Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music



First Advisor

Sheila Feay-Shaw

Committee Members

Scott Emmons


Adolescence, Singer Identity


There is a prevalent and growing trend of adults labeling themselves as non-singers. This crisis of singer identity becomes a factor as music education programs strive to promote singing, especially community singing. This qualitative research study addressed the self-perceptions of singing identity, ability, and attitudes in adolescents. The purpose of this study was to investigate how adolescent students view their own singing abilities in order to gain insight and understanding about what factors play an important role in the shaping of views about their own singing identity. Previous studies shaped the framework for this investigation. Studies reviewed included: (1) the prevalence of inaccurate self-labeling of non-singers in adults; (2) attribution theories; and (3) adolescent views. A 10-question survey was designed and given to students (N=98) from a suburban K-8 school in the Midwest to understand attitudes about singing, opinions of identity as a singer, whether it is a learned behavior or a natural talent, and how those ideas developed. The analysis of the initial survey responses provided information used to design the interview questions for the six case studies. These six participants provided perspectives on singer identity in adolescence. Five themes emerged from the study which include: (1) Reasons for singing; (2) Nature of singing ability; (3) Vocabulary/lack of vocabulary; (4) Confidence/lack of confidence; and (5) Formations of opinions. Findings aligned with past studies showing that adolescence is a notable time when people develop their singing identity, but new ideas were revealed. Adolescents have all levels of vocal ability and music educators have the opportunity to guide students through a continuum of singing development. Music teachers should be aware of the concept of singer identity and find ways to improve singer confidence. Fear and anxiety over singing ability should be addressed as normal rather than as an indicator of singing potential. Helping students to have vocabulary to describe their voice, their ability level, and ways to improve their voice will empower them to see themselves as singers.