Music Education Research

August 20, 2009

Teacher Retention

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rick Dammers @ 1:46 pm

Hancock, C. B. (2009). National estimates of retention, migration and attrition: A multi-year comparison of music and non-music teachers. Journal of Research in Music Education, 57(2), 92-107.

In this study, Carl Hancock examines data on teacher retention between 1988 and 2001 from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). He found that  during this time period, 84% of music teachers remained  in their positions after any particular year.  Of those who left their positions, 10% moved to another school, while 6% left the profession. These results were similar to the results for the teaching profession in general.

This information is of particular interest to pre-service teachers about to enter the field (and those of us who are anxious for them to be hired!)  Based on my limited experience with the music teacher market in New Jersey, I strongly suspect that the retention rate was abnormally high this year, as mid-career teachers opted not to move (especially if it involved a home sale) and late-career teachers delayed retirement in order to boost their retirement savings. Since these moves are presumably only deferred, it stands to reason that this trend will reverse itself and we may see a year or two with retention below 84% and a very active job market.  Whether the trend reverses itself in time for next year’s hiring season remains to be seen.


July 14, 2009

Gender and Instrument Choice

Filed under: Band — Tags: , — Rick Dammers @ 9:50 am

Abeles, H. (2009). Are musical instrument gender associations changing? Journal of Research in Music Education, 57(2), 127-139.

This study collected two sets of data on gender and instruments, and compared it with the data from two previous studies over the past 30 years. The first set of data was on which instruments college students (n=180) viewed as being male or female. The classifications are not surprising (female-flute, violin, clarinet ; male-drums, trombone, trumpet ) The range of scores (indicating the strengths of the gender-instrument association) was lower than 30 years ago, but similar to data from 15 years ago. The second set of data was collected on what instruments middle school students are playing (n=2001). Again, the results demonstrate distinct differences in instrument choice by gender, and that little has changed in these choices over the past 30 years.

For music teachers, it is important to create an environment in which students feel free to choose the instrument they are interested in playing, regardless of gender roles. Freedom of individual choice is the central issue. The lack of change indicated by this study may indicate that this freedom is not being fully realized.

This is only one aspect of gender in music education. I’m also interested in the role of gender in whether students choose to participate in performance ensembles in middle and high school. Of course, in the relatively new area of technology-based music classes, we are aware of serious gender gap (with males being much more likely to participate). Strategies need to be developed to close that gap before stereotypes become as entrenched and intractable as they appear to be with regard to  instrument choice.

Ables’ literature review and discussion are  thorough. For anyone who wants to explore this issue further, his article is a great starting place. It is nice to see an area of research in music education that is being broadly explored and where data can be addressed longitudinally.

June 13, 2009

Looking at the Field

Filed under: Music Ed Research — Rick Dammers @ 4:18 pm

Fung, C. V. (2008). In search of important music education research questions: The case of the United States. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, (176), 31-43.

In this study, Victor Fung emailed a two question survey to full professors of music education at Tier I universities in the United States (n=78).  A surprisingly low 31% responded.  This does not lessen the value of the article, given that the value of the sample comes from the distinguished background of the respondents. It is an still interesting point.  How can it be that a majority of leaders of research in music education in the United States can’t or won’t participate in a short survey in their field?

One of the issues raised in the article is the disconnect between research and practice. This is certainly not a new concern, but an important point. It occurs to me that reading research is not unlike becoming a listener in a particular genre of music. Connecting to jazz for example, if a listener who is new to jazz starts out listening to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”, they are likely to turn it off, wondering why this is great, much as many readers who start out reading studies with complex statistical procedures may scratch their heads and close the journal.   The real value of research its influence on practice. Toward that end, as many channels as possible need to be opened so that research does influence practice. If a study remains in a journal on shelf, it is limited. When a study becomes the topic of discussion, debate (or a blog) for teachers, it has influence.

Victor Fung creates a helpful model for identifying research questions and points out the need for researchers to learn from other researchers in other parts of the world.

May 31, 2009

Five years is a long time in the Big Ten……

Filed under: Band — Rick Dammers @ 5:30 pm

Powell, S. R. (2009). Recent programing trends of Big Ten university wind ensembles. Journal of Band Research, 44 (2), (1-12).

Powell’s study is of interest for band folks, offering a glimpse of current university level programing.  Powell examined the repertoire of each of the premiere ensembles at each Big Ten school from 2002-2006.

What piece was performed most often?  It was a four way tie between Colonial Song (Grainger), Lincolnshire Posy (Grainger), Hammersmith (Holst), and O Magnum Mysterium  (Lauridsen/Reynolds).  

The most frequently performed composers?  1. Grainger (no surprise), 2. Ticheli, 3. Bernstein and 4.Holst.

 While the tops of these lists are fairly straight ahead and traditional, 50 new works were also premiered, indicating that the band repertoire is continuing to expand.  However, as Powell notes, while new works are being written, few of these works are receiving enough repeat performances to join the core cannon of band works.

May 12, 2009

Comprehensive Music Education, 40 years later….

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rick Dammers @ 8:14 pm

Reimer, B. (2007). Comprehensive education, comprehensive music education: A new vision. Music Education Research International. 1(1).Retrieved May 9, 2009 from

Bennett Reimer addresses the ongoing need for a more comprehensive approach to music education. He begins with a brief history of the CMP movement, and the conclusion (which I share) that we haven’t come very far. As I have reflected on this failure, I remember a conversation with Eunice Boardman, in which she pondered whether this was a result of the  movement not having a specific methodology. I tend to think that it is, but I wonder more broadly if the problem isn’t the lack of a community of practice that flourishes in the school setting. (The Wisconsin CMP project would be a contrasting but supporting example, where progress as been made through the establishment of a community of teachers). I think the issues are also structural. Performing ensembles, by nature, are not fertile ground for comprehensive, constructivist learning. The student to teacher ratio, interactions of sounds in the learning space, and performance expectations are just a few factors that limit the inclusion of many of the national standards.

As Dr. Reimer notes, there is much good in our performance-based ensembles. While we need to continue to work to make these ensembles more comprehensive, I think the past 40 years indicate that we should have modest expectations. Instead, our focus should be to create a community of practice that can mirror the resiliency of our performance ensembles and stand along side them. I am becoming increasingly convinced that technology-based music classes can (and are) becoming the focus point for this movement. While we are just starting (much like the band movement in the 1930s- see previous post on Joseph Maddy), it seems that this movement is already underway.  A potential anchor point for these classes could be Dr. Reimer’s definition of intelligence: “Intelligence consists of the ability to make increasingly acute discriminations, as related to increasingly wide connections, in contexts provided by culturally devised role expectations.” (p.5)

April 18, 2009

Lessons from Joseph Maddy

Filed under: Historical Research, Technology Based Music Instruction — Rick Dammers @ 1:42 pm

One of the many things that I enjoy about music education research (and music education in general) is a sense of community –  knowing the authors.  Sometimes, I feel a connection to an author after reading several of his/her works, but in this case, an article in the April 2009 JRME was authored by friend and fellow U of I alum, Phil Hash. I took particular interest in Phil’s historical study of the National High School Orchestra (founded by Joesph Maddy). In his music education text, Richard Colwell discusses the NHSO as positive factor in the establishment of our performance music programs in U.S. public schools.  I believe that technology-based music education may be at a similar early point as school bands and orchestras were in the  1920s and 30s, so I have been wondering what lessons we can learn from Joseph Maddy.

Phil’s article provides a vivid picture of this formative time for school bands and orchestras.  It is clear that Maddy’s sense of showmanship and marketing changed public awareness of music education.  While the NHSO can be considered a success from the response to its performances and its important role in establishing the camp that later became Interlochen, Phil shows that the NHSO was not without critics, and that despite Maddy’s efforts, the number of school orchestras actually decreased, during and following the NHSO’s life from 1926-1938.  A question that comes to mind, which is probably difficult to answer is, ‘to what extent did Maddy’s advocacy efforts for orchestra’s translate into support for instrumental music in general?’

While it may be hard to quantify the exact advocacy impact of the NHSO, I think that it holds three lessons for the technology based music education movement.

1. Surprise factor:  Audiences were shocked by the performances of the NHSO because conventional wisdom held that children couldn’t do this.  In establishing technology based music instruction, we should highlight student work that similarly contradicts conventional expectations.

2. Targeted advocacy:  The second performance of NHSO was for a school administrators’ conference, seemingly to great effect. Phil suggests that the ASCDA of today is a good audience for music educators to address. That is especially true for technology-based music instruction.

3. Identity: While not a specific lesson of the NHSO, it occurs to me that bands, choirs, and orchestras have been established in our schools in part because of their sense of community, identity, and common practice.  I believe it is possible to establish a fourth track in our secondary schools, where technology is the glue that provides  cohesion. But that is another post…..

Good historical research should have implications for the present.  This article certainly does.

April 13, 2009

Opening Thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rick Dammers @ 2:25 am

This blog has a personal and a public purpose. For myself, I plan to use this as a way to process my readings in the music education research literature.  Hopefully, this blog will also spark discussion and help to connect research to practice in the classroom.  I welcome your thoughts and comments as this project moves forward.

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