Development and Interactions Of Instructor and Student Musical Identities in a University Introductory Music Course For Non-Music Majors
The purpose of this study was to investigate student and instructor musical identities in the context of a university music course intended for nonmusic majors. Participants were the instructor of an introductory music course and 16 of her students at a medium-sized university in the western United States. Study of this group of participants and their interactions throughout one 15-week semester led to greater understanding of their roles in music as well as better insight into the many ways in which they formed connections between music and their identity concepts. The research allowed for the development of assertions based on participant perceptions regarding identities and the development and interactions of those perceptions over time. Of the 17 total participants, nine student participants and the one instructor participated in three 1-hour interview sessions each. These interviews were used to generate the majority of the data used in the study. Data were also gathered in the forms of five class observations and various documents related to the class. Analysis of these data sources led to three primary assertions regarding the musical identities of participants, the development of those musical identities, and the ways in which they were related to instructor-student interactions. First, student participants generally viewed interaction with their instructor as having some influences on their musical identities particularly with regard to contextualizing or reinforcing identities. Second, student participants believed that their preexisting and developing musical identities were impactful on the effects which the introductory music course had on their lives. Third, various effects which the instructor had on the musical identities of student participants in this case study were influenced by her own preexisting and developing musical identities. These assertions suggest that instructor and student musical identities can interact in ways which create noticeable changes for all of those involved in introductory music courses for non-music majors. Instructors and leaders involved with similar classes may consider the possibility that neither instructors nor students have direct control over many of the musical identities which could affect instructor-student interaction. Instructors in similar classes should also consider the possibility that demonstrating and maintaining interest in student identities may serve to increase their understanding of their students and contribute to more effective instruction. Additionally, while there may be benefits to presenting unbiased perspectives on course content, instructors of similar courses may wish to consider that allowing students some knowledge of their own identities may have a positive effect on instructor-student interaction. Lastly, the study demonstrates the potential that introductory music courses for non-music majors may have a marked impact on student identities. University leaders and instructors who are considering the development, continuation, or removal of such courses should accept that these classes may be highly impactful on the experiences and identity developments of certain students.