LINDSBORG — Hundreds of young men will come together Jan. 25 for Real Men Sing, a vocal workshop for students in the fifth through 12th grades.
Bethany College's Co-Chair of the Department of Music Dr. Mark Lucas directs the event, which is being held for the fourth year at the college.
"I don't think there's anything like it, anywhere," Lucas said.
Lucas noted there are two main goals for the day — to let students enjoy singing and also gain a sense of pride from learning, improving and performing.
Students from around 45 schools participate in the vocal workshop.
"We're going to be real close to 1,000 by the time everybody shows up," Lucas said.
Students are divided into three choirs — one for unchanged voices, one for changed and changing voices and a fully changed voices choir.
Each choir prepares two songs, working on the music before they arrive to the vocal workshop and then working with clinicians once they get there.
"We have some of the best clinicians you're ever going to find," Lucas said.
Buhler High School choir director Greg Bontrager will lead the unchanged voices choir, while the changed and changing voices choir will be directed by changing voice expert Dr. Patrick Freer. Lucas will lead the fully changed voices choir.
Lucas began Real Men Sing after writing a dissertation focusing on the motivations for adolescent males to choose to either join or shy away from choir.
"Students who enroll in choir do so because they like to sing and they think they're good at it," Lucas said.
The opposite is true as well — young men who do not enjoy singing and think they are not good at it tend to avoid participating in choir when given the choice.
"When they are going through a voice change, there are certain notes they physically can not hit, and so they think they can't sing," Lucas said.
Imperfections in singing cannot be blamed on any instrument other than an individual's voice, which can be intimidating.
"It's so personal," Lucas said. "When you sing, it's you."
Real Men Sing is a festival for young men, but it is not anti-female, Lucas emphasized. Most choirs are made up of twice as many females as males. As a result, the females are directed to sing quietly, which can hurt their voice.
"Our goal is to encourage enough men of all ages to participate in choir so that it's a fully balanced sound," Lucas said.
The Real Men Sing finale concert will be performed at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 25 in Presser Hall auditorium at Bethany College. Admission is free; attendees are encouraged to arrive early and take a seat in the balcony as the concert will begin promptly at 2:30 p.m.
"It's a real informal concert," Lucas said. "It's basically just singing for each other."
SmorgasChorus, a barbershop choir based out of Wichita, will assist with teaching and perform several songs for the finale concert.
The concert will end with all the choirs joining together to sing "God Bless America."
"It's a really cool to sing 'God Bless America' with the organ and the piano. It's really impressive and really fun," Lucas said.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.