Toward understanding male flutists in public schools: a qualitative study
Goldstein, Harold Bruce
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Research has suggested that musical instruments are not only gender-stereotyped, but the association of the flute with femininity, in particular, is still quite strong. The prospect of boys playing the flute has remained controversial among public school students. In this qualitative collective case study, male flute students were examined through interview and observation. This research focused on the initial factors that encouraged these students to begin playing the flute and subsequently investigated how and why the students chose to continue or discontinue playing the instrument. Elements of each student's background were investigated, including: family, peers, school environment, and social and personal interpretations of masculinity in modern society. Participants were interviewed to the point of data saturation. Eight boys were interviewed: four current and four former flutists. Part of the research focus was also on students' personal characteristics and how they may relate to each student's continuing or discontinuing playing the instrument. Students were interviewed using a pre-planned interview guide and interviews were triangulated with observations in a school music classroom situation if the boy still participated, or another academic classroom if the boy did not still participate. Descriptive narratives were written about each boy to complete data analysis. A cross-case analysis developed to interpret the data. This study found personal and social factors that influence boys' success in playing the flute in the public school environment, including: personality, age, presence of other boys, the instrument selection process, adult support, peer reactions, and social groups. The conclusions of this study provided insight on musical instrument gender stereotyping and the instrument selection process as boys attempted to cross the boundaries on what has been portrayed as the most controversial of the gender stereotyped instruments. This study suggested that the flute was still strongly female gender-stereotyped, the instrument selection process played an important role in the memories of high school boys, boys received more harassment about the flute being a girls' instrument than other forms of harassment, boys who were the only flutist in their school or band felt lonely, and boys who shared the flute-playing experience with other boys formed fast bonds between themselves. Questions were raised about the best age to start the instrument selection process, the age during which students determine instrumental music continuation, and the role students and instruments play together in forming a musical voice. These conclusions were applied to help music educators as they continue to address these stereotypes with future students and help students choose instruments upon which they will find musical success while maintaining a quality music program.
Thesis (D.M.A.)--Boston University