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September 16, 2010

The Glee Effect

Jazz Times:

It was precisely a century ago that the Yale Whiffenpoofs first banded together to sing of poor little lambs who had lost their way. Since that fateful night at Mory’s Temple Bar, choral groups, a cappella or otherwise, have grown to become nationwide high school and college staples, their allure ebbing and flowing, as dictated by the cultural zeitgeist. Popularity reached a peak during the Eisenhower era, when the appeal of the Hi-Lo’s alongside that foursome of Fours—Lads, Preps, Freshmen, Aces—caused clean-cut, brush-cut vocal groups to pop up on campuses coast-to-coast. The phenomenon slumped in the 1960s, when such sweet harmonies fell out of favor, trumped by folk songs, garage rock and flower power.

The latest eruption, as unexpected as it is powerful, began with little fanfare in May 2009, when Fox aired the pilot for Glee, a teen-focused series about an assortment of strays and losers at William McKinley High in Lima, Ohio, who find solace in the school’s resurrected vocal choir.

But what is Glee’s effect at the grassroots level, among high school and college students and within campus music programs? Again, the statistics are impressive. The National Association for Music Education polled choral directors about the show’s impact. Forty-three percent noted a sharp rise in student interest and enrollment, plus a huge number of requests from choir members that songs from the show be added to their repertoire. At the University of North Texas in Denton, Joe Coira announced the creation of a new vocal group the day after Glee’s first season finale, and was shocked when more than 100 students showed up to audition. In the U.K., the Choir of the Year competition has seen a 30-percent rise in entrants.

Tim Davis, Glee’s real-life Will Schuester, who handles vocal arranging for the show and works with the singers in studio and on set, is only partially surprised by the series’ enormous popularity and extended influence. “I wasn’t sure about this kind of show being taken seriously and being compared to High School Musical, which was the last thing [the creators] wanted,” says Davis. Read lots more.

Posted by acapnews at September 16, 2010 9:40 PM

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