Transforming an Inner-city Church: History and Attitudes Surrounding a Paid Childrens Choir

John Michniewicz

Abstract


At various religious and ecclesiastical institutions, individual choir members singing in boys, girls, or mixed groups receive weekly compensation of various amounts for their participation. Typically, members are paid to attend rehearsals and to present choral music at religious services, as well as at other concerts and special events. The practice has been both lauded and criticized, even though it has been in existence for many years. There are some that feel singing in a childrens choir should be a voluntary activity, primarily for enjoyment and educational purposes only. Others feel that children learn responsibility and pride through their participation in such a group. Many religious organizations take pride in the groups they are able to foster and promote and feel it is part of their mission.
Through interviews with children, parents, choral directors, and adults who participated in like programs as children, answers to the following points are explored: Do children who would not otherwise be attracted to sing in a choir learn to value their participation in a musical activity? Are successful members of these choral ensembles populated with singers who would likely be participating anyway? Does the compensation affect the childrens attitude and behaviour in the choir rehearsal? Does the compensation increase the numerical participation level, as well as the musical level of a given group? Does participation in such an ensemble have life-long effects? How do ecclesiastical and civic communities really view and respond to such groups?

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