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In Search of Culturally Sustaining Music Pedagogy: Adolescent Music Students’ Perceptions of Singing and Music Teaching

Good-Perkins, Emily

The diversity present within K-12 classrooms in the United States presents teachers with students from many backgrounds and musical traditions. Traditional undergraduate music education programs which prioritize the Western canon provide little opportunity for students to address diversity, both in pedagogy and in content. Prospective music teachers in the choral or general music areas experience vocal education that focuses primarily on the classical bel canto vocal technique. This education fails to prepare teachers to teach students from diverse backgrounds and musical traditions. Because music plays an important role in adolescents’ identity formation, teachers who are unprepared to recognize and teach diverse vocal styles may unknowingly alienate or silence their students.
The purpose of this study was to develop an understanding of how two groups of music students, in early adolescence, and from a diverse urban public school, perceive the singing and the music teaching in their general music classrooms. By discovering their perspectives, I hoped to shed light on the ways in which music teaching influenced their musical, vocal, and cultural identities, particularly during the malleable time of adolescence.
Over the course of three months, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 14 students and two teachers as well as twice-weekly classroom observations. Three research questions informed the data collection process: (1) How do students in a diverse urban public school describe their own singing and musical background? (2) How do they describe the vocal (and music) teaching in their general music class? (3) How do they describe an effective or ideal music teacher?
The interview data and field notes from the observations were coded, organized, and analyzed into the following categories: (1) Music and Self Expression; (2) Music and Family; (3) Culturally Congruent and Incongruent Teaching; (4) Student Vocal Profiles; (5) If They Could Teach the Music Class, How Would They Teach? The overarching conclusion from this study is that the congruence or incongruence of a teacher’s musical epistemology — “the norms, logic, values, and way of knowing” music (Domínguez, 2017, p. 233) — along with the musical epistemologies of her students was the primary factor for student exclusion or empowerment in the classroom.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Abeles, Harold F.
Goffi-Fynn, Jeanne C.
Degree
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 10, 2018
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