Equal Rights in Choir
Equal Rights in Choir
I am a young choir student. I love to sing, and have been told I do it well. There's only one problem, though. I have a really unique voice that often goes unappreciated, even looked down upon.
I started choir my seventh grade year, just as something else to do. I'm a girl; I was born a female, and I'll be one until the day I die. So, naturally, they put me in the girls' choir.
There's only one problem: my range matches that of a tenor/baritone. I love my rare low voice, but my choir directors don't seem to. I'm in the alto section, but even that is mostly at the top of my range. It's not that I can't sing high; my range has been trained from my choir experience to extend up to where females "should be able to sing", but that doesn't mean I like it. I love that my voice is unique, but I never get to use the low part.
I have been subject to near constant stereotyping by my male choir director, who will model one of our parts in his falsetto, which is really, really high, and tell us, "Y'all are girls; if I can do it, you can do it." As if gender was the only determining factor in how high or low you can sing.
I am also an instrumentalist, and I know that in the world of band and orchestra, there are some instruments (violin, trumpet, oboe, and flute) that get the melody more than others (viola, contrabass, bassoon), usually with higher voiced instruments getting the most melody over lower ones. That's fine; I, while not claiming to be an expert, know enough about sound to know that higher sounds carry better, so it makes sense. What's not fine is when it happens in choir, with no variability. Sopranos get the melody, and that's that. Even violas and bassoons get melody sometimes, but none for altos. I've even had to do a song where altos sang higher than sopranos, just so that sopranos could have the melody line. The part that bothers me about that, is that you can almost always choose your instrument. You can't choose what kind of voice you're going to be born with. I wasn't up with all the other spirits and then just said "hey God, I want to be a female tenor, that cool?" Now I'm stuck with something I never asked for, and now here I am, seemingly inferior because of it. Why does that need to happen?
I'm not the only one who feels that way either. I know several others in my choir with low voices who feel it just isn't fair. We should not be treated like inferiors because we were born with vocal cords a little longer than what a female's "should be". Society is trying to force us into the mold that all girls should be singing high, and we're trying to break that.
But we need help. No one is going to listen to two or three kids. And we're running out of time: the less we use our low register, the more it starts to disappear. Help us fight vocal injustice, starting with letting females join the "tenor-bass choir". Sounds like a choir for tenors and basses, right? No, that's the strictly boys' choir. Misleading name, huh? Makes you think any tenor or bass can join. Maybe if we make this change at my school, and other schools follow, we can take those small steps to getting rid of vocal stereotyping and choral sexism once and for all.