The purposes of this study were to determine the factors that either promote or inhibit participation of African American students in high school choral ensembles and to develop a successful model for recruiting and retaining African American students in high school choral ensembles.
Participants (N=445) from four high schools in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul (Twin Cities) metro area of Minnesota completed a survey. Some participants in this study were involved in high school choral music ensembles and others were African American students participating in a high school theater program or a multicultural club organization.
The survey asked questions concerning students' ethnic communities; their responses to being recruited into choral ensembles; their vocal experiences in various music ensembles and non-music related school programs; and their interests in choral music participation post-high school. Observations of choral rehearsals and interviews with students and school choral directors were conducted. Interviews with principals, teachers, and school staff focused on issues concerning school scheduling, student demographics, school culture, and curricula. To validate the data, supplementary data were collected from other high school youth, community gospel choir volunteers, and nationally recognized choral directors.
Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, frequency, percentage, mean calculations and chi-square analysis. Qualitative data were analyzed by using deductive and inductive processes relating to issues that included repertoire selection, skill development, teacher competencies, motivation, and student-teacher relationships.
The results revealed that increasing the recruitment, participation, and retention of African American students in a high school choral ensemble depends on the following: (a) establishing meaningful interpersonal relationships and connections with students (e.g., role models, peer interaction, letters of invitation, contacting parents, and talking directly with students); (b) careful student-centered preparation and programming (e.g., selecting authentic, suitable repertoire that students can relate to, teaching appropriate pedagogical techniques and skills, aggressive advertising, promotional materials/flyers, and special performances); and (c) and incentives, such as trips, tours, festivals, contests, and concerts.
A model that addresses the qualities and competencies necessary for a choral conductor to effectively recruit and retain African American students into the high school choral ensemble setting is presented.