(Note: The following article by Paul Forster was posted to the Boychoirmaster forum and is posted here with permission.)
Discipline - that worthy component, which takes on a different significance, dependent upon the environment in which it is found. Not only that, it can be an component, which may be imposed externally, or developed internally. It can be regarded as a necessary evil in an organization or institution, used to keep law and order, or may be perceived as something akin to self control, closely aligned to self motivation. Its effects vary, according to the environment in which it is found. It can be seen as a means of inducing submission, and in that context, may ultimately achieve the opposite objective to that originally intended, especially when it is used through bullying or intimidation. Discipline can involve the use of violence to achieve its short term objectives; in that context, it often stifles any self motivation and can lower self esteem in those on whom it is imposed. In the context of boys choir, the question is - what form should it take? This, in turn, can also be dependent upon the type of boys choir. Choirs, which provide free education, charge no fees, in other words, be the kind of institutions, from which not only a choirboy can derive great benefit, but his parents also, can assert a discipline quite at variance with that involving the community choir, in which much greater influence can be enforced by the child's parents, because parents pay fees to put the child into the choir, and so can take him out without suffering financially. In short, it boils down to what you can get away with.
Regardless of the type of institution, self imposed or self developed discipline is certainly preferable to that imposed externally. It is also considerably more difficult to achieve. If it is to be successful, it must be accepted by boys and conductors alike as a means of achieving a much nobler end, than say achievement of submission. The nobler end is usually related to standards of performance and development of character, which, in turn, are related to standards of conduct or behaviour. It will benefit the choir and also the boy. It achieves its result by being perceived as a positive component in a unique training procedure.
How discipline is applied and developed, will vary considerably according to the personality and makeup of the tutor/teacher/ conductor. Such application depends on the effectiveness of the communication skills of the person concerned, and also the frame of mind of the boys, which, in turn, will determine the success or failure of the process. Discipline, as a developing process, can make good use of role models, be they other boys, older boys, other adults, who have a close affinity with the choir. Other choirs can make good role models. In addition, discipline may not necessarily be confined to behaviour. It is a vital component in the shaping of the correct attitude, and as such, can affect appearance, attendance at rehearsals and performances, punctuality, and making sure that boys attend rehearsals with all their requisites. It is something, the effect of which can be enhanced by the provision of incentives, which may take the form of certificates, medallions, etc. on an individual basis, and provision of an outing or suitable function on a group basis. For young boys, the realization of the necessity of discipline and control takes on added significance through the provision of incentives. Over time, the benefits will come to be realized and appreciated.
--Paul Forster, Victorian Boys' Choir, Australia
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This page was last modified on 06 December 2005