A mixed methods portrait of the perceived benefits of unaccompanied ensemble singing on the development of the musical skills of undergraduate students
St. Jean, Donald
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The purpose of this investigation was to establish an understanding of the role that a cappella ensemble singing plays in the musical development of undergraduate ensemble singers based on the perspective of students, music teachers of three to five years experience, and faculty directors from four-year colleges and universities geographically located within the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Eastern Division, including the six New England states plus Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Research questions asked: In what ways is a cappella ensemble singing perceived to contribute to the musical development of college student musicians? Are there measureable differences in the perceived benefits of traditional and contemporary genres of a cappella ensemble singing between undergraduate students and faculty directors? Findings suggested that benefit exists in both traditional and contemporary a cappella ensemble singing. Descriptive research was employed in an exploratory, mixed-methods design as described by Creswell and Plano (2007). Phase one consisted of 18 face-to-face, open-ended, semi-structured interviews, five observations, and three student focus-groups. Broad themes emerged, including ensemble experience, genre, hearing and precision, personal attributes, promotion and support, vocal technique, reflecting increased proficiency in intonation, sight singing, tonal memory, rhythmic precision, musical expressivity, vocal range and flexibility, and increased confidence and sense of responsibility. A Web-based survey, consisting of questions informed by the qualitative research, comprised the second phase, comparing the perceptions of students (n = 59) and faculty directors (n = 11) on the benefits of both traditional and contemporary a cappella ensemble singing. Mann-Whitney U and Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Tests were employed to test ordinal data for statistical differences between and within groups relative to traditional and contemporary a cappella ensemble singing. Statistical differences (p < .05) were found between the responses of students and faculty directors in musical expressivity, vocal range and flexibility (contemporary), and in attitudes regarding the importance of contemporary a cappella ensemble singing for music education students. Statistical differences emerged among student responses regarding intonation, sight singing, musical expressivity, rhythmic precision, independence, level of challenge, commitment, and among faculty directors regarding the importance of the contemporary genre for music education majors.
Thesis (D.M.A.)--Boston University