Theses Doctoral

Legitimate Voices: A Multi-Case Study of Trans and Non-Binary Singers in the Applied Voice Studio

Sauerland, William R.

This qualitative, multi-case study examined trans and non-binary singers in the applied voice studio. The purpose of this study was to explore (1) the impact of music participation on the identities of trans and non-binary singers, (2) the experiences of trans and non-binary singers taking private singing lessons, and (3) the strategies and practices of their voice teachers. Purposeful sampling of four singers included two trans men and two non-binary individuals. Four teachers with prior experience in teaching trans or non-binary singers included two teachers identifying as trans men, and two cisgender (one female, one male) teachers. Data were collected through interviews and lesson observations, presented through portraiture analysis to provide an insider’s view of the experiences, perspectives, and practices of the participants. Findings and implications emerged through cross-case analyses.
The results indicate that gender impacts musical spaces. While participation in musical activities created an outlet for some singers to explore their trans or non-binary identity, the reification of the gender binary in musical spaces was oppressive for others. Students modeled high self-efficacy by showing perceived competence to change discriminatory policies and practices in music and the performing arts.
Teachers demonstrated emotional support in the applied studio by being cognizant of student needs. While the training of each student looked distinct, teachers affirmed students through student-centered pedagogical approaches, allowing students to guide their vocal training and development. Teachers discussed the need for adept understanding of vocal technique in training trans and non-binary singers. All four trans men (two students and two teachers) discussed their voice modification through testosterone replacement therapy. The two non-binary singers, not engaged in medical voice modulation, discussed changes in their voices through singing lessons.
The research posits that curricular development in vocal pedagogy courses is needed to educate singing teachers on cultural competency and trans and non-binary vocality. This study revealed the need to examine applied teacher readiness in educating trans and non-binary singing. Research on the longitudinal effects of testosterone on the voice is warranted. Additional scholarship is needed in working with trans or non-binary voices not engaging in hormone replacement therapy.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Goffi-Fynn, Jeanne Corinne
Ed.D.C.T., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 14, 2018