other

commitments and health concerns, but asked to be included in the study. Seven choir

directors consented to participate in this study.

These seven directors received a questionnaire packet which included a cover

letter that told about the study, the purpose of the study, and how the information will be

used. Participants were guaranteed confidentiality, and any use of director's names would

be cited only with the written permission of the director. Instructions for completing the

packet, the questionnaire and a stamped, self-addressed envelope were included in the

packet (Smith, 1988, p. 229).

For those directors who did not return the questionnaire, a follow-up postal card

was used as a reminder. Telephone calls and e-mail messages were used to contact those

who still did not respond. Fuqua, Hartman and Brown (1982) state that follow-up contact

is useful in increasing response rates, although it is rare for more than three follow-ups to

be effective.

Developing the Instrument

A preliminary study (Questionnaire A) was created to find the choirs in Florida.

As part of this study, directors listed problems that they had encountered in their own

choirs. These concerns were compiled and similar comments were grouped under one



Questionnaire B used those areas which received the most comments. The areas

of choir organization, vocal training, vocalises, music education, race and gender, and

repertoire were also included because they were germane to community children's choirs.

The questions used by Farrell (1976) and Sewell (1990) were considered in the

construction of Questionnaire B. The length of their surveys, 115 and 150 questions

respectively, is approximately the same length as the 132 item document used in this


Some of the areas Farrell (1976) included in his study were not included in this

research. Questions about the IQ, academic grades, and the previous musical experiences

of prospective singers were omitted, while the ethnicity and socio-economic status of

singers and the audition process were examined in both inquiries.

Farrell (1976) used a closed-form questionnaire with occasional open-form

questions, while Sewell (1990) asked his respondents to circle a letter which

approximated the answer. He occasionally departed from this format to ask for

information concerning academic grades or percentages of ethnic groups.

Like Farrell, Sewell also asked questions about academic grades and ethnicity. He

sought information about the use of vibrato in his singer's voices, as this study does.

Haworth's (1995) study used a questionnaire design which was apparently

difficult for her respondents to complete (J. Haworth, personal communication, January

26, 1999). Directions such as "If you teach 180 days a year, skip to 2c" (p. 198) seemed

to have confused her subjects, and, for that reason, this format was not used in this


When Questionnaire B was completed, it was field tested by five teachers known

to the author. All of the teachers were currently directing children's choirs in their

elementary schools or in their community. Their opinions on the length of the instrument,

clarity of questions, and clearness of the instructions were solicited by using a form

similar to one found in Buck (1993, p. 178-179) (see Appendix B). Their comments were

considered when the final version was constructed. The teachers returned all of the

questionnaire critiques for a response rate of 100%.

Description of the Research Questions

Questionnaire A, used during the population discovery phase of this study, asked

respondents to identify areas of concern to them as directors. Respondents mentioned

twenty-eight different issues, with some areas listed on more than one questionnaire.

Similar comments were grouped under 14 different headings.

These problems and informal discussions with directors of the author's

acquaintance were used to determine the following research questions in this study:

1. The name and location of each choir

2. The vocal training philosophy of the director

3. How the director's practices support the vocal training philosophy

4. The use of vocalises

5. The use of auditions

6. The use of training choirs

7. The inclusion of a comprehensive music education

8. Concert repertoire

9. The role of parents

10. How the different races, religions, cultural and socio-economic groups of the

community at large are reflected in the choir membership

11. Funding

12. Scheduling

13. How and where directors are learning the skills needed to direct a children's

community choir

After field testing and revision, Questionnaire B contained 132 items. Those

questions addressing the same facet of the choir were grouped together under a

descriptive heading to help orient the thinking of the participants. Multiple choice or

check-list formats were used to make it easier for directors to complete the instrument.

Space was provided for writing alternate answers. "Why or why not?" items were left

blank for the directors to complete in their own words. These answers might provide

added insight into the checklist answers and possibly supply new and interesting


Questions 119-124 asked for printed material which the director might use or

have prepared for various reasons. These items might give information about techniques,

repertoire and practices.

On the final page were questions 125-132. These asked for data about any

upcoming concerts and for information that would enable conductors to be contacted.

Questionnaire B, the final survey instrument, had both open- and closed-ended

format. The closed form questions gave the respondent several possible answers from

which to select the best response. The open-ended questions were based on the closed-

form items, and sought to clarify and amplify the information obtained from the

respondent (Farrell, 1967, p. 6).

Most of the questions were in the closed format. Self-administered questionnaires

frequently use closed questions since open-format items require constructing answers in

the respondent's own words. This may make the task difficult enough to affect response

rates. Inquiries which the respondent self-administers gave the individual time to research

the answers (Fowler, 1984, p. 64, 66), and thus may have rendered more valid

information. Items for which the respondent could not find a suitable category could be

answered as 'other,' and an explanation given.

The responses to the director's questionnaire were largely responsible for

determining the areas covered in personal interviews. The directors raised new areas of

interest or their answers revealed areas where additional information was needed, and this

material provided the basis for interview questions.

Surveying the Population

In February and March 1998, Questionnaire B was mailed to the directors who

consented to participate in the study. To secure the highest possible response rate,

reminder post cards, follow-up letters, e-mail messages and telephone calls were used. If

the participant did not answer the telephone, a message was left on the answer machine.

Weekly reminders were used to encourage completion of the final two outstanding

questionnaires. All questionnaires were received by early June 1998. One completed

questionnaire was returned by fax machine, five were mailed, and one was completed by

telephone interview since the director had recently had hand surgery. A response rate of

100% was achieved.

Concert Attendance

The author attended the concerts of four choirs to collect more data regarding

repertoire, vocal techniques and organization. These concerts proved valuable because

information and materials were obtained that were not considered in constructing the

questionnaire and personal contact was made with the directors. Concerts of the

remaining choirs were not attended because travel distances were great, the choir was no

longer in existence, or the director could not be contacted for a definite date and time of

the concert.

Attendance at concerts provided information about fund-raising, corporate

support, costumes, choreography, choir size, stage settings, and printed program eye

appeal. Handwritten notes were taken about the concerts, conversation with directors and

parents and the music.

Personal Contact

After the questionnaire was received and studied, five formal and informal

interviews were conducted in person, by telephone and by e-mail. These conversations

clarified answers on the questionnaire or explored new issues which the directors raised.

A printed copy of e-mail correspondence and handwritten notes of telephone

conversations were also kept. Interviews were structured individually for each director,

based on the returned questionnaire, but became less structured as subjects raised new

issues which needed to be explored (Merriam, 1988, p.73-74). Handwritten notes were

taken during and immediately after interviews. Two additional directors proved extremely

difficult to contact, in spite of many telephone calls, and the remaining director's material

did not need explanation.

Treatment of the Data

As the questionnaires were received, the data from closed-form questions were

written in the appropriate boxes on a chart (Merriam, 1991, p. 197). The answers to

open-form questions were placed into categories. As material was entered on the chart, it

was possible to see similarities and differences in the choirs. For example, the contrast in

the sizes of the choirs and the higher percentage of boys in most of the male-directed

choirs was obvious.

Data from interviews and concert attendance were also included on the chart. This

supplemented existing information or supplied material that was missing.

After this process was complete, the information was checked for mistakes and

reliability as follows:

Each item of the closed-form data was checked to ascertain that it had been

placed in the correct category. An observer selected random questionnaires and

verified the coding.

S Any discrepancies found were reexamined and corrected.



In this chapter, the results of this study are presented and discussed. Each choir

received a number to protect the confidentiality of the directors' information. Numbers

were assigned consecutively as the questionnaires were received.

Developing the Survey Instrument

Community children's choir directors in Florida and Georgia received a preliminary

questionnaire (Questionnaire A), asking for the names of choirs and directors and for

problem areas in their own choirs. The resulting difficulties were compiled and similar

comments were grouped under the same heading. There were fourteen different areas in

the 188 returned questionnaires.

'Funding' and 'Recruiting' received the most comments, 35 and 29 respectively,

with 'Commitment' (6), 'Parents' (5), 'Time' (4), and 'Organization' (3), garnering far

fewer statements. Eight headings received one comment each. The many comments about

'Funding' and 'Recruiting' may have been the result of the examples given in the stem

question of the questionnaire (see Figure 4-1).


Programs |




Esprit de Corps |

Conmuity support |






Recuitig -*

Funding l

0 5 10 15 20 25
Number of Responses

30 35 40


Figure 4-1


The areas which appeared to be most problematic were considered when

Questionnaire B was formulated. Questions pertaining to choir organization, vocal

training, vocalises, music education, race and gender, and repertoire were added to the

survey because they were of interest and germane to the study.

Summary of Results

The Choirs

Florida's community children's choirs were spread throughout the state and

include the area in the far northwestern section of the state, the northeastern area, the

center of the state and on both coasts. Choirs I, 1, V, and VI were in the larger

metropolitan areas of the state, while choirs III, IV and VII were in smaller cities. Choir

III was in the smallest town of the choirs being studied.

Two of the choirs were directed by women, four by men, and one by a husband

and wife team, for a total of eight directors. Only the husband participated in the study,

reducing the number to seven.

Information on the returned questionnaires showed that four of the choirs were

relatively new, having been in existence for less than five years. Choirs I and VII were

somewhat older, being between six and ten years old. The oldest of the choirs, Choir V,

was the only choir which was not started by the current director, and was more than 21

years old. While 21 years seems to refute the idea that a children's community choir is a

relatively new idea, the long history of other kinds of singing groups makes this a

newcomer to the field of vocal music.

The conductor of Choir I stated in an interview that the group began because she

had worked with church children's choirs, and wanted to "expand her repertoire and

technique." She heard the Toronto Children's Choir at an ACDA convention and was

impressed by the "sound and musicality" of the group. The choir began with about 20

children and expanded to four choirs with a total enrollment of 116 singers.

Choir H was a smaller group, with all children singing in the same choir. It began

shortly after the director moved into the community and found that there was no

children's choir. He stated in an interview that he was motivated to begin the group

because children are not often give the opportunity to produce music of a high caliber, but

are constantly surrounded by the sounds of the popular culture. The group moved from a

church setting to a local university campus as the result of a conversation during a chance

encounter between the director and the chair of the department of music.

The Toronto Children's Chorus was indirectly responsible for the beginning of

Choir II. As the director wrote on his questionnaire, he felt that the school music

program was inadequate, and that "talent existed in community and I wanted to prove it!"

He elaborated on this answer in an interview, when he recounted how he had spent several

days at a Toronto Children's Choir Camp and became acquainted with the staff Two

years later he was talking with the artistic director of the Toronto Choir, who spoke about

the problems she was having with transportation for an upcoming tour. The director

helped with the bus problem in return for a concert in his city. He then had seven months

in which to make preparations for forming a choir in the wake of the excitement generated

by the singing of the Toronto Choir. The initial choir had thirty-five members.

The conductor of Choir IV answered on the questionnaire that she formed the

current choir because children requested it. The director also wanted to direct a choir that

sang sacred music and provided home-schooled children an opportunity for a large-group

music experience. Additional details were learned during an interview with the director

when she told about the girl's choir which had existed several years previously, but had

been disbanded. The director called singers who had been members of the girl's choir and

were under the age of sixteen, put an advertisement in the newspaper and asked parents to

pass out flyers announcing auditions for the group. A small amount of money remained in

the girl's choir bank account with which to purchase music for the new group.

The current director did not establish Choir V, but he stated that the group began

as an adult choir. The adults separated from the organization some time ago and formed

another choral society, leaving the original association to the children. This was the only

choir in this study which the founder did not lead.

Choir VI was conceived as a "children's show choir," as the director stated in

answer to an e-mail question. His reply on the questionnaire said that children and parents

requested that he form the group and that he wanted to work with a children's choir. A

publicity brochure from the choir stated that the director believed that "children could

achieve artistic excellence equal to adults" and that "this unique troupe provides the...

area with a professional ensemble of talented young performers."

The director of Choir VII wrote on the questionnaire that a request from the local

symphony orchestra for a children's choir to sing in the Christmas concert was the


beginning of his group. Seven years later, the choir had grown to include four choirs and

200 children.

Each of these choirs began under different circumstances, and has developed its

own personality which meets the needs of singers, directors and communities. All of them,

however, continue in existence to give children expanded artistic opportunities.

The Directors

According to information supplied by the respondents on the questionnaires, each

director participating in this study had a baccalaureate degree in some area of music. Five

directors had a master's degree, one had an education specialist degree, and one a


The degrees encompassed several aspects of music, including two bachelor's and

one master's degree in music education; one bachelor's, one master's, and one doctorate

degree in piano performance; one bachelor's and one specialist degree in church music; a

master's degree in piano; a master's degree in composition; and both a bachelor's and two

master's degrees in voice. The performance area for three directors was voice, two were

piano, one was organ and one majored in composition.

For all but two of the directors, the current choir was the only community

children's choir they had directed. Two directors had led other children's choirs, one in

another state, and one that was the forerunner of the current choir. Both previous choirs

were conducted for less than five years.

Questions on the survey asked about undergraduate experiences in children's

choral music because it was assumed that every director would have earned a bachelor's

degree. Directors were not questioned about graduate study because it could not be

assumed that each director had gone beyond the undergraduate level. When asked which

experiences in undergraduate studies helped to prepare the director for this choir

experience, three either listed no experiences or said there was nothing which aided in

their children's choir experience. Two directors said that their own choral singing was

helpful in teaching their own choirs. Only one director cited undergraduate theory,

conducting and music education courses as helpful in teaching children to sing. Since

instruction in children's voices is apparently limited in undergraduate studies, the question

as to where directors learn their skills arises. Directors said that trial and error,

workshops, professional journals, books, and conversations with colleagues were ways of

learning about the child voice. One director also listed the Choral Music Experience

Institute as helpful.

The seven "veteran director-founders who were personally interviewed" for

Sewell's study (1990, p. 67) "suggested" that careful training is necessary for directors of

boy choirs. He suggested that the ideal preparation would include, among other areas,

diction, protection of the vocal instrument and tone production. None of the directors in

the present study said that they had such formal training, although their own choral

experiences might have provided incidental knowledge. Lacking specific training that

would be helpful in conducting a children's choir, the participants have educated


Because directors said they looked to professional journals as places where they

could find instruction in children's singing skills, they were asked about the journals to

which they subscribe. The most frequently listed journal, noted by six of the seven

directors, was The Choral Journal, a publication of the ACDA. Three respondents cited

the journals of the MENC and the Florida Music Educators Association (FMEA): Music

Educators Journal, Teaching Music and Florida Music Director. Two directors said they

read The Voice of Chorus America, published by Chorus America, while American Music

Teacher, a publication of the Music Teachers' National Association, and Anacrusis, the

journal of the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors, were each cited by one

conductor. Only one director listed Choristers Guild Letter, the publication written

especially for children's choirs, perhaps because Chorister's Guild was formed primarily

for church choirs.

Directors may read or consult journals to which they do not subscribe, so they

were asked which journals were the most helpful in addressing the problems encountered

in children's choirs. Three directors listed the Choral Journal. Chorus America and

Anacrusis were each cited by one director. Two directors said that no one journal was of

particular help, but occasional articles in any of the journals were useful.

Each director, when asked on the questionnaire what undergraduate experiences

would have been helpful to their current choir tasks, stated that they would like to have

had exposure to children's choirs, their vocal capabilities and the literature available for

children's choirs. They also listed observations, hands-on experiences, laboratory

experiences, interning with a children's choir, a master class with a choir director after a

concert, hearing a good children's choir, and vocal techniques for children as desirable for

undergraduate study. The director of Choir VI said that he would like to participate in

"workshops with [a] typical children's choir director."

To help in current and future directing tasks, three of the seven directors said they

would benefit from help with choral literature. They thought that a workshop or some

opportunity for a comprehensive study of repertoire was important. Also considered

helpful were choir management workshops, conducting workshops, clinicians to work

with and discuss the child's voice, and two directors thought a workshop by the Toronto

Children's Choir would be helpful.

Directors have apparently not received much undergraduate help in forming and

directing children's choirs. They must learn the skills they need through professional

literature, discussions and workshops.

Useful Resources

Each of the seven directors involved in this study tended to cite many of the same

authors, books and clinicians on the questionnaire. Doreen Rao, author of We Will Sing!

Choral Music Experience for Classroom Choirs (1993b) and the Choral Experience

Series-Education Through Artistry (1987), was cited by five directors. Four directors

mentioned Jean Ashworth Bartle of the Toronto Children's Choir and her book, Lifeline

for Children's Choirs (1988), as among the most helpful sources; and Helen Kemp, Of

Primary Importance (1989), was referred to by three directors. Others mentioned as

influential were as follows:

Linda Swears, Teaching the Elementary School Chorus (1985)

Nancy Poore Tufts, The Children's Choir (1965)

Susie Page

Henry Leck of the Indianapolis Children's Choir

The Choral Music Experience Institute workshops

Ann Small of the Stetson Children's Choir

Lynn Gackle of the Tampa Children's Choir

University of Florida International Voice Symposium

Anton Armstrong

ACDA conventions

Michael Houlahan and Philip Tacka, Sound Thinking (1990)

J. C. McKinney, Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults (1994), and

The Tapiola Children's Choir of Finland.

Absent from this list was the Choristers Guild, an organization formed to help

children's choir directors "develop their choirs both musically and spiritually" (Farrior,

1993, p. 118). The Guild publishes music for treble voices and a newsletter which is

designed to increase the skills and knowledge of conductors. It also holds choral festivals,

so it would seem that the organization would be visible enough for the participants in this

study to be aware of it, but the religious connotations of the organization may make the

leaders of these secular choirs want to avoid it.

Directors may not have received undergraduate training in children's voices, but

they have used many resources to learn the skills and knowledge they need to conduct

their choirs. Each of these participants has sought additional study beyond the

undergraduate degree, both in a formal academic setting and independently. Although four

directors pursued non-vocal performance areas, they chose to lead a choir. It would

appear that these choir directors welcome new challenges and seek the knowledge that

will enable them to be successful in their ventures.

Characteristics of Choir Membership

The sizes of the total choir organizations, as given on the questionnaires and in e-

mail messages, ranged from 30 to 200 children, with three choirs being in the 30-40

membership range. Choir II had 56 singers, Choir I had 116, Choir V had 140, and Choir

VII was the largest with 200 singers.

If a choir had more than one singing group within an organization, directors were

asked on the questionnaire for the number of boys and the number of girls in the most

advanced group. They were also asked for the number of children in several different

ethnic categories within that same group.

Only three choirs had more than one singing group within an organization: Choirs

I, V, and VII. Choir I had 36 in the Touring Choir, Choir V had 62 in the Advanced Choir

and Choir VII had 94 in the Concert Choir (see Figure 4-2).

Figure 4-2


Girls outnumbered boys in all of these choirs. The two women directors reported a

lower percentage of boys in their choirs, with 17% and 18%, while the men had greater

success in recruiting boys. Choir II had 21% boys, Choir VII had 27%, Choir VI had

34%, and Choir III had the highest percentage of boys with 47%. However, the lowest

percentage of boys, 10%, was found in Choir V, with a male director (see Figure 4-3).

This would seem to suggest that male directors are more successful at attracting boys.

Choir VII

Choir VI

ChoirV V


Choir III

Choir HI

Choii ---- -

0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140

Choir VII

Choir VI

Choir V

Choir IV

Choir Il

Choir I

Choir I



+ F

40 60

Figure 4-3



Several different ethnic backgrounds were represented in the choirs, with white,

black and Hispanic children being predominant. Questionnaire answers revealed that

Asian, Indian, Turkish, Filipino, and Haitian children also sang in these choirs, but in far

fewer numbers. Choir III had 14 Filipino children out of a total enrollment of 30 singers.

The director said in an interview that the Filipino community in his town was strong and

very supportive of the arts, many sending their children to a private denominational school

which was very arts-focused. The highest percentage of Hispanic singers was to be found

in the south Florida choir, but, considering the ethnic mix of this area of the state, this was

perhaps to be expected. The chorister most often seen in Florida community children's

0 Boys


choirs was a white girl. A large majority of the singers in the boy choirs in Sewell's study

(1990, p. 279) were also Caucasian, and Farrell (1976, p. 24, 30) found the same

phenomenon in the boy choirs he studied, for 74.2% of the singers were Caucasian.

When asked if the directors intended for the membership of the choir to reflect the

race, socio-economic, income and ethnic diversity of the community, the directors of

Choirs I, V, VI, VII said "yes" on their questionnaires, with one director stating that the

choir "should be reflective of the community." The others replied "no," with a common

reason being that any singer was welcome to sing, regardless of characteristics. A director

stated in an interview that the membership was determined by the quality of the singing

and by who decided to audition. In no case was it felt that race or income were used to

eliminate a child. The most commonly stated reason for excluding children was an inability

to sing well.

Directors were also asked if they had tried to recruit children from the various.

races and income groups. One director stated in both interview and questionnaire response

that no special effort had been made to do so, the primary goal of the group being to

"provide children with artistic experiences through the performance of choral music;

whoever has come, has come." Another stated on the questionnaire that the choir was

"continually trying" to recruit membership which reflected the diversity of the community,

but had been unsuccessful. Three choirs reported on the questionnaire that lack of support

by the families, particularly low income parents, was the reason a more diverse

membership was difficult to recruit. One director cited the distance to rehearsals as a

barrier for some families and another maintained that tuition was too expensive.

Choir Organization

Questionnaire answers showed that four Florida community children's choirs were

organized so that all children sing in the same choir, while three choirs, I, V, and VII, had

more than one choir within the organization. Choir I had four choirs, Choir V had three,

and Choir VII had three choirs with an additional ensemble selected from the most

advanced group. The most advanced choirs in multi-choir organizations had the largest


Additional choirs give the directors the opportunity to more exactly suit the level

of the music to the ability of the singers. Those with less ability have the opportunity to

develop their skills and voices, while those who already know the basic techniques of

choral work can be challenged with more difficult music.

When interviewed, two directors whose organizations contain only one choir

spoke of such an opportunity for their singers. They realized the advantage this gave the

children, but had not established additional choirs because of time and space constraints.

The three choirs who had more than one ensemble in the organization were the

three oldest, with at least seven years of existence. If the other choirs continue to endure

and grow, they may also add training and preparatory choirs.

Singers in training choirs generally remained in that choir until they showed that

they could move to a higher level of music-making, perhaps one to two years. These

choirs also give children time to develop their voices, to become accustomed to singing

music of a different nature, and to singing for a longer period than they have possibly

encountered at school. This parallels what Fartell (1976, p. 30) found in his study of boy

choirs, where singers were encouraged to spend one year in a training period and to

"demonstrate the ability to move to a higher performance level."

In Choir V the director of the most advanced group also directed the training

groups, while in Choirs I and VII the training choirs were conducted by someone else. In

Choir I, information in the concert program showed that a public school or university

music teacher taught the training choirs, and the director of Choir VIL, which was headed

by a husband and wife team, stated in an interview that he conducted the most advanced

group while she was in charge of the training choirs.

Training choirs are valuable assets for any choral organization, for they provide

singers to fill openings in the more advanced choirs and they enable children to develop

vocal skills. Conductors of these choirs are usually not the founder of a multi-choir

organization, for he or she usually conducts the more advanced choir, leaving the teaching

of the most basic singing skills to someone else. The founder needs to carefully oversee

the training choirs, however, and be sure that skills are taught uniformly in all the choirs.


Directors reported on their questionnaires that each choir had at least two people

on the staff. one director and one accompanist. Choir VI added a librarian for a total of

three. Choir V used a staff of four: a director, an assistant director and two accompanists,

while Choir VII had five on staff: two directors, a chorus manager, an accompanist and a

choreographer. The largest staff was that of Choir I with a total of nine: four directors

(one for each choir), four accompanists (one for each choir) and a vocal coach. The boy

choirs in Farrell's 1976 study had an average of "3.17 persons on their musical staffs" (p.


Each of these additional people required money for salaries, supplies and expenses,

however, and, unless the funds can be secured through increased tuition or gifts, this may

make a larger staff prohibitive. Unpaid workers are always a possibility, but the quality of

work may not be what is desired and it is more difficult to dismiss the services of an eager


Only two choirs, III and IV, reported on their questionnaires that they used

student officers. These children were not in places of ongoing responsibility, but were

used to lead section rehearsals. The director of Choir IV said in an interview that the

recipients of student leadership awards were used as section leaders and these singers

were given partial scholarships.

Two directors who did not use student help said on the questionnaires that they

had not considered doing so, that the choirs worked well without student help or that

doing so was time-consuming. The conductor of Choir VI stated that student officers

were a possibility for future seasons. Community choirs, as with other musical

organizations, are places in which leadership skills can be cultivated, but it takes time and

effort to do so. A parent supervisor of student helpers might be one way in which

directors can develop skills without detracting from the prime mission of the conductor.

All staff members, whatever their status, are important, but one of the most crucial

appointments is the accompanist. A sensitive, responsible pianist is invaluable and can

make the difference in the success or failure of a choir, and, because good accompanists

are so valuable, the organization might consider paying the pianist if the director is

salaried. Sewell (1990, p. 141) found that 84% of the choirs in his study employed

accompanists, while only 22% of the conductors did their own accompanying, and said

that an accompanist is "critical to the existence of a new choir" (p. 140).

Directors should hire or recruit the best people possible for their choirs and expect

their best efforts. In return, workers should be "recognized for their huge contribution and

... thanked formally" (Bartle, 1988, pp. 195-198).

Director's Vocal Philosophies

Directors were asked on the questionnaire if they had a mental concept of the

sound that they wished the choir to make. The answer was "yes" in each case. As one

conductor commented, "How could you function without it?" Jean Ashworth Bartle of

the Toronto Children's Choir, believed that "the conductor must have in his/her mind the

ideal sound and the clear perception of the final product before starting to rehearse a

work" (Shrock, 1990). Judging the sound that the choir produces against the standard in

the director's mental ear was apparently the way in which the sound was evaluated.

The ideal sound for which these directors were listening was described in

interviews and on questionnaires in various ways: "clear, supported tone," "in tune,"

"warm, rounded tone," "vibrant, healthy, natural sound," "free head tone," "much head

voice." Four directors cited "round," "good," or "uniform" vowels as essential to an ideal

sound, the most frequently mentioned characteristic of a good choral sound, and three

directors stated that the ideal children's sound contains no vibrato.


Vibrato, they said on the questionnaires, can be allowed to develop with maturity,

an opinion which was agreed with by five of the six directors in Farrell's (1976, pp. 109,

155) study of boy choirs. Pre-puberty voices should be restricted in the amount of vibrato

heard, particularly if it is a problem.

According to information given on the questionnaire, five of the directors

considered that children's voices have two distinct registers: a head voice and a chest

voice. Ideally, no break occurs between the registers; only one equalized register can be

heard, particularly after training. Only one director thought of the singing voice as having

three registers (upper, middle and lower) and one considered the voice to be one equalized


In Farrell's (1976, p. 108) study, the directors were divided in their opinions

regarding singing registers, as they were in this study. Of the six choirs used in his study,

"three directors recognized two distinct registers: the head and chest voice," and three

"reported three distinct registers; the head, middle and chest voice."

The most frequently mentioned method of teaching children to sing well was

modeling. All seven directors stated on the questionnaires that they show their children

how to sing by singing for them. They also used praise and had their choir listen to

recordings of other children's choirs that sang with the desired sound. Three conductors

stated that they use private meetings or private coaching with their children to help them

achieve the desired sound. One director said in an interview that she had the child listen to

a tape recording of his or her own singing and critique it. This enabled the child to have a

better idea of what he or she sounded like and how that differed from the desired sound,

thus making it easier and quicker to produce the sound the director was seeking.

One director stated that he had the children do vocal exercises in different

registers, identifying the sound and feel of each. This made it possible to discuss the

registers and request a particular sound needed for a specific musical selection.

When encouraging their singers to produce the desired sound, directors had

particular phrases which they had found to work. Among them were: "Don't sound like

kindergartners," "move the sound forward in your mouth," "energize," "sparkle," "float,"

"spin the sound," and "sing on the breath."

Every director answered "yes" when asked if posture and breathing were related,

which agreed with Chivington's statement that "once posture is in place, the children can

practice breathing" (1998). The reasoning was that "changing posture changes sound,"

that "proper alignment leads to better or more effective inhalation," or that "good posture

allows better breathing and an expanded rib cage." One director stated on the

questionnaire that "demonstrations made a believer out of him." Stufft (1998) concurred,

stating that "one of the most common problems with singing.., is poor posture" and that

"poor posture makes proper breathing difficult."

To achieve the desired posture, all the directors had developmental drills that they

used. These drills were used because, as one director said on the questionnaire, "they

work." Another director said that good posture was achieved through drills and through

"nagging and praising." He also used a general description of good posture. Bartle (1988,

p. 113) suggested that posture is one area that can be concentrated on during the warm-

up section of a rehearsal.

Along with drills and exercises designed to teach posture, breathing drills were

also used by each director. Directors used "a large variety" of exercises "to make children

aware of the importance of breath." One director used the exercises to "activate and

identify the muscles involved" in breathing and to "elongate breath for long phrases." A

director wrote on the questionnaire that he used breathing drills to "get the diaphragm

going," while another wanted to "help singers realize that they can sing longer phrases

with one breath" because, as a director said, "singers don't speak in long phrases."

As with posture and breathing, directors had procedures designed to build vocal

technique. Study of the music being rehearsed was possibly the favorite way, being

mentioned on the questionnaire by six of the directors. They rehearsed trouble spots in

isolation, taught the desired singing skills, and reassembled the composition.

These techniques were used "to plant the sound, and then get it into the

repertoire," or, as one director put it, because "it works." Directors also used this as a

time management system, since to base vocal exercises on a passage from the music

"accomplishes two tasks at once:" learning the music and building skills. Two directors

agreed that this technique "relates the technique to the music" and made a "more

immediate connection to why the technique is necessary in a particular piece."

All the directors used vocal warm-ups in rehearsal. These were used not only to

warm up the muscles used in singing, but to "prepare the voice and body for work." One

director said on the questionnaire that vocal warm-ups are "critical to build sound, tone

and technique." Three conductors used this time to "clear the mind of outside thoughts"

and to "get them thinking musically." Work on "range expansion" and the opportunity to

"focus students and train their ears for the sound we are seeking" were other reasons that

directors use vocal warm-ups.

As with the development of vocal technique, warm-up material was often

abstracted from problem areas in the music, an idea that Telfer agreed with (Brendell,

1997). She felt that "conductors should note what vocal challenges arise in the repertoire

and make sure they are covered very well in the warmups." One director said on the

questionnaire that he separated problems and worked on them during warm-ups because

"rehearsal goes smoother when rough spots have already been ironed out" and that it

"assists in memorization." Other directors liked working in this way because doing so

made the children aware of the problem and that "when problems are isolated, you can

better hear what's happening."

Directors also used the traditional vocal exercises, often in conjunction with the

problem area exercises. Gackle believed in using vocalises taken from the music, because

this "cuts down on teaching time." She also used warm-ups to teach technique (L. Gackle,

workshop, February 1, 1997), as did Kemp (H. Kemp, workshop, February 6, 1999).

Erman (1981, p. 53) wrote that vocal exercises can be a valuable part of the singer's

routine and can be used to eliminate or prevent problems.

One director stated that "most problems are fixed in the context in which they

occur," rather than in vocalises. Christy (1965, p. viii) called this the "Song Approach,"

and said that "experience has demonstrated conclusively that the Song Approach, with

emphasis primarily on expression, is not only the most interesting to students but also

generates an enthusiasm and stimulus that result in an even more rapid gain in technic."

Farrell (1976, p. 155) found that boy choir directors used the music being studied for

"teaching and developing articulation."

Only two directors stated on their questionnaires that they did not isolate problems

in the musical score and fix them during the warm-up. One stated that "vocal warm-ups

are for exploration while 'work' is for rehearsal." Phillips (1985b, 1993) called this the

Formal Approach to singing and believed (1985b) that "the inherent danger" in the song

approach was that "it is doubtful that the skill of singing will be taught."

During the warm-up, directors most often worked on rhythm and melody. One

used this opportunity to work on diction and placement of the tone in the head voice,

while another taught vowel formation. Directors used the warm-up portion of the

rehearsal to accomplish a variety of tasks that resulted in a better sound.


The question of auditions was not controversial among these seven community

choir directors. Each one auditioned singers for their choirs in a variety of ways, which

was identical to Farrell's (1976, p. 52) finding in his study of American boy choirs where

each group mandated a vocal audition in addition to other requirements. Sewell (1990, p.

203) reported that all thirty-two responding directors "affirmed that admission into their

boychoir organizations is regulated by a pre-entrance audition process."

No director admitted singers who could not match pitch. Among the audition

techniques was singing a round, used by one director, and solo singing, used by six of the

directors. One director stated that, while his prospective singers were auditioned, it was

not an exacting test. He planned to more closely test the children when his organization

became large enough to support two choirs. All directors were concerned about the

child's desire to sing in the choir, and considered that aspiration during the audition.

Directors also weighed tonal strength, vocal timbre, and the ability to match pitch patterns

when assessing a child's ability to sing in the choir. One director listened for the ability to

hold a part and another considered self-reliance during the audition. How a singer's voice

would blend with other voices in the ensemble was also a consideration during auditions.

Sewell (1990, p. 209) who advised that those conducting auditions should listen

for "potential, not [the] finished product." This agreed with another participant in

Sewell's investigation (p. 209) who said that he preferred an "eight year old who has had

NO previous training. If he can match notes, he goes into my cadet/training choir."

The value of training choirs came sharply into focus when auditions were

discussed. None of the directors involved in this study accepted children who could not

match pitch, and yet there were children who want very badly to sing but cannot meet the

standard set for entrance into one of these community choirs. The goal of beautiful music

that these directors have set for themselves and their choirs is exceedingly laudable, and it

is all but impossible to achieve with even one or two voices marring the sound. Not to

help a child who is willing to be helped, though, is not in the best interests of the child or

of music, and it is in this area that training choirs and vocal coaches are invaluable.


The director of Choir II stated during a conversation that Jean Ashworth Bartle's

staff, of the Toronto Children's Choir, met with parents during the child's audition. The

staff sought to be sure the parents understood the commitment of time and money that

would be required of a chorister and his or her family. This director seemed to feel that

this parent "audition" would at least partially solve the problem of parents who did not

always bring their children to rehearsal and concerts.

Rather than using a panel of judges to evaluate the auditions, each of the seven

directors relied on his or her own judgment. This made it easier to conduct auditions

because several people did not have to be assembled, and it was less threatening for the

child who did not have to sing in front of a group.

A variety of reasons were given when directors were asked on the questionnaire

why they did not admit singers who could not match pitch. The largest choir had too many

singers apply who could match pitch and it did not have room for others. One choir gave

poor singers a trial period and private lessons, while another encouraged those who could

not match pitch to study and re-audition. As one director stated on the questionnaire and

in an interview, experience at this level is "for kids who can match pitch," and to use poor

singers "compromises the integrity of the goals and objectives" of the choir. Hollenberg

(1996) feels that, while an auditioned children's choir should remain flexible and lenient,

"students with musical ability should be able to experience a refined, higher-level choral

program without being held back by those who are not developmentally ready for such an


Since directors do not admit poor singers, they can spend their time refining the

sound, rather than teaching basic pitch matching skills. This allows them to focus on music


Comprehensive Music Education

When asked on the questionnaire if they used the choral literature to teach music

concepts, every director answered "yes." They gave various reasons for this, including "it

exposes young people to literature and cultures," "it rounds the musical experience," and

establishes "a connection to the purpose it serves." One director stated that "It can

provide a wealth of information to teach style, concepts, theory, ear training and sight


Information from questionnaire responses showed that six directors found that

melody was the easiest concept to teach with the choral literature under study. Six

directors taught dynamics and rhythm, and five directors used the music being sung to

teach form and tempo. Four respondents taught style with the repertoire. In contrast,

harmony and texture (cited by three directors), style and tone color (two directors),

tempo, timbre, and form (one director each) were considered difficult to teach with the

choral literature being studied.

About half (three) of the directors stated that they did not look for choral literature

which will teach specific music concepts. When asked why they did not select music with

concept teaching in mind, one stated in the questionnaire response that "this is not how I

choose music." Another said that he selected music "for beauty (and) variety of

experience" rather than for the concepts that can be taught with it. A director who

selected music with teaching possibilities stated that "excellent music provides for musical

growth." Another director "looks for music suitable (in range) for my voices and then

uses it to teach specific concepts." Music is selected for its intrinsic beauty, not for the

concepts which can be taught with it, which is consistent with the mission of a group

organized to sing, as these choirs are.

Music concepts can be taught with activities other than singing, and directors were

asked about their use of such teaching strategies. Only two directors did not use these

alternate methods, stating on the questionnaire that doing so was "time consuming,"

"usually not necessary," and it was "not connected to the music." One who used such

activities did so "to increase musicianship."

The learning activities used to teach music concepts are varied and included such

things as moving, listening (six directors), singing (five directors), sight reading (three

directors), and playing instruments (two directors). Every director taught music reading

with the music the choir is performing because this "broadens the learning experience,"

and "meets the goals and objectives of the choir." Music reading has immediate benefits

to the organization since singers who can read music can learn parts faster and easier,

making a larger repertoire possible.


Repertoire seemed to present one of the biggest problems for directors. Three

respondents specifically stated on their questionnaires that they would welcome


workshops or study of available children's choir music. Various professional organizations

such as MENC, ACDA, and FMEA attempt to help directors in their search for music by

holding reading sessions during their conventions. The Choral Journal, published by

ACDA, reviews music and publishes an annotated list frequently, and music publishers are

usually pleased to add potential customers to their mailing lists. Conversations with fellow

directors are another way of searching out music, as is attendance at concerts.

Unfortunately, the perfect repertoire list does not exist, for each choir is different, its

needs and capabilities unique. Prospective directors must prepare to spend sufficient time

on literature research to ensure that the music selected for his or her choir meets all


Most directors did not use a published repertoire list when selecting music. Only

two said that they used such a list. All directors looked for music in a variety of places,

such as recordings and clinicians' suggestions. Once a source has proven helpful in finding

music, directors returned to that source.

Just as directors sought literature that was suitable for teaching specific music

concepts, so some directors kept the diction and vocal problems of their group in mind

when they were buying music. Four directors said on their questionnaires that they looked

for music that would help them correct vocal and diction problems. It is "a teaching tool"

said one director, while another thought that "it gives members a sense of


Correcting these problems was not always the prime consideration, however, for,

as three directors said, music is chosen because for its "intrinsic value" and problems are


corrected within the context of the music. The directors in Farrell's (1976, pp. 151, 157)

study also said that "personal preferences and audience appeal" were the "principal criteria

for the selection of music."

The vocal range of the music selected fell generally between middle C and fifth line

F. Three directors have considered music that goes as high as G or A, while one said on

his questionnaire that he liked to keep the music in the upper range, but had considered a

lower range if it fit the text.

Directors have sought music that is appropriate for their singers and has intrinsic

value. However, they have also commissioned new music, a practice advocated by

Boonshaft (1996) and practiced by "many choirs" in Rhoden's study (1971, p. 422). Four

of the seven directors stated that their groups had commissioned music, and they are not

alone. Ferreira (1993) noted that one trend in children's choral music is that "the need for

excellent choral repertoire by children's choirs has resulted in the.., publication of many

newly commissioned works."

The study participants plan to do so again, one stating that a new work is

commissioned "every season." In two choirs, the director did any necessary writing or


Works which have been commissioned by the choirs involved in this study are:

Akakomborerwa-Lee Kesselman-4 part treble; percussion accompaniment; Boosey &
Hawkes, Inc.

The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus-Eric Whitacre--SATB and Children's choir;
chamber orchestra and piano accompaniment; unpublished manuscript available from
the composer.

Light A Candle John Purifoy, writing as Michael Andrews--2 part treble; piano
accompaniment; New Horizons Publishers.

A Psalm ofLife--Malcolm Daglish--3 part treble; hammered dulcimer accompaniment;
Plymouth Music Co.

Praise God--Budd Udell-2 part treble; French horn and piano accompaniment;
unpublished manuscript available from the composer.

Where Dwells the Soul of My Love-James Mulholland--3 part treble; keyboard and oboe
accompaniment; Plymouth Music Co.

Yo Le Canto Todo El Dia-David Bruner--2 part treble; piano and handclap
accompaniment; Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.

As O'Toole (1999) found, contemporary composers write for children's choirs,

and the music they have produced is diverse and challenging. Accompaniments used

instruments other than the traditional piano, and the voice parts vary (Smith, 1993),

which is consistent with the commissioned compositions in this study.

Choirs commissioned these works for various reasons: to honor a deceased

chorister, to contribute to children's choir literature, and to be part of the literature of an

ecumenical choral festival. Five of the directors plan to request new selections primarily

because their children get to meet the composer. They said on their questionnaires that

they appreciated the opportunity the children have to become "involved in the creative

process" and it was an "interesting, enriching experience." They also considered this a

means of providing quality literature for their choir and other choirs. When asked whom

they would consider when commissioning new music, a varied group of composers was

listed on the questionnaire. David Bruner, Rupert Lang, Andre Thomas, Anna Laura Page,

Ruth Watson Henderson, Budd Udell, and Rene Clausen were among those considered,


primarily because they "understand the child's voice." "Extremely artistic" and "beautiful,

interesting music" were also given as reasons for particular composers. Commissioning

and performing music which is aesthetically pleasing helps to introduce children to the

pleasure to be found in creating beauty, and contributes to the development of a lifelong

consumer of, and participant in, the arts.

Roles of Parents

Every choir contacted for this study used parents in volunteer positions.

This free labor was valued and used in a variety of ways: as music librarian, tour manager,

chaperones, uniform chairperson, costumers, fund raising chairperson, attendance

monitors, assistant director, and on the board of directors. None of these people were paid

for his or her work and directors reported in conversation and on the questionnaire that

this arrangement has worked out well.

Parents evidently have not presented problems for most of the choirs involved in

this study. Only one choir reported on the questionnaire that they had previously had

problems with parents in paid positions, although that choir, like the other six, used

parents as volunteers. During the author's attendance at a post-concert parent meeting of

Choir IV, six positions were filled with elected parent volunteers: president, vice-

president, secretary and librarian, treasurer, newsletter editor, and costumer.

Attempts to avoid difficulties have resulted in consent forms or waivers of liability

signed by parents. Choir I had a Chorister/Parent Agreement which both parents and

singers were required to sign. This form specified attendance and behavior requirements,

as well as a minimum number of volunteer hours required of the parents. All of the boy

choirs in Farrell's study required such forms before the boy could sing in the choir

(Farrell, 1976, p. 51).

Swears (1985, p. 16) stated that building a successful choral program needs good

parental support, and stressed keeping parents informed of goals and plans. She also

believed that parents need to be made aware of the teaching and learning opportunities

available to the members of the choir. One reason to recruit parents as volunteers is that

these people are more likely to be informed of the choir's objectives and opportunities as

they work with the staff of the organization.

Sewell (1990, p. 103) believed that parents "play a key role" in the building of a

boy choir program. He quoted one of his respondents who said "Parents can 'make' or

'break' an organization." Sewell went on to discuss the many ways in which parents can

become involved in the organization, including fund-raising, car pooling, chaperoning and


This study and others have shown that parents were involved in their children's

choirs. They fulfilled a variety of functions and assumed much of the work that needed to

be done, thereby permitting the director to concentrate on the musical goals of the choir's



One choir director stated on the questionnaire that recruiting new members was a

problem because "the community has other priorities" and "there are too many activities


for children." The other choir directors said that they had no trouble securing singers for

their organizations because they used a variety of methods to attract their members. Only

one choir conductor reported on the questionnaire that he had a waiting list, although that

did not mean that recruiting had ceased.

Every choir contacted used word of mouth, relying on singers and their families to

encourage others to join the choir, and the program of the choir was designed to be

attractive to children. Both classical and popular music was included in the repertoire so

that singing was appealing to prospective and current singers.

Local schools were places where new choir members might be found. Four choirs

reported on the questionnaire that they tried to attract singers from these areas, including

three choirs that sang in the local schools so that potential singers could see and hear them

and possibly want to join. Choirs also performed in other venues where potential members

could see and hear them.

It was interesting to note that only two of the seven participating choirs used the

local churches to recruit members. Most churches have choral programs and would seem

to be the ideal place where new singers might be secured. In many churches, children's

choirs are an integral part of the ministry of the church, forming a ready-made pool of

potential recruits. When an adult choir is the only choral organization within a church,

many members have children at home who might be interested in singing. These families

obviously understand the value and joy of singing, since they make the effort required for

their own choirs.