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University music students' thinking about performance : cultural creativity in an educational context

Poyser, Rachel


Rachel Poyser



This research seeks to explore the knowledge and beliefs of university music performance students, and to see whether any pattern(s) or framework(s) of theory can be postulated. The research also considers the impact on this framework of the educational context, especially the performance assessment element. Relatively little is known about students’ views of music, including its performance, and how these views are affected by experiences of higher education (see Hallam, 2006; Mills, 1996; Pitts, 2002). The project forms a case study of second/third year music students at the University of Hull in the academic year 2007-8.

The study is situated within the field of music education, although I will be drawing on and appealing to other research paradigms in my account of the data, including ethnographic accounts of musicians in various contexts (e.g. Cohen, 1991; Finnegan, 1989), and sociological theories of cultural work (e.g. Willis, 1978; 2000). The findings will contribute to music education, to the philosophy and psychology of music within the broader field of musicology, and to sociocultural studies.

Ethnographic methodology was used to elicit accounts of students’ experiences and thoughts through interviews, informal discussions, participant observations of rehearsals, and nonparticipant observation of lessons and classes. Specifically, the aim was to investigate the students’ understandings of the phenomenon of music performance, and of their roles as performers; and to ascertain their views of the ‘culture’, or the ‘world’, of performing music, especially within the educational context of the university.

Data gathering took place early in the study; analysis of data then began formally, and preliminary findings began to emerge, while relevant literature in the field of music education, music philosophy, ethnography and ethnomusicology was examined, with a view to contextualising the study amongst investigations within and outside the musicological domain.

The findings sit within the relatively recent corpus of research known as critical musicology. Although the intention of the research is not necessarily to inform future practice, either within the institution in which the fieldwork took place, or in other music education establishments, the empirically-derived, grounded theory emerging from this study may be considered sufficiently interesting to have the potential to influence policy in such institutions as aim to provide music education.


Poyser, R. (2014). University music students' thinking about performance : cultural creativity in an educational context. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jul 26, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Music
Public URL
Additional Information School of Drama, Music and Screen, The University of Hull
Award Date Dec 1, 2014


Thesis (3.8 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2014 Poyser, Rachel. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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