The "America Sings!" Festival: a case study
Stultz, II, Kenneth Robert
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In the United States, school music groups perform in some sort of music festival every year. Most festivals are competitive in some way, but non-competitive festivals exist as well—even if they are not as well known. The purpose of this study is to observe an elementary school choir as they prepare for and participate in the “America Sings!” festival—a non-competitive music festival—in Washington, D.C. on May 4–5, 2014. This investigation sought to answer the following research questions: 1) What guides the decision to participate in the “America Sings!” festival?; 2) For the choral director, what personal experiences and past musical backgrounds shape the teacher’s feelings and attitudes about participating in an “America Sings!” festival?; 3) What are the benefits and challenges of attending an “America Sings!” festival?; 4) Does the service component of the “America Sings!” festival affect the participants?; 5) Does attending a non-competitive festival affect the self-reported attitudes of students and their teacher?; and 6) What range of student behaviors can be observed during their preparation for and performance in the “America Sings!” festival? Using qualitative case study, this study employed direct observation of the entire choir as well as recorded interviews with six students and their teacher. After data analysis, open coding, and theme construction, common themes began to emerge into two groups: pre-trip (performing, comparing types of festivals, preparation, service projects, and John Jacobson) and post-trip (benefits and challenges, performing, learning, John Jacobson, the “America Sings Effect”, and comparing types of festivals). These themes are presented, the research questions are answered, and recommendations are made for future researchers as well for those in the profession.