When you see your local high school choir or marching band perform look at the makeup of the young performers. Chances are you will find that girls outnumber boys, a gender imbalance that has been persistent for the past 30 years.
Kenneth Elpus, an assistant professor of music education at the University of Maryland School of Music published a research report that looked at enrollment trends spanning from 1982 to 2009. He found that choirs are composed of 70 percent girls and 30 percent boys. In orchestra, 64 percent of the musicians are female while 36 percent are male. Band has the narrowest margin of gender imbalance with 56 percent females compared to 49 percent males.
The benefits of music education have been well documented by researchers. Playing music is great exercise for the brain that helps students enhance their grammar skills, become better readers and improve test scores. The fact that boys are underrepresented in high school choir, band and orchestra might mean they are missing these crucial benefits. We hope something is done to fix this gender imbalance.
Researcher Elpus notes that despite the lack of representation in high school arts, boys seem to have a leg up in the music careers.
“The makeup of instrumental music students has been more heavily weighted towards females,” Elpus writes, “yet those students who pursue, or find the most success, in classical instrumental music or instrumental music education as a profession tend to be male.”
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