Theses Doctoral

Singing while female: A narrative study on gender, identity & experience of female voice in cis, transmasculine & non-binary singers

Graham, Felix Andrew

This study explored the personal narratives of six AFAB (“assigned female at birth”) singers – three cis and three trans/non-binary performers of varying ages, ethnicities and locales – to understand how their experiences informed their musical, vocal and gender identities and shaped their musical and vocal lives. Using semi-structured interview process, the singers recounted their memories and understanding of significant events in their development, and together, each singer and I explored those recollections through a process of collaborative self-exploration. Emerging themes from those narratives underscored the need for further investigation into the intersection of AFAB voice, singing and gender, as both existing literature and the results of this study suggest a deeper understanding of the issues around gender socialization, normative expectations and voice is necessary to appropriately and effectively prepare singers at all levels of their musical and vocal education.
Study results found that there are many sources of socially-mediated influences which shape AFAB singers’ development of self, their individual and social identities, and their perceptions of their voice – particularly in the context of normative expectations that define gender and gender identities. While all study participants clearly experienced pleasure in musical performance, the narratives revealed a complex web of expectations and influences that contributed significant amounts of anxiety, with both physiological and psychological repercussions, to the performers’ lives. The ways in which the singers both fell victim to and addressed these sources of stress suggest many topics for further exploration and discussion within the professional voice and music education community, including the role of expert influence, the development of personal agency and perceived self-efficacy, as well as the need for individualized, holistic approaches to vocal pedagogy.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Abeles, Harold F.
Goffi-Fynn, Jeanne Corinne
Ed.D.C.T., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
March 7, 2019