Date of Award

December 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music



First Advisor

Sheila Feay-Shaw


Elementary Music, Master Teacher Mindset, Music Education, Novice Teachers, Teacher Identity, Veteran Teachers


Developing a teacher identity is an essential component for the career of an elementary general music educator. This study explored existing literature on teacher identity, elementary music teaching, challenges for beginning music teachers, and experiences of veteran music teachers. Common themes found were the process of constructing an occupational identity, the value of mentorship to support beginning teachers, defining professional roles and expectations, and the master teacher’s focus of keeping students at the center of teaching. For this study, eight experienced elementary general music teachers participated in semi-structured interviews with eighteen questions, where their responses were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. It was determined that developing a strong sense of teacher identity happens over time and is an important component of success, fulfillment, and longevity in a career. Successful experienced elementary music teachers generally 1) have strong performer backgrounds, 2) value positive attitudes and collaboration, 3) are organized yet flexible, 4) set high learning goals and expectations for their students and themselves, 5) reflect regularly on their teaching, and 6) pursue professional growth opportunities. Those who cultivate a master teacher mindset seem to have an even clearer plan of action for student engagement. These teachers achieve high levels of student learning because they intentionally organize their knowledge and apply important principles through their teaching attitudes and practices. The findings suggest that new and early-career elementary music teachers can greatly benefit from 1) building professional relationships with veteran music educators, 2) regularly asking questions of students and themselves about learning, and 3) taking the necessary time to organize their knowledge to plan high-quality instruction in order to best serve their students’ unique learning needs.