Mikhael Rawls, a 17-year-old singer, has a voice that spans four octaves, and prefers to sing countertenor parts, although he also can sing as a baritone. Rawls would like to audition for a soprano position in the all-state choir.
Two years ago, TEMA decided that boys could only audition for male parts. This year, Rawls challenged this rule. "My goal is that anyone can sing any part that their voice is, whoever does it best," he told the Star-Telegram. Isn't that what the competition is for?"
Rawls sings in an a cappella girls' choir at his high school, and has won awards from the National Association of Teachers of Singing and the Texas University Interscholastic League.
TEMA's position is that the rules guard the safety of the students, who might hurt themselves by singing out of range. Mike Ware, past president of the TEMA board and a choral instructor, said, "We have had girls that auditioned for tenor parts. We did extensive research, and that can be vocally damaging.... We're not going to put any student in a position to damage his voice."
J. David Brock, Rawls' coach and an associate professor of voice at Texas Christian University, doesn't think that Rawls is in any danger of hurting himself.
"We tried working both as a soprano and as a baritone. His most beautiful voice, and the one that was the most consistent, is his soprano."
In light of TEMA's decision, Rawls said he would not audition for the all-state choir. "I'm very strongly disappointed in the music-education system in Texas," he said.