Details of Thesis

Title The Sound of Many Voices: investigating how principals view and influence massed singing in secondary boys’ schools
Author Barclay, Daryl James
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2008
Abstract This research focused on how three principals in Melbourne boys-only schools view and influence the place of massed singing within their respective school cultures. The views of the principals themselves and their own capacity for self-reflection were critical to the thesis. The study was underpinned by three theoretical propositions: principals, although not usually involved in the teaching of massed singing, nevertheless exert an influence on it; massed singing has a unique power to enhance the broader school culture; and, cultural assumptions about gendered participation in music-making can affect student attitudes towards massed singing. The review of literature highlighted three themes which informed the conceptual framework underpinning the research: organisational and educational leadership; the construct of masculinity in boys’ education and in leadership; and the nature and benefits of massed singing. Given the themes of the review, it seemed appropriate to undertake a study which would be essentially qualitative, interpretive, and based on indepth interviews with the key stakeholders. In the case of each of the three participating principals, data was collected from key documents produced by the schools, from a written questionnaire, and from a semistructured interview. The questionnaire was designed both to collect data and to raise participants’ consciousness prior to the interview. The questionnaire’s 17 questions, structured so as to address the three themes identified through the review of literature, were designed to create a flexible framework for an in-depth exploration of key issues in the context of the interview itself. Findings from the study indicated that there was a very strong belief amongst the participating principals that massed singing affects the overall culture of their schools in a range of profound and significant ways; that they themselves exercise a sponsorial or support role in relation to the singing programs in their schools, and rely on experts for the effective delivery of musical content; that traditional stereotypes of gender can be challenged and debunked through student participation in massed singing; and that their own personal histories of singing, and their favourable disposition towards it, are significant factors in how effectively they are able to promote and support it. The study findings have implications for school leaders and their boards; the teaching profession in general, and choral and vocal educators in particular; parents and the arts community; government education authorities and policy makers; and this researcher himself. Recommendations for further research have also emerged out of this study.
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