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date: 26 February 2021

Intersectionalities: Exploring Qualitative Research, Music Education, and Diversity

Abstract and Keywords

The purpose of this chapter is to broadly explore several intersections of the social world and music education as investigated through qualitative methodologies. Specifically, this chapter will examine topics of LGBT2Q studies, gender studies, and feminist studies within music education research. The summary includes a call for more sociological research utilizing multidimensional approaches to studying marginalized communities.

Keywords: LGBT, gender studies, feminism, critical sexuality studies

The purpose of this chapter is to broadly explore several aspects of the social world and music education as investigated through qualitative methodologies. Specifically, this chapter will examine topics of LGBT2QI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) studies, gender studies, and feminist studies within music education research. After reviewing these areas and providing suggestions for future qualitative research, I end the chapter with a call for an “intersectionalities” approach to understanding marginalized communities.

What will become clear to reader as the chapter unfolds, is that to label, classify or define the LGBT2Q studies, gender studies, and feminist studies is a troublesome endeavor. They exist in contested spaces, and within categories like social justice, equity, marginalized, and identity, to name a few. I recognize the inherent problems associated with established social categories yet acknowledge the relevance of utilizing the categories to begin the process of examining our complex Western social ecology.

Simply stated, the issues associated with accounting for the multiple axis of oppression and their labels are numerous. As a brief example, I could point readers to the current debate occurring between queer theorists and LGBT2QI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersexed) scholars. More specifically, even within LGBT2QI research, disagreements exists among scholars concerning the proper order of the letters, in addition to the inclusion of 2QI, which refers to queer, questioning, or intersexed. In the late 1980s, the term “GLBT” was prevalent in both academic writing and in the press. However, feminist scholars noted that the “L” for lesbian should be placed before the “G” for gay for numerous (p. 539) political reasons but most notably to refrain from the inference that women are submissive or given a subordinate position within our heteronormative patriarchal society. The newest acronym for some academicians is LGBTQQCSI which stands for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, questioning, confused, supportive or intersexed. The ever-expanding evolution has led one researcher to state: “continued extension of acronyms to lead us to believe we can include everyone is simply alarming” (Ferris 2006, 112). This example provides an illustration of how labels, even acronyms utilized within social research, are often met with confusion and scrutiny. Within the social sciences other examples of contested labels or categories include multiculturalism, social justice, and culturally relevant pedagogy, to name a few. Categories presented in this chapter act as a means of organizing literature for the reader, recognizing that social inequalities felt within these groups exist beyond the bounds of a singular label. Finally, the term “underrepresented” describes the broad landscape examined in this chapter while communicating an underlying belief that more research is needed to address these communities within music education.

The tangle of labels and their meanings can be seen in the most recent Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (Denzin and Lincoln 2011), more specifically, within the appendix section. In this vast text encompassing overviews of qualitative research there is one reference to “gay, lesbian, and transgender” (745) while numerous citations are given for “queer” (751) topics of identity, theories, methods, etc. Within the queer category, gender is cross-referenced and within the gender category topics of feminism/feminists research are mentioned as “see also.” This cross-referencing and mixing of labels demonstrates a common blurring of these critical lenses. What is paramount to highlight, regardless of critical approach, is the exceptional way qualitative research explicates the human experience, specifically in areas of social justice. Denzin and Lincoln (2011) write:

It is time to open up new spaces, time to explore new discourses. We need to find new ways of connecting persons and their personal troubles with social justice methodologies. We need to become better accomplished in linking these interventions to those institutional sites where troubles are turned into public issues and public issues transformed into social policy (ix).

For music education researchers, utilizing qualitative methodologies to examine musical experiences of underrepresented populations can inform curricula, public issues, and the educational institution in evocative and nuanced ways. In this way, researchers can invite contestation, contradiction, and philosophical tension into the music education discourse, not to haphazardly invite discord, but instead to promote a critical dialogue for growth and development for all members of the educative community.

(p. 540) 28.1 Benefits and Losses of Entering at the Recapitulation

The most recent publication of the Handbook for Research in Music Education published in 2002, included a chapter titled “Feminism, Feminist Research, and Gender Research in Music Education” (Lamb, Dolloff, and Howe). Within this chapter the authors state:

Music education has not yet been influenced by third wave feminism, gender studies, studies of masculinity, or queer theory, although third wave kinds of research are beginning to be published, particularly outside of traditional music education venues. There is not space in this chapter to present an analysis as to why music education has been so isolated from these theories while the same theories have had an impact on education as a discipline and music as a discipline.

This is an important topic that deserves critical exploration and thorough analysis. (648)

It is clear in these words that the authors are confounded by the lack of research being published that addresses underrepresented communities. In the 10 years since the Handbook for Research in Music Education was published there have been some strides in publishing work in these areas. These breakthroughs have largely been made possible within the music education milieu by conferences such as G.R.I.M.E. (Gender Research in Music Education), a professional organization founded in 1991 at the first Feminist Theory and Music Conference; the Music Education Studies Research Group within the American Educational Research Association, and the first LGBT Research Symposium held May 23 through 26, titled: Establishing Identity: LGBT Studies and Music Education.

As Lamb, Dolloff, and Howe (2002) state, with few exceptions, music education researchers were tacit during the emergent sociological research that meaningfully informed the academy in the 1980s and 1990s. Borrowing from a musical example, music educators might consider that much of the work on race, class, gender, ethnicity, and LGBT2Q studies has been introduced and vetted within an extended exposition and development section but out of the purview of the music education research. Therefore, for music education researchers, it might be prudent to consider these topics from the perspective of beginning at the recapitulation. In doing so, music education researchers entering late into the field of social justice or any form of critical sociological studies would be encouraged to meaningfully investigate the historical and theoretical underpinnings surrounding the evolution of each topic. Because music education research concerning underrepresented communities is sparse and newly developed, much of the literature required to scaffold an author’s research should be retrieved from areas outside of music education. Finally, readers should be aware that while a brief historical backdrop is presented for each category, this chapter, like the research it addresses, begins at recapitulation. In other words, the emphasis within this chapter is placed on critical differences, postmodernity, multiple perspectives, education theory, research, (p. 541) and practice. At the end of each section selected readings are provided to help guide researchers who plan on any form of future research in this field.

28.2 LGBT2Q Studies in Music Education

At the first conference to address LGBT studies: Establishing Identities: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies and Music Education, held May 23–26 at the University of Illinois, two keynote addresses by Nadine Hubbs and Nelson Rodriguez highlighted the duality and dissonance surrounding current LGBT2Q studies. Both keynote addresses were published in the Bulletin for the Council of Research in Music Education and provide an excellent starting point to consider LGBT2Q studies in music education since both experienced researchers addressed the field of music education from the perspective of beginning at the recapitulation.

In broadest terms, LGBT2QI or LGBT studies is the largest umbrella or moniker for research pertaining to gender and sexuality studies. Most scholarship labeled within this genre is related to topics of activism, visibility, rights, stereotypes, and community. Researchers utilizing the label of LGBT studies often connote an inclusivity with an intentionality towards similarities of non-heteronormative discourse. Hubbs (2011) cautioned music education researchers who investigate LGBT people to avoid the pitfalls of previous academicians who, since the 1980s, have institutionalized LGBT studies. She states that while broader acceptance of LGBT community members within the academy and American society as a whole should obviously be welcomed, placing LGBT people within a static frame can be unintentionally oppressive. This critique or pushback of a now mainstreamed conceptualization of LGBT studies or people has led to a new term, homonormativity.1 In her description of homonormativity, Hubbs writes:

The term carries with it a critique of recently mainstreamed LGBT identities and politics that uphold the institutions and assumptions of heteronormativity. “Homonormativity” points to the normalization, naturalization, and capitalist commodification of a certain, narrowed set of homosexual practices and identities that leave intact the social, sexual, political, and economic status quo rather than pursuing the potential of same-sex relations to call into question so many sociocultural assumptions, prescripts, and inequalities. (9)

In other words, Hubbs calls into question the concept of the conference, the notion of establishing an identity with an institutionalized framework that maintains “sociocultural assumptions.” She cautions music education researchers to avoid the pitfall of institutionalization and singularity of a LGBT identity, arguing for a non-monolithic view of LGBT expression. Next, Hubbs stated that the most significant contribution of LGBT studies that began in the 1970s “is its revelation of what we know as ‘sexuality’ (p. 542) as culturally specific and constructed rather than natural or given” (10). The concept of sexuality as a culturally constructed, non-binary hetero-homo behavior, identity, or politic has been central to much of the sociological work thus far and largely agreed upon by scholars across the academy. Furthermore, Hubbs notes an important trend occurring within LGBT studies, the concept of sexuality as being not only binary, or easily labeled within an ever-expanding acronym of acceptance, but the concept of sexuality as an ever-fluid, dynamic part of one’s life. She notes a trend for researchers drawing upon LGBT studies across disciplines to ignore static notions of sexuality that are easily labeled, objectified, and stereotyped and consider sexuality in new, more progressive, non-traditional frameworks.

Nelson Rodriguez, the other keynote speaker of the conference, provided insight into another lens by which topics of sexuality and gender are often investigated—queer theory. Queer theory, like most other forms of poststructural sociological inquiry, has evolved substantially since its inception. Queer theory emerged from the collision of LGBT political and cultural activism in the late 1980s, as feminist cultural studies and identity politics were reframed within the academy. Though conceived within a political milieu, queer theory quickly became a lens to actively question tropes across numerous areas of the academy. Led by women scholars, primarily the texts of Judith Butler (1990), Gender Trouble, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1990), Epistemology of the Closet, queer theory not only contested preconceived notions of sexuality and gender, their work codified a means of questioning meaning in broader epistemological and ontological traditions. One of the most prolific and cited queer theory scholars, David Halperin (1997) defines the current state of queer theory as “at odds with whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant.” There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an essence. “Queer” then, “demarcates not a positivity but a positionality vis-à-vis the normative” (62). Queer theory became synonymous with the deconstruction of any normative value, labeled by Turner as radical deconstructionism (2000). Turner (2000) writes:

If queer theorists have anything in common, it might be that they consistently celebrate the unformed, inchoate, provisional character of the field, and they look with suspicion on the possibility that, after a tumultuous, boisterous, and unfocused adolescence, queer theory will settle into an adulthood of traditional disciplinarity, with a clearly defined field of inquiry, a journal or two, and a few doctoral programs at the more advanced universities. (84)

Lastly, Rodriguez suggests another model for examining topics related to sexuality—critical sexuality studies. Beasley (2005) codified critical sexuality studies by identifying five areas of study: (1) emancipatory or liberationist; (2) sexuality difference or gay and lesbian identity; (3) multiple differences; (4) social constructivism; and (5) postmodern sexuality studies. These categories, thoroughly explained within Rodriguez’s text, help provide researchers with meaningful entry points and methods of categorization. The emphasis within all classifications is the “critical” approach to sexuality studies, “the analyses of the existing organization and social meaning of sexuality and sexual studies, (p. 543) rather than merely descriptive accounts of doing sex” (Beasley 2005, 117). Rodriguez encourages the use of critical sexuality studies as a framework for emergent music education research, and the lens provides substantial breadth for meaningful inquiry while allowing authors to circumnavigate troublesome identity politics associated with other modes of inquiry.

Music education researchers considering work within LGBT studies are tasked with situating studies within frameworks laden with historical meaning. It is imperative for authors to understand the political landscapes that shaped various modes of inquiry. To state that one’s work is situated within a frame of LGBT studies, queer theory, or critical sexuality studies greatly influences the reader’s perception and understanding of authorial intent.

The publication of articles presented at the conference in the Bulletin for the Council of Research in Music Education (CRME), edited by Greg DeNardo, served as an important beachhead for LGBT studies in music education. Of the ten published articles published in CRME, most could be classified within the first category of Beasley’s critical sexuality studies—emancipatory or liberationists. The authors describe topics of anti-discrimination and assimilation, often with the intent of furthering the notion of rights and equality within schools and society at large.

Furman (2011) and Duling (2011) both describe the lived experience of being an openly gay or lesbian faculty member within a school environment. Furman’s qualitative work describes the life of “Pamela” both personally and professionally focusing on her experiences teaching in K–12 and university settings in the Midwest and Southern states. In this case study, Furman describes the difficulties surrounding Pamela’s life as an instrumental music educator. Utilizing Seidman’s interviewing technique (2006), Furman adopted a phenomenological approach to identifying the educator’s experience. The data was expressed through narrative that emerged from three interviews in addition to classroom observations of Pamela’s teaching. Although being an “out” lesbian presented numerous difficulties, most of Pamela’s feelings of professional isolation stemmed from her feeling of isolation due to gender. For Pamela, events where band directors gathered reinforced her belief of loneliness, as the instrumental music educators were almost all male and she felt excluded socially. Duling (2011) describes the isolation of being the lone “out” LGBT person within a faculty. Duling provides a phenomenological autoethnographic account of the pressures being the “go-to” faculty member when students or other faculty members have questions pertaining to LGBT topics. Duling addresses six scenarios that he often encounters as the “go-to” professor including: a) addressing the awkwardness of being asked if gay; b) working with LGBT students who use the gay experience to sometimes inappropriately make excuses for poor behavior or work; c) helping students navigate social pressures; d) the ever-present topic of coming out; e) the demands of being the “go-to” faculty member but lacking proper training and information. While Duling expresses his willingness to provide consultation, he concurrently addresses the stresses involved with providing information and guidance beyond his scope of training. In sum, Duling addresses the problems surrounding (p. 544) the assumption that the lone LGBT person is capable of offering appropriate advice simply because they identify as non-heterosexual.

Haywood (2011) investigated the lived experiences of four self-identified LGBT music educators. Data was collected in a series of open-ended, semi-structured interview protocols over a four-month period. Utilizing a phenomenological lens, Haywood constructed four narratives detailing the lived experience of four LGBT teachers. Primary themes that emerged from the across case analysis of the participants included: personal identification (i.e., I am transgender); coming out as an ever-present event; pedagogical implications; self-awareness as model for students; and student empowerment. Additionally, for each of the four participants the importance of visibility was primary in what they considered a responsibility in advocating a positive model for their students. Cavicchia (2011) interviewed three gay male choral professors teaching at the university level over a six-week period. Utilizing domain questions informed by Cass’s Model of Sexual Identity (Cass 1979), data was collected, transcribed, and coded using inductive coding procedures and processes. Each successive interview protocol was informed by directions discerned during the data analysis process. Peer debriefing occurred with music education faculty familiar with qualitative research procedures. Thick description of participants, contents, and interview responses were provided to ensure that the emic voice was most prominent. In the case study, Cavicchia examined the career paths of the music educators and the ways being gay may have influenced their professional identities. The primary theme that emerged from Cavicchia’s research included negotiating “the closet,” and the constant burden of worry concerning student and peer reaction to their sexual orientation. Each of the participants described being bullied throughout their lives due to their sexual orientation and effeminate qualities. Participants stated that their primary reason for coming out to peers and students was to serve as a role model for undergraduates who might be struggling with their own sexuality.

Sweet and Paparo (2011) investigated the role of the academy, specifically teacher training programs, in providing meaningful preparation for addressing LGBT issues in the music classroom. By reviewing previous research in preservice education they sought to determine: a) what music teachers need to know about sexual identity and orientation; b) what are the implications of this knowledge; and c) how are these issues relevant to teaching. Primary themes that emerged from their investigation included the importance and difficulty of starting a conversation about LGBT topics, allowing for safe classrooms where critical questions and conversation can occur, and, finally, the importance of a personal identity statement for LGBT people. Abramo (2011) also addressed the role of a personal identity statement, but from the perspective of a gay male who chose to never come out during his tenure as a K–12 teacher. Using a poststructural framework (Foucault 1980; Weedon 1997), this study investigated how music teacher identity is constructed through practice and influenced by the discourses that surround instrumental music teachers’ work in classrooms (Britzman 2003; Zemblyas 2003). Data was collected through in-depth interviews, field notes from non-participant observations, and participant journal entries. Using narrative analysis to analyze these data, Abramo identified themes through participant stories of dilemmas and successes (p. 545) in practice (Riessman 1993). In her case study she interviewed “Chris,” a veteran music educator who chose to hide his sexual identity from his colleagues and students. He described his life as a music educator as chameleon, as he changed his behaviors in ways that allowed him to fit into his surroundings. He described his mannerisms outside of the classroom as substantially different from those he showed while in the educative community. For Chris, the importance of “passing” was paramount in his life and to his educational identity. In other words, he placed tremendous merit on his ability to act in a way that others would not perceive as effeminate or as a marker for a gay person. Abramo suggests that the ability to pass as straight can be seen as a commodity for teachers who chose to hide their personal lives from students. In contrast, a teachers’ ability to “not pass” or be seen as effeminate or gay can be viewed as a liability that is potentially damaging when teaching in communities less tolerant of LGBT people.

28.3 Summation of LGBT Research in Music Education

In sum, the majority of research in music education and LGBT topics thus far has focused on issues of equality and visibility. As researchers continue this trajectory of inquiry it is important for authors to look beyond equity and investigate Beasley’s more critical lenses of multiple differences, social constructivism, and postmodern sexuality studies. The examination of the lived experiences of LGBT music educators has revealed topics of coming out, serving as a LGBT ally for the educative community, the role of passing, among others. Future research is needed to compare and contrast ways in which music educators’ experiences differ from those teaching in other subject areas. While is may seem commonsensical or anecdotal to believe that music educators, or arts educators in general, are more aware of the needs of the LGBT community, few examples of empirical research exists specifically examining these connections. Lastly, researchers should attend to the complexities of multiple identities (e.g., LGBT and religion, LGBT and race, LGBT and social economic status) and how that relates the music education experience.

28.4 Gender and All of Its Forms

Although each of the underrepresented communities in this chapter varies in numerous ways, they each share one confounding commonality: a definition. Within qualitative research gender is no exception. Gender has been examined in relation to androgyny, binary construction, cultural traditions, equity, empowerment, conformity to cultural traditions, femininity, masculinity, sexuality, dysphoria, to name a few. Similar to (p. 546) studies concerning the LGBT community, qualitative researchers must carefully position and articulate the way gender is being expressed in their work.

Much of the work concerning gender thus far in music education research, especially in quantitative analyses, has centered on a binary consideration of gender as it relates to instrument choice or selection (Abeles 2009; Delzell and Leppla 1992). Lastly, researchers must grapple with the difficulties surrounding the labels of “sex” and “gender” as they are presented within research literature. While it is common practice in current sociological research to understand gender as socially constructed or performative and sex as biological, previous research often utilized the terms interchangeably. O’Neill (1997) and Sinsel and Dixon and Blades-Zeller (1997) discuss the evolution of gender vs. sex terminology within sociological studies in great detail and provide a great starting point for music education researchers.

Numerous qualitative researchers have also investigated music educators’ role in forming gendered identities in music within educative environments. In a cornerstone of sociological music education research, Green (1997) examined gender roles through students’ musical participation, beliefs, and preferences in a public school setting. Over a six-month period, students and teachers were observed and interviewed at a suburban school outside of London. Green observed meaningful differences in the ways teachers and students described their musical experiences. For example, teachers portrayed girls as more musically expressive and eloquent than boys. Furthermore, teachers described the girls as better singers and more enjoyable to teach in the classroom. Similarly, the girls stated that they were more active in the classroom and demonstrated more sophisticated musical skills than the boys. However, with regard to music composition girls described their abilities and interests as inferior to the boys. Similarly, while the boys described their singing as substandard to girls, they bragged about their abilities as composers. Green asserts that for girls, taking risks and playing out of turn in the classroom during composition exercises was not considered fun or appropriate. Meanwhile, the boys described composition activities as exciting and rewarding. In summarizing the ways girls were defined as better performers and boys as composers, Green states, “girls and boys experience their own music as a reflection and legitimization of their own gender identities” (151). For Green, gender roles were evident in the classroom, passive musical activities were favored by girls, while more individual, risk-taking activities were preferred by the boys.

Similarly, Abramo (2011) observed music practices of adolescent students examining the role of gender in their own music-making. Abramo collected data throughout the course of a year at a school where he served as music instructor. Data collection included observations of rehearsals and individual interviews, which were documented through field notes and audio recordings. In describing the theoretical framework of the study, Abramo rejects the identity of a male or female as fixed or static sexed identity. He positions gender as an identity that is fluid and changes depending on the social situation of the individual. This study is one of the few in music education research journals that embraced gender as performative and dynamic, looking beyond binary representations. He determined that girls and boys rehearsed and composed music in different (p. 547) ways. Boys concurrently utilized musical gestures and nonverbal cues to create a seamless sonic soundscape, while girls separated talk and music production. In mixed gender groupings, tensions were noted due to participants’ different learning styles that were misunderstood by members of the opposite gender.

Although I detail the need for research like Abramo’s that looks beyond a simplistic view of gender, in music education research the topic of gender and music instrument selection has been extensively investigated and merits review. As early as the 1970s, researchers were investigating why males or females preferred certain musical instruments. The negative influence of gender in music instrument selection has been further identified by quantitative researchers (Bruce and Kemp 1993; Delzell and Leppla 1992; Fortney, Boyle, and DeCarbo 1993; Tarnoski 1993). Research has also demonstrated that the negative of gender stereotyping has a greater impact on boys (Delzell and Leppla 1992; Sinsabaugh 2005). Quantitative researchers have detailed the ways in which individuals mark or describe instruments, leaving a meaningful space for qualitative researchers to question why gender associations exist.

In one of the few studies investigating the question of why gender associations exist, Conway (2000) utilized a phenomenological lens to examine influences of gendered tropes on instrument selection. In this qualitative study, high school students that conformed to gender stereotypes and those that were non-conformist in their instrument selection were interviewed. The influence of family was prominent for students who played gender conforming instruments. These students were persuaded by both positive and negative observations family members shared about instrument selection. The role of significant others, specifically peer groups, was also relevant to these students as they intimated a need to fit in, or play instruments their friends felt were most socially appropriate. The need to be different and embrace the counter narrative of gendered tropes was important to students choosing non-conformist instruments. Specifically, Conway details an interview with a female brass student who described an explicit choice to play an instrument that would differentiate herself from other girls, especially her sister who played the flute. Both participants groups shared numerous influences in their instrument selection process with instrument timbre being the most cited in addition to instrument size, and other objective features of the instrument. Similar to findings in other studies, Conway noted that young potential music students are aware of the gendered tropes surrounding musical instruments and that awareness is meaningful in their instrumental selection. Lastly, the author ends the article by recommending more qualitative inquiry into the ways gender informs young musicians perceptions of the musical experience.

In a detailed literature review Wych (2012), finds a similar shortage of qualitative studies, describing 19 studies concerning gender and instrument association, and noting that only two are qualitative. This marker alone suggests her call for more detailed work in this area is warranted. Similarly, in a recent review of literature, Eros (2008) describes that while numerous academicians have examined the role of gender in instrument selection, little information exists detailing what practitioners should do to counter negative stereotypes. More broadly, larger questions remain concerning connections between cultural expectations/traditions adolescent behavior, and musical identity formation. Eros posits that it is surprising how few qualitative articles exist in peer-reviewed music education journals detailing these phenomena.

Another large body of research in music education related to gender is found within the performance practice of choral music that is addressed specifically in chapter 23 (p. 548) of this Handbook. Specifically, a common topic relates to the issues surrounding boys’ participation in choir. Many articles concern the dissonance boys feel participating in choir when singing is often considered effeminate. Kennedy (2004) examined the way teaching choral music differs when student were placed in single-sex environments. He found that while teaching in single-sex environments was beneficial, it was not a panacea for the problems boys encounter. He states that the single most important part of teaching boys relates to the special needs of each individual student. Sweet (2010) explored middle school boys’ perceptions of singing and participation in choir. In her case study approach she found that the boys’ participation in choir was predicated largely on the esprit de corps felt among the choral members. Similarly, Freer (2010) found that male involvement in middle school choir is subject to fluctuation as a result of influential factors including desire to sing, allure of other activities, and scheduling conflicts. Demorest (2000) determined that the difficulties boys encounter during their vocal change is often so traumatic and embarrassing they discontinue singing within public spaces like the school choir. While articles concerning the experiences of boys in choir are numerous, no articles were found detailing the perspective of choir from a girl’s perspective.

Although elliptic to the K–12 experience, there are numerous qualitative studies in music education utilizing a gender studies lens. For example, Denora (2000) examined the way gender is marked by adolescent girls by preferring mainstream and acoustic styles while boys chose subversive forms of musical expression like rock, punk, heavy metal, and emo. More broadly, Moisala and Diamond (2000) suggest that popular music practices are largely male-centered and dissuade women from pursuing or prospering in popular music professions. Furthermore, research has also examined the way gender influences the musical approach of instrumental study (Clawson 1993; Green 1997); and the way the physical body informs musical practice (Bayton 1997).

28.5 Feminists’ Studies

“The webs of feminism in music education have been spinning since Roberta Lamb completed her dissertation at Teachers College, Columbia, in 1987, more than 20 years ago” (Lamb 2009). Since Lamb’s dissertation, which served as a beachhead for not only feminist scholarship, but also critical sociological writings as a whole, numerous academicians have meaningfully influenced the music education dialogue from feminist approaches. However, in the 10 years since the publication of the 2nd edition of the Handbook for Research in Music Education (2002), in which Lamb reviewed feminist writings and called for more study, few qualitative research articles have been published in North American peer reviewed journals. Moreover, the few academic feminist writings have largely addressed philosophical underpinnings. For example, in the text Nomadic Turns: Epistemology Experience, and Women University Band Directors (2005), Gould articulates a definition of feminism that invites music academicians to question (p. 549) the climate of the profession, specifically instrumental music education. Drawing upon the metaphor of the nomad, Gould details the experience of women university band directors as similar to the exotic Western interpretation of a nomad that is isolated, feared, and misunderstood. Gould’s work examines the professional climate women band directors face, and meaningfully questions issues of power within the academe. Koza (2005) responded to Gould’s work, not to refute her philosophical findings, but to present a clarification to what she sees as current feminist understandings. She writes:

Feminism is a constellation of dynamic political positions, which addresses an attempt to change the unequal power relation and material conditions that are produced and supported by a normative regulatory ideal called sex…I acknowledge the existence of a multiplicity of modern and post-modern feminisms, and by calling these positions dynamic, I acknowledge their fluidity (188).

Lamb (2009), Gould (2005), and Koza (2005) recently address the ways feminist approaches inform our understanding of the music experience. To date however, the lack of qualitative research drawing upon their attentive explanation of feminist inquiry is disheartening. When questioning why feminist lenses are largely silent one must question the field of music education. What underpinnings either in music education doctoral programs or parameters for journal acceptance provide barriers of entry for this line of inquiry? After articulating and diagnosing these “underpinnings” how can researchers interested in feminist studies politic in ways that move feminist studies into mainstream music education dialogues?

28.6 Summary

While research that addresses gender is more prevalent than other areas of the social justice spectrum, much of the work relates to binary considerations of gender. The clarion call for research proposed by Lamb, Dolloff, and Howe (2002) calling for poststructural approaches to gender studies remains largely unanswered. For qualitative researchers the prospect to meaningfully investigate the musical experiences from an LGBT or gender lens remains largely unexplored and rich with opportunity. Although these research areas present complications due to their fluid and multifaceted nature, the music education landscape would be deeply enhanced by their addition.

There is a tremendous need for qualitative articles in music education journals that meaningfully explore topics related to underserved communities. Due to the small size of the music education research community, few articles exist to help scaffold sociological work. Additionally, qualitative research, especially as it relates to areas of race, gender, class, and LGBT studies, are dynamic and constantly evolving and being redefined. Consequently, for music educators, current work exploring the underserved is best supported by researching sociological work from various arenas of the academy seeking intersections with up-to-date qualitative lenses.

(p. 550) The inclusion of the word “intersectionalities” in the title was meaningful in setting the tone for this chapter and grappling with the difficult proposition of reviewing literature that exists within an ever-changing and dynamic world. Intersectionality is a methodology of studying “the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relationships and subject formations” (McCall 2005, 13). Emerging from Black feminism, the term intersectionality theory was codified by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 while investigating complexities surrounding the oppression of black women. Intersectionality theory asserts that oppression acting upon members of all marginalized groups does not occur in singular or uniform methods. Social inequalities experienced by these groups occur in complex systems of subjugation that require comprehensive and critical interrogation by social scientists.

In this way, there is also a need for music education research to look beyond one-dimensional description of an underserved population. Life is too messy and complicated to simply state that being a member of one group denotes a single type of representation. Returning to the title of the chapter, I look forward to qualitative research that examines the constellation of life and musical experiences of people who identify themselves in multifaceted ways. For example, how does growing up as both lesbian and a minority impact the musical identity formation of a young person? Qualitative research continues to offer insightful ways to examine the musical experience of underrepresented groups in nuanced ways.


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(1) . The term originates in Lisa Duggan, The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy (Boston: Beacon Press, 2003).