Singing in a choir...
Dear Rabbi Ross. My son desperately wants to join a choir. He loves to sing, and wants to perform with either the YBC or NYBC. My husband and I both feel that it’s both time consuming and a distraction and no good can come from it. He’s not a strong student and needs the extra time to stay on track. What do you think? G.L. Brooklyn
This is a tough question to answer as there are so many variables involved. You mentioned that he’s not a strong student, and the Rebbe inside of me is agreeing with your argument. He needs to stay focused in order to keep up, and yes, singing in a choir is a pretty big distraction. There are practices, performances, and studio sessions, not to mention the travel time.
However, something happened a few years back, which is making me rethink this attitude. “Es Chatoai Ani Mazkir Hayom.” A very weak student of mine who was in 5th grade wanted to join a choir. I shared my concerns with his parents, and we agreed the distraction might really hold him back. He didn’t join the choir, although he had a beautiful voice and loved singing. To be fair, the parents weren’t keen on the driving part either, and were relieved when I agreed with them.
Fast forward a few years, and this boy is in 11th grade - in public school. He has tremendous issues with Yiddishkeit and is going through a very difficult time. Had he been in the choir, would these issues have arisen? I can’t answer that, actually no one can. Thinking back, I do wish I would have pushed the choir, though. So, he might have missed out on some work. At least he would have been excited about something, and he could have had a chance to shine.
In order to properly answer the question you raised, you need to be honest with yourself. What’s holding you back from saying yes? Is it the travel time to and from the practices? Are you worried about his grades? Is it the expense?
The travel time isn’t as much of an issue as you would think. I’m quite friendly with a few choir directors, and it seems that unless there’s a concert or performance coming up, they usually practice once a week. All you need is one other boy going from your neighborhood, and you have a carpool. You can drive one way, and so can they. I might be oversimplifying, but if this is something that will give your son an excitement for something positive and fulfilling, it’s certainly worth it. Put it this way. You would have no problem driving to a speech therapist, dentist or psychologist. If this is what your son needs, let him pursue it.
If the problem is his grades, I would have probably agreed with you years ago. Nowadays, not so much. While it’s true his grades might drop a little, you can also use the choir as leverage. “If you want to stay in the choir, you need to maintain an 85% average.” I would be reasonable here, if your son’s not a strong student, don’t require him to maintain a super high average.
If it’s a financial issue, I’m pretty sure that these choirs aren’t terribly expensive. Actually, they’re quite competitive with other programs going on for kids these days. If you really can’t afford the full price, I would think that the choir director would work with you.
One popular misconception is that you need an amazing voice to sing in a choir. That’s not quite true. While singing on key and having a sense of rhythm are pretty important, having an amazing voice isn’t necessary. Most of these kid’s choirs have only a few main soloists, and they’ll have a tryout first to make sure your son can sing on key. In any case, if your son really wants to sing, I would let him. Of course, do some research into the choir by contacting current choir parents, but assuming everything checks out, go for it.
I did get a few emails inquiring about sending kids to choirs when they have no interest. Some parents feel that it’s a good outlet, and that’s usually true. However, I certainly wouldn’t put your son in a choir if he’s not self-motivated. Singing and dancing can be classified as outlets that require some sort of desire.
Have a great Shabbos!
1/25/2018 02:59:05 pm
The hardest part is not the driving once a week. It’s the 5 practices a week before an event. That’s what makes it crazy. Did Miami boys choir have the same thing years ago?
1/25/2018 07:16:45 pm
I found myself nodding my head with everything you said Rabbi Ross. As a teacher for 23 plus years (none of your business how many plus....) I think that grades are overrated. It's the effort your son puts into his work that will count. So he might try hard to juggle choir and school and do poorly still in school, but being that he is a weak student, who knows if he would have done well had he not been in choir. I just wanted to add that point that using the choir as an incentive to do well in school might not be applicable if he struggles. Perhaps the number of hours he puts into choir practice must match (50-50, or whatever ratio you decide) his school efforts. Thanks for a great article. I am the happy mother of boys with great voices, but too shy to join a choir!!
1/27/2018 09:43:14 pm
Maybe if they had a choir in the five towns.... I’m not driving my son to Brooklyn to sing.
Wendy from Queens
1/28/2018 07:07:29 am
While I appreciate your answer, there is one point I would like to add. There were many boys in the Miami Choir years ago, and they turned out just fine. I’m sure they didn’t all have great grades.
1/28/2018 12:56:44 pm
Such a good point. And many from all different choirs! I have many students whose lives have changed for the better because of their participation.
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Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.