Date of Graduation

Spring 2023


Master of Music



Committee Chair

Daniel Hellman


The purpose of this study was to investigate student personal perspectives (grades 8-12) of music courses, their value, and what music courses they might choose or recommend. Numerous researchers and educators have debated and researched how music course offerings and instructional approaches used are central to the relevance, inclusiveness, accessibility, and equity in music education (Abramo, 2011; Clauhs & Cremata, 2020; Cooper, 2013; Green, 2006; Kelly & Heath, 2015). However, few researchers have investigated how students think about the motivations and barriers to different types of music courses. A semi-structured interview was used to explore secondary music students’ (a) perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes of music courses, (b) perceived value of both traditional and nontraditional music courses, and (c) motivations for enrolling in particular nontraditional music courses. The results explore student insights on the motivations and barriers in school secondary music ensembles and how these experiences relate to their own musical experiences after high school graduation. I analyzed the results with a qualitative lens and a lived awareness of the music curriculum as a former teacher in the district. I found that participants were motivated to play an instrument that aligned with their sense of self and to perform in ensembles that they perceived to produce beautiful sounds. The desire for authenticity, autonomy, and identity were common themes in the students’ responses. Based on the results, I provide strategies for teachers that will help them to get to know students personally and learn about their motivations. Given that there is still much that remains unknown about the motivations for different approaches to music education, I also recommend that future researchers explore the perceptions of students who do not participate in school music courses and investigate the motivations of students from different communities and school environments.


participation, nontraditional, popular music education, accessibility, perspectives, inclusivity, autonomy, authenticity, identity, intrinsic motivation

Subject Categories

Music Education


© Mary Elisa Wren

Open Access