Skip to comments.Texas group denies boy's bid to sing soprano in All-State Choir
Posted on 06/20/2005 4:41:42 AM PDT by Jalapeno
June 20, 2005, 12:09AM
Mikhael Rawls sits in his music room at his home in
Bedford. The Texas Music Association has denied his
application to sing soprano in the All-State Choir
because of his gender.
BEDFORD Singing soprano is for girls only in Texas' All-State Choir, eliminating a 17-year-old boy's chance to audition for a statewide honor and raising questions about gender and vocal performance.
The Texas Music Educators Association denied a petition by Mikhael Rawls of suburban Fort Worth to audition this fall for the elite ensemble as a soprano, a part traditionally sung by girls.
Rawls sings countertenor, a little known male voice part that has surged in popularity in classical and operatic circles in the past decade. He can sing an octave and a half higher than most boys his age, and he feels most comfortable singing in that range. He has even won first place as a soprano in the University Interscholastic League's competition two years in a row.
The association, however, does not allow boys to sing soprano, or alto or girls to sing tenor or bass. Association spokeswoman Amy Lear said the group adopted the rule two years ago because of concerns that girls auditioning for tenor parts were hurting their voices by singing too low.
"If you make a rule one way it has to work both ways," Lear said, adding that the association does not hold auditions specifically for countertenors because the part is rarely included in the group's music.
Neither Lear nor TMEA president Kerry Taylor could think of another male who ever wanted to audition for a traditional girl's part on the All-State Choir.
The countertenor was a popular part in the 17th and 18th centuries, when women were excluded from singing groups, but it was rarely heard of in modern times until an English singer named Alfred Deller revived it about 60 years ago. Today men can be found singing that part in music schools across the country.
"It seems to me that it's time for the association to sort of wake up and see what's happening around not only the United States of America but Europe," renowned countertenor David Daniels said in a telephone interview from London, where he is performing this summer in Mozart's "Mitridate" at the Royal Opera House.
Rawls, who will be a senior in high school this fall, has been singing since he was in the sixth grade. He can sing the lower parts, but it makes his throat hurt. He's worried it also could hinder his ability to hit higher notes later.
"I could do the music just fine and I could sound good on it. But I couldn't practice it enough to where I could make state, because I was too worried about my countertenor voice and the effects it would have on it," said Rawls, who's the only male in his school's female a capella choir.
Taylor, the TMEA president, said he's seen no medical evidence that singing tenor or bass can hurt a countertenor's voice. But Timothy Maguire, a professional countertenor and male soprano from San Francisco, said his doctor gave him strict instructions not to sing that way because it could cause polyps to form on his vocal chords.
Maguire said he's disappointed with the Texas association's decision, especially because a similar group in Illinois let him sing alto and soprano parts at state choir when he was in high school.
"This is an education association that is supposed to be fostering and developing young singers," said Maguire, who wrote a letter to the Texas group urging them to approve Rawls' petition. "Keeping someone from singing what is essentially natural to them is not fostering them."
Participating in All-State Choir is one of the highest honors available for Texas high school singers. Of the more than 20,000 students who audition, just over 500 students are selected to participate in one of three choirs a men's choir, a women's choir and a mixed ensemble.
Music schools often look for All-State Choir on applicants' resumes, Rawls said, and many recruiters attend the concerts each February. After graduating high school, Rawls hopes to enroll in a dual program with the New England Conservatory and Harvard University to get a joint degree in vocal performance and some liberal arts subject.
Rawls said he plans to focus now on preparing for his college auditions, but he hopes the state association reconsiders its decision.
"It's really for music and for other people that I'm doing this, it's not really just for myself," Rawls said. "I think it's important that these doors can be opened for other boys in my position."
17? Is he missing his onions?
Prissy little twit. Probably a Democrat.
I would like to make senator Durbin sing soprano.
He knew the rules when he applied so I'm guessing he's looking for scholarship money via his attorney.
This is unfair. The young man should be allowed to sing, if his musicality is good enough. My daughter was a member of the Texas All State Choir 2 years in a row, 1977 and 78. It's a good experience, although I don't think it gave her any advantage in music school.
Two faces have I....ayyyyeeeeI...........aaayayayayauhuhuh.....
Discrimination and gender bias only work one way: for blacks, hispanics, and women. No surprise here.
Unless there is more to this story than is being reported, I don't see the harm in letting him sing soprano. Last I checked, music was a non-contact sport.
Just for discussions sake, but I disagree with your conclusions... Yes, he applied despite the rules. Yes, he has raised a bit of a fuss.
BUT! He can evidently sing the part. He knows he can, and has demonstrated it. He applied, but (apparently) has precluded suing. In challenging their rules, he did so within the bounds of the system, and appears poised to accept their decision, despite his disappointment.
Doesn't sound like a dimocrat to me. Sounds like a rugged individualist challenging the system from within the rules.
Personally, I think they should let him try. But it's not my decision.
If I missed something about him suing, feel free to correct me!
You obviously weren't at my son's band practice, the first time the incoming freshman tried to march.
Perhaps... But you can smack someone really hard with an oboe case.
Letting him in would do what to the Boys Choir?
It's not just being able to hit the notes. There are other voice qualities that typicaly follow gender.
"She'll have to sew them back on first." --Basil Fawlty
If Texas does not have a group of equal distinction , which is publicly funded,, for boys he should be allowed to participate. Discrimination based on gender is wrong. Where is N.O.W.- now?
It's a mixed choir! What are you talking about? It's a guy wanting to sing the soprano's part in a mixed gender choir.
Alfred Deller is a famous modern counter-tenor. This guy should just cut his rates and be a bargain counter-tenor.
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