Socially situated perfectionism in a high school choir
Potvin, Mark G.
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School choirs, bands, and orchestras in the United States have long been guided by exacting standards of performance practice that require high levels of technical proficiency. Such ensembles are also socially situated, requiring interpersonal interaction as participants work toward achieving a shared set of goals. These factors could combine to exacerbate individuals’ perceived pressure to meet goals. Hewitt and Flett (1991) called this pressure socially situated perfectionism. Some researchers have argued that perfectionism might be tempered or exacerbated in certain environments (Damien et al., 2014; Dunn et al., 2012; Flett & Hewitt, 2002; Hewitt et al., 2003; McArdle, 2010; Mouratidis & Michou, 2011). The purpose of this study was to investigate the experiences of perfectionistic students, particularly their perceptions of expectations, self-worth, and acceptance associated with socially situated perfectionism, in a high school choral classroom. In order to carry out this examination, a multiple case study methodology was employed; three high school students and their choir director were interviewed and observed in choral rehearsals, with students also asked to journal about their experiences. To varying degrees across cases and within cases, participants displayed behaviors that aligned with descriptions of socially situated perfectionism outlined by Hewitt and Flett (1991). The presence of these behaviors suggests that perfectionism may play a role in their music making. It appears likely that the choral classroom environment, as facilitated by the instructor and including instructor critique/feedback as well as peer interactions, merits further study for its potential role in abating or exacerbating perfectionistic tendencies in certain individuals.