I have often said that no band will play any better than they can sing. Now I know that’s a gross oversimplification, but I really do mean it. I am certainly not suggesting they have to sound like a seasoned and well-trained choir (though that would be glorious) but when it comes to helping our band’s blend, intonation, fluidity, shaping of phrases, and a myriad of other ensemble skills, singing is about the best way I know. However, I also am a realist and know that getting a young person who doesn’t like to sing to do so is about as easy as getting a mule to climb up a mountain. So, at first, I don’t! Instead, I ask them to hum. Why is that student reluctant to sing? I think it boils down to one answer: they are afraid of being embarrassed; they don’t want to be laughed at.  The beauty of humming is that no one knows if you’re doing it! It is anonymous. That reluctant student will quickly realize that no one will know if they are humming, so there is zero possibility of them getting laughed at. Eventually, their humming will help them become more confident, and you will be able to convert that humming to singing. But if we start by asking those disinclined students to sing, we run the great risk of feeding their insecurities even more and deepening their conviction that they can’t or won’t sing. So, until you are sure they are ready, don’t ask them to sing; ask them to hum. 

Peter Loel Boonshaft, Director of Education
KHS America

About the Author

Dr. Boonshaft, Director of Education for KHS America, is the author of the critically acclaimed best-selling books Teaching Music with Passion, Teaching Music with Purpose, and Teaching Music with Promise. He was honored by the National Association for Music Education and Music For All as the first recipient of the “George M. Parks Award for Leadership in Music Education.” Dr. Boonshaft was selected for the Center for Scholarly Research and Academic Excellence at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, where he is Professor Emeritus of Music.