Research Gallery Abstracts 2011 Part Two

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  and   

David Stringham James Madison University and   

Richard Grunow Eastman School of Music       

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   

Ithaca College  

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.