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Tougaw: Take a second look at the arts

Just this year, the Colorado State University chorus saw its ranks swell. Its gained over twice as many members as it had four semesters ago. While this is great news, it hides a less great reason for it. Last year, the CSU concert choir shifted from being a mixed choir, meaning men and women, to being a female only choir. Whats worse, this choir was one of the top ensembles in the school. The reason for the swell in numbers in the University chorus is due to the exodus of many singers from the higher level, audition only concert choir.

The reason that this top level choir shifted to a female only choir is due to the fact that there weren’t enough men to fill out it out. generally there are around 15 men and women each in a top choir of that size. That means that in a university of 30,000 students, one of the top rated ensembles in the whole school couldn’t find just 15 men to participate. How sad is that.


Fact is, we all know why this is happening. If we cut the crap and say the things we aren’t supposed to say, we know that a lot of guys don’t join choir because it isn’t manly. Its not generally considered a cool thing to do, and people often look at a guy funny when he says he’s in choir. 

This is not unique to choir either. Take any kind of art or performing art and you can immediately tell what its stigma is. Marching band kids are the nerds of school, theater kids are the uptight drama queens, and no one really knows whats going on with orchestra kids. ever. and who would spend money on a painting degree?

What’s sad about this is the fact that the arts as a whole are one of the most popular facets of everyone’s life, all of the time. Did you watch TV today? Yeah i bet you watched a bunch of actors who were in theatre in high school. Did you put in your headphones? I bet it was someone who studied music in college that wrote that song (plot twist: most singers don’t write their own songs).

People don’t want to get involved in music because of the stereotypes of doing so, yet how many people have you heard say that they wish they could sing, play guitar, play piano, dance like that, move like that, be in a movie, draw like that, etc etc. or even how many times have you heard someone just say “Man, I wish i could do that.” They can, they just don’t.

And if you were to go to a professional, classical concert (i.e., orchestras, pops bands, etc) what would you think? Your first thought probably wouldn’t be ‘this is dumb,’ it would be ‘wow, these people are insanely talented. these people get to make music for a living’

Many of the people you admire today were once those nerdy kids back in the day. 

Lady GaGa was in theatre.

Albert Einstein played violin.

Zac Efron was in theatre.


Jennifer Garner was in band.

Woodrow Wilson played violin.

Jimmy Kimmel played the clarinet.

Kesha was in band.

Even Lil Wayne played the cymbals in band.

The list goes on and on. People you admire today are the people that you would never look twice at in college.

Music, dance, painting, and other creative activities have been shown time and time again to be extremely beneficial to a child’s brain. Learning this skill sets makes kids happier, more focused, and overall smarter.

However, we train kids to get out and build rockets as if that was more important to society. Not that it isn’t important, but what will that future rocket scientist spend their leisure time on? Probably a movie, a concert, or a museum, likely something stemming back to the arts. So i think its safe to say that the hard sciences aren’t overwhelming more important to our society or culture.

And here’s the most important part of this. The arts, as a whole, are the sole reason that we enjoy living. In a school of 30,000, the overwhelmingly tiny minority of students will major in some kind of art that the rest of the school will consume. Business, engineering, biomedical technology, these majors are all experts in how we stay alive. But they aren’t the reason why.

The reason why we live is to go to concerts, or to go to the movies. So we can see our kids first dance recital, or watch our friends on stage. We want to hear that new song from our favorite artist, or go to the museum and see a new kind of painting. All of the majors listed before keep us alive and provide us a society in which we can do the things that we want to do. 

And almost all of the things we look forward to doing, in one way or another, trace their origins back to a student studying something that the rest of us have no idea even exists.

Collegian Opinion Editor Taylor Tougaw can be reached or on Twitter @TTougaw.

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  • R

    Ryan OlsenMay 8, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    First of all, I understand the point that you are making here, Taylor. Yes, we wish more young men got involved in the arts at CSU and have been actively looking at ways to encourage young men to participate in the various choirs. However, you make a couple of points that are misleading, and downright damaging to the arts and the Concert Choir which you were a part of in the past.
    First of all, you said that there was an “exodus” from the Concert Choir, which is untrue. The size of the Concert Choir has remained consistent over the past few year, it is only the number of men in the ensemble that has decreased and for reasons other than an “exodus.” An exodus insinuates that people abandoned the choir or dropped out because they no longer wish to participate. The shift from a mixed to an all-female Concert Choir is due primarily to the fact that a large number of men graduated from the Concert and Chamber Choirs in the spring of 2015 and that the incoming class of freshmen voice majors happened to be all female this fall. The remaining men who auditioned largely found themselves accepted into the Chamber Choir or chose to participate in the Men’s Chorus or University Chorus.
    Second, you insinuate that the quality of the Concert Choir has thus deteriorated and at worst is no longer among the elite, auditioned ensembles at CSU, which could not be further from the truth. This year the Concert Choir performed some of the most challenging repertoire that we’ve performed since I began conducting and leading the choir. We collaborated with two major composers and brought them to campus to work with our students. We took a gap in our curriculum (no women’s chorus) and made it a strength. The women in the Concert Choir earned their spot in this elite ensemble, but unfortunately there is a stigma that without men, the choir is not as good, elite, or valuable as a mixed ensemble. The choral world as a whole struggles with this dichotomy; that women’s choirs are inherently not as good as mixed choirs because they do not contain any men and thus deserve to be on second-tier status. I challenge any reader to review any performance of the Concert Choir from this year and suggest that these musicians are not elite and part of an advanced ensemble.
    To conclude, I do sincerely hope that what comes from this discussion is that we see a large number of young men at our choir auditions in the fall. Participating in a musical ensemble is one of the most rewarding experiences that studies show help relieve stress, form relationships, and strengthen the brain in various ways that increase creativity and intellect. The growth of the University Chorus is due to the admirable work of the instructor and conductor, Stuart Dameron, not due to an exodus or trickle-down effect from another ensemble. The Concert Choir remains an elite, auditioned choir at CSU and we welcome women and men to audition in the fall in the hopes that CSU can support both another auditioned mixed choir and an advanced, auditioned women’s chorus. Had you spoken with me prior to publishing this article, I would have been happy to help clarify this issue. I’m extremely proud of the Concert Choir, their high level of musicianship, and their dedication to advancing choral music at CSU

    • T

      Taylor TougawMay 8, 2016 at 6:51 pm

      Dr. Olsen,
      I believe this is my first comment on my own article ever, and I do so out of the utmost respect I have for your ensemble, the arts, and people reading this who would like some clarification.

      I do suppose exodus was a tough word, and I used it partly for shock value. I in no way intended to damage the concert choir – in fact, I’ve been to every concert this year and am continually amazed at the level of competency with which they perform. The overall point of this article was to get people talking about that which we aren’t supposed to talk about (i.e., not filling out a choir, men shying away from choir, etc). Oftentimes, that can come off as harsh and/or unsympathetic, however it does always create discourse.

      Additionally, I would like to add that I did not intentionally insinuate that the University choir was getting better due to an influx of concert choir students. I believe that I only claimed that it had grown in size for that reason. Regardless, I do understand that the way things often sound in my head is not always the way that others interpret them, and so I would like to clarify, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that both the University choir and Women’s choir are both chalk-full of some of the most talented musicians in this school and led by instructors of that same caliber.

      Lastly, I do hope that this sparks some positive discussion that leads to openness among those within the arts, and those on the outside. I also hope that those within the arts, any kind of artist of any caliber, especially those mentioned in this article, do not think that I am in any way belittling your craft. That is the exact opposite of what I want, and the exact opposite of this article.

      Keep doing what you’re doing, and if you keep leading by example, others will follow.

  • J

    Jordan Brudos-NocklesMay 8, 2016 at 10:36 am

    I still can’t believe that music and art classes are being cut or at risk of being cut in schools. Yes, the core classes are important, but the benefits of music and art on a child’s brain are incredible. Not to mention that being exposed to as many things as possible when you’re young helps you be a more well-rounded person who has experienced more than one perspective in life. I know that not everyone can be arts majors, nor is everyone interested in that, but as a music major, I can say that I respect people’s choices of majors and it is disheartening when people whose majors I respect think that my major is a waste.