This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Including the "other 80%": Developing a culturally diverse secondary music curriculum




Kempfer, Brittny

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Curriculum and Teaching


American high schools and middle schools have been using the same model as a basis for music curriculum for about a century (Williams, 2011). This model of the large group performance ensemble has filled many aesthetic needs and purposes throughout that time. However, as our student population is becoming more diverse, it is time music educators seriously consider other options that are more pleasing and relevant to their students. The phrase “the other 80%” refers to the 80%, or more, of students that do not take part in high school music programs throughout the United States (Williams, 2007). The purpose of this study was to provide information about non-traditional music courses nationally, including music educators’ attitudes about and strategies for program development and student recruitment for culturally diverse non-traditional music programs. Using a two-phased mixed methods approach, I first surveyed secondary music educators nationally to provide an overview of non-traditional course offerings. I then completed in-depth interviews (transcendental phenomenological approach), with current secondary music educators who have successfully developed, or maintained, a culturally diverse music program to include more than 30% of their student population, based off the survey responses. I compiled data a non-traditional music courses offered nationally, as well as how those courses are offered based on region, majority ethnicity, and school setting. I also gathered information to assist in-service music educators in developing and recruiting for a culturally diverse music curriculum. I had 447 respondents to the survey for Phase one. The highest percentage of responses (44.1%) came from the Southwest and the lowest percentage (4.5%) from the Northwest. Similarly, the highest percentages of respondents also came from suburban schools (45.0%). The lowest percentage came from urban schools (26.6%), with rural just above (28.4%). Respondents from schools with a White majority (56.2%) were the highest percentage, with Hispanic/Latinx/Spanish (30.4%) the next. The lowest percentage of respondents came from American Indian or Alaska Native majority schools (0.7%), followed closely by Asian (0.9%) and Other (1.6%). My primary results showed that a high percentage of schools offer concert band (94.4%) and concert choir (87.7%). The courses least represented were bluegrass/pop strings (2.5%), composition (5.4%), pop/rock band (5.6%), and mariachi band (8.9%). The traditional courses which were least represented are vocal jazz (14.1%) and full orchestra (17.2%). Of the non-traditional music courses, music theory has the highest representation (33.1%), and bluegrass/pop strings the lowest (2.5%). I interviewed five secondary music educators for Phase two. The three primary themes emerging from these interviews were: (a) relevancy; (b) implementation issues; and (c) cultural considerations. I used these themes to create a unified statement of the shared experiences of the interview participants: Secondary music educators need to understand the cultures and interests of their students, and the potential issues from outside components, to create a culturally relevant curriculum.