Glee Club Sings for 700 Middle School Boys
by Howard W. Hewitt
November 2, 2004
The Wabash College Glee Club is often called upon to entertain, but found itself in a different role Nov. 1 at Zionsville High School.
Indiana middle school teachers offered the Glee Club as a model for more than 700 young boys brought together to work on their vocal skills and to be encouraged to keep on singing.
"We wanted the boys to see what their voices will eventually sound like," said "Just for Guys" Workshop coordinator Marie Palmer. "They don’t think they can sing. We wanted them to hear that as older boys they will have a richer bass, they will have a higher tenor; whatever, but their voice is going to sound different."
Palmer is a middle school music teacher at Zionsville. She said the idea of a boys-only workshop was discussed for a long time.
"We’ve been talking about doing something for about three or four years," she said among the chaos of middle school boys wolfing down pizza and cookies during a dinner break. "Finally this summer we got together and decided to make this happen.
"We sent it (the invitation) out to about 300 middle schools. We passed 200, then we passed 300, we passed 400 and finally we got 700 boys here today from 37 schools."
Palmer said there are multiple challenges with middle school boys.
"I have wanted to do something to get middle school boys thinking that singing in school is acceptable at this age and help them get through the transition of their vocal change."
The boys worked all afternoon in a workshop format then listened to the Wabash Glee Club sing during a 6 p.m. show. All 700 boys took the stage after the Glee Club performed and sang two songs for parents and teachers who had come for the performance.
"It was a rush," Glee Club President Howard Bailey ’05 said of singing for the young men. "Being club president, I’m always trying to be a role model for the Glee Club but tonight someone asked me what we were here for and I said we’re here to be role models for the younger kids. Hopefully, they can grow up and want to sing in a glee club or pursue their career in music or major in music."
Glee Club Director Richard Bowen echoed the theme of Glee Club members as role models.
"We’re not so far apart," Bowen said. "These middle school guys are learning their craft; they don’t have a lot of experience or background in singing. And that’s the case with many of the Glee Club guys also. Wabash is not a conservatory. These are not music majors. We might have one music major among the group.
"These are guys who enjoy singing. I think I can put our group up there and say to the middle school guys, ‘You know we’re very similar to you, the only difference is these guys are older.’ "
Bowen said demonstrating the Glee Clubs’ voices and showing older guys can sing in a group was an important exercise.
"I hope the middle school guys will look at this group and say that’s pretty neat. These guys look like they’re having a good time and this is something I’d like to continue doing, not just in high school but college as well."