A collaborative research inquiry into issues of male choral participation at the middle and high school level
Hawkins, Kevin Andrew
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Choral music and public singing was once regarded as an acceptable and popular socio-cultural activity for males. Through centuries of gradual socio-cultural change male choral participation and public singing became marginalized in the United States. During the past century (1914-2014), adolescent female singers have typically outnumbered male singers at the secondary level. The numerical imbalance between adolescent males and females in secondary choral classrooms is a symptom of a more complicated problem that involves a complex web of perceived physiological, psycho-socio, and schooling barriers. If no single perceived barrier accounted for the lack of male choral participation our collaborative group surmised that no one-dimensional approach would likely succeed in increasing male choral participation. Collaborative inquiry provided a more holistic approach to dealing with the lack of male choral singers at the middle and high school levels and answers questions not adequately addressed by other forms of research. The purpose of this collaborative inquiry was to cooperate with five vocal music practitioners, at two different district sites in the Midwest region of the United States. Our collaborative inquiry group set two broad goals for this study: (1) to implement specific action-oriented strategies in our choral classrooms with the intention of encouraging male choral participation at the middle and high school levels; and (2) to learn more about collaborative inquiry as a research approach and adult learning strategy. My collaborators and I realized a very delicate ecosystem is required for adolescent males and females to engage in singing activities at school. The findings of this inquiry suggest that action-oriented strategies (e.g., single-sex choirs, recruitment and retention activities, same-sex peer role modeling and mentoring) can be implemented in the choral classroom to mitigate the perceived physiological, psycho-socio, and schooling barriers and encourage male choral participation at the secondary level. Our inquiry group found that external issues beyond the control of the choral practitioners (e.g., changes in administration, school schedules, class requirements, and elective choices) were difficult to address. While the goal of encouraging male choral participation continues to be an important issue for everyone that was involved in this inquiry, we came to realize the most important outcome was recognizing the power of collaboration.