The Construction of Musical Identity: Narrative Perspectives from ‘Nonmusical’ Individuals
By Elizabeth Sterling
Crane School of Music SUNY Potsdam
Perceived musicality is an aspect of identity that can have a profound effect on individuals’ engagements with music. Although many people understand and identify themselves as “musical” (i.e., they enjoy and/or understand music, participate in musical activities, and/or are perceived as “musical” by others in a musical community); others, however, indentify themselves as “nonmusical,” (i.e., they perceive themselves as lacking understanding and/or enjoyment of music, limit participation in musical activities, and/or excluded themselves from a “musical” community. For many “nonmusical” individuals, avoidance of musical activities and situations is a primary response. The purpose of this study is to explore the construction of “nonmusical” identities among young adults (ages 18-25) by examining the stories they tell about their experiences with music. The following questions form the main inquiry for this study:
- To what extent do participants perceive themselves as musical?
- How do participants’ perceptions influence their musical engagements?
- What do participants’ stories about their musical selves reveal?
A narrative theoretical framework – as outlined by Clandinin and Connelly (2000) – guides the entire research project. Primary modes of investigation are drawn from the descriptive and qualitative research paradigm. Specific methodologies used for data generation and collection include: (a) a questionnaire containing information about participants’ age, sex, occupation/major, and race/ethnicity; (b) a musicality chart on which participants indicate the extent to which they consider themselves musical by making a mark along a musical-nonmusical continuum; (c) four one-on-one interviews in which participants are asked questions concerning their musical experiences and perceptions; (d) one focus group session in which participants discuss their ‘nonmusicality’ with one another; (e) email correspondence between participants and researcher; (f) examination of significant artifacts related to participants’ musical pasts, presents, and futures; (g) reflective journaling by the researcher and participants; (h) video recordings of the interviews and focus group; and (i) a summative reflection document written by each participant.
Data analysis will proceed in seven phases. The first phase will include compiling the data collected from the preliminary survey and musicality chart to create preliminary individual profiles. Journaling will also begin in this phase. Phase II will include the first interview, its analysis, and revision of individual profiles. As part of the revision process, the researcher will construct summative commentaries to be reviewed by each participant and formulate additional questions. The second interview will take place in Phase III, followed by additional analysis and revision (as in Phase II). In the fourth phase, the third interview will take place, along with its analysis and subsequent revision (as in Phases II-III). The focus group will take place in Phase V and participants’ journals will be collected. Transcripts, videos, and journals will be analyzed and revised (as in Phases II-IV). The sixth phase will include a follow-up interview, collection of participants’ summative reflection documents, and further analysis and revision (as in Phases II-V). Finally, Phase VII will involve constructing participants’ profiles, bringing all of the data from Phases I-VI together to form six cohesive, yet individual narratives.
An Ongoing Investigation of Advanced Measures of Music Audiation at Three American Music Schools
By Alden Snell Eastman School of Music firstname.lastname@example.org and
David Stringham James Madison University email@example.com and
Richard Grunow Eastman School of Music firstname.lastname@example.org
Several researchers have investigated use of music aptitude tests in the college setting, including Gordon’s Advanced Measures of Music Audiation (AMMA, 1989). In Fall 2010, we analyzed data from a large private research university in the Northeastern United States (School 1); in Spring 2011, we analyzed data from two additional schools: a large public university in the Southeastern United States (School 2), and a private liberal arts college in the Northeastern United States (School 3). At all three institutions, descriptive statistics revealed higher mean scores and smaller standard deviations than those in published norms. Analysis of variance revealed: (a) statistically significant differences between instrument groups on stabilized tonal, rhythm and composite music aptitude at School 1; (b) statistically significant differences between instrument groups on stabilized tonal music aptitude at School 2; and (c) no statistically significant differences at School 3.
In this follow-up study, we are examining both existing and new data sources to answer the following research questions: (1) How do descriptive statistics from administration of AMMA at three institutions compare with each other and with published norms? (2) Within institutions, do AMMA scores differ by year? (3) Do AMMA scores differ by instrument group at these three institutions?
In Fall 2011, new data will be gathered from incoming undergraduate music majors at the three schools of music described above. Previously gathered data suggests that AMMA has acceptable reliability for this sample. We will begin our analysis by calculating split-halves reliability to ensure that reliability has been maintained. To answer our first research question, we plan to calculate descriptive statistics for mean tonal, rhythm, and composite music aptitude scores by institution, year, and instrument group. If appropriate, we will answer the second and third research questions by conducting analysis of variance by year (research question 2) and instrument group (research question 3).
Learning to Improvise:
Pre-Service Instrumental Music Teachers’ Perspectives
By David Stringham
James Madison University
Policymakers, scholars, and practitioners in the music education community agree that improvisation is an important part of a comprehensive music education. A growing body of research documents students’ ability to improvise and interest in learning to improvise; however, it is rare to find music curricula in which improvisation is central. This is consistent with research reporting that in comparison with other musical behaviors, many music teachers consider improvisation less important and more difficult to teach. Teachers may develop this mindset in pre-service teacher education programs, where they learn a variety of relevant skills (e.g., conducting, secondary instruments, arranging), but often do not become proficient improvisers or understand how they might teach improvisation.
The purpose of this convergent mixed methods study is to document achievement and perspectives of four undergraduate pre-service instrumental music teachers enrolled in a one-semester improvisation course during Spring 2011. The following research questions are guiding this inquiry: (1) What are achievement levels of pre-service instrumental music teachers who learn to improvise music using a sequential curriculum? (2) How do pre-service instrumental music teachers describe their experiences learning to improvise music? (3) Do pre-service instrumental music teachers consider this experience valuable to their (a) personal musicianship and (b) pre-service teacher preparation?
Participants learned to improvise with their voice and on their instrument, and developed teaching materials based on a sequential curriculum for use in their future instruction. Data was collected from each participant in the form of (a) four recorded improvisations, (b) weekly electronic journals, and (c) two half-hour interviews with the researcher. Three judges will evaluate improvisations using additive and continuous rating scales; interviews will be transcribed and analyzed by the researcher. Interview transcripts and emerging themes will be verified with member checks.
Music Teacher Perceptions of Their Ability to Teach Jazz and What Prepared Them
By Chad West
For decades, studies have indicated that many music teachers enter the profession feeling unprepared to teach jazz (Balfour, 1988; Fisher, 1981; Hepworth, 1974; Jones, 2005; Knox, 1996; Payne, 1973; Thomas, 1980). Not surprisingly, music teachers often seek jazz mentoring and professional development opportunities after completing their degrees (Bauer, Forsythe, & Kinney, 2009). Unfortunately, there exists no research within music teacher education regarding how to best prepare music teachers to teach jazz. The purpose of this Exploratory Sequential Mixed Methods Design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007) was to explore music teachers’ perceptions of their ability to teach middle school jazz and of the educational experiences they believe prepared them to do so.
The first phase of this study was a qualitative exploration of middle school jazz education for which observation, interview, and artifact data were collected. The two participants are considered maximum variation cases (Creswell, 2007) for several reasons: One participant is a performing jazz professional, while the other participant is not; one group rehearses every day during the school day, while the other rehearses only once a week before school; students in one group must audition to be accepted, while the other group rehearses with whoever shows up that morning; and one group performs at statewide adjudicated events and competitive national competitions, while the other group does not.
Findings generated from the qualitative study informed the development of a survey instrument that was then used to collect similar data from a larger population of middle school music teachers. The instrument was piloted and tested for reliability and validity. The sampling frame consisted of MENC members who indicated on their 2009-2010 membership form that (a) they teach at the “Junior/Middle School” level, and (b) their “teaching area” is both “band” and “jazz.” All members of this sampling frame were contacted by MENC via email to participate in this study. Of 960 possible respondents, 264 completed the survey resulting in a 27.5% response rate. Statistical analyses were performed to find correlations between participants’ perceived ability to teach middle school jazz and the previous jazz experiences they believe prepared them to do so.
Case study narrative was then mixed with correlation data to provide a rich description of the construct described. Findings suggest that (a) the college jazz experience, while important, may not be the most important way of preparing future middle school jazz educators, (b) mentorship in jazz may be more effective than professional development in jazz, and (c) listening to jazz and playing in professional jazz ensembles may be more effective than “curricular” jazz experiences such as playing in college jazz ensembles, taking a college jazz pedagogy course, and taking a college improvisation course.
Implications for music teacher education will be discussed and include the following: (a) music teacher educators should help students acquire the professional habits of mind to continually expand the breadth and depth of their expertise enabling them to teach in areas slightly outside of that in which they were prepared, and (b) music teacher education should encourage students to become involved in outside-of-school jazz experiences and consider allowing students to receive college credit for such experiences.