LEAD A SONG.
Bill Smith, the Roundtable Guy
I would guess that there are few things most Cub Scout leaders fear more than having to get up at a pack meeting and……
LEAD A SONG.
Unless you are an experienced choir leader or perhaps the concertmaster of your local symphony orchestra, the thought of standing in front of friends and neighbors and getting them to sing some silly song probably fills you with dread.
Join the club.
I had watched in horror at Roundtables and such, when leaders would take us through renditions of B-I-N-G-O or Cub Scout Spirit and I realized that we were expected to do something similar. Not me! I am a cool urbane dude and this just doesn’t fit the image.
It took a trip to Philmont Training Center to change my mind. The staff there convinced me that pack meetings should be fun – as Sean Scott often reminds us:
a production, a show.
The cool, urbane image may be OK around the water cooler at work but is not going to make it in a Cub Scout setting. Singing, they emphasized, was a great method for injecting fun and excitement into the program. So I bit the bullet and chose a song for my next pack meeting. We tried Throw it Out the Window. Each den chose a nursery rhyme and we all came in on the choruses. To my utter amazement it worked. The kids, Cubs and siblings, loved it and parents even commented that the pack meetings had improved.
If I could do it, so can you!
If songs are not a regular part of every pack meeting, then you may be missing an important element that could make your meetings more enjoyable and more effective. Songs are the great mood setters. I can’t think a better way to get a bunch of Cub Scouts smiling and clapping than a few verses of Alice the Camel or My Bonnie. Is it possible to have a good campfire without songs? Not in my wildest imagination!
How to Get Started
Try leading cheers and audience participation stories. A simple cheer like: I’ll throw the neckerchief up in the air and everyone yell until it comes down. These activities promote an atmosphere where the boys and even the parents become used to following your lead. It then becomes an easy step to try in a simple song like I Like Bananas, Coconuts and Grapes.
Pick easy songs with lots of repetition and simple tunes. Good Cub Scout songs rarely make much sense. I personally do not like those songs that attempt to introduce the theme with complicated lyrics. They are difficult to teach and they detract from the main purpose of songs in Cub Scouting. Songs should be uproarious fun. As you develop more confidence you can also try the quieter, closing or patriotic songs. These can be great mood setters but it’s usually best to start with the fun, silly songs.
Getting Cubs (or any group) to sing takes mostly enthusiasm and a dose of confidence. Choose a song that you like and feel confident about. Never apologize or dismiss the song or your leadership.
It’s a great fun song and we’re going to really blast it out!
It’s important to name the song, make sure they know the tune and the words and tell them that they should sing loud.
You might want to have the words printed out on large poster boards or butcher paper rather than on song sheets. Songs with lots of repetition or familiar words work well. If you have musical accompaniment, like a guitar or piano, that will make it so much the better. I am intrigued by some of these new electronic MP3 gadgets that allow one to download music files and play them back to teach the tunes. I can barely carry a tune so I need all the help I can get.
It helps to have everyone stand for singing. When they are ready, start them off with your version of a downbeat and keep a lively time by waving your arms. Enthusiasm beats musical ability here so have lots of fun while you’re doing it. Ed Hesser, one of my Wood Badge instructors, taught us to wear orange gloves to lead songs. It works.
The Cub Scout Song Book is a great source of songs. I have heard that a new edition is in the works but there is nothing wrong with current book. There are more and more Internet sites with good Scouting songs. Many now have music files as well as the lyrics.
Your boys will undoubtedly come back from camp this summer with some great songs they picked up from the staff there. Use a few of these as regular fare for your pack meetings and campouts.
Here are some good internet sources:
Boy Scout Trail - Songs
Douglas Gownan’s Campfire
My Cub Scout Songs.
Keep this section on Leading Songs handy for next months Theme – Campfire Tales and Traditions. CD