This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Survey of African American Female Choral Conductors on Spirituality and "It Factor" Choral Performances




Shuford, Brenda

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Curriculum and Teaching


Stunningly beautiful choral performances move audiences. Educators have debated why some musical moments touch listeners deeply and others, although technically sound, are nonetheless unremarkable. Some experts note that an audiences’ emotional engagement heightens enjoyment (Thompson, 2007) and that choral expressiveness is a key factor in their engagement (Condon, 2015). Moreover, others attest that spirituality plays a role in how one experiences transcendence and transformative musical experiences (Palmer, 1995; Jordan, 2015; Habron & Van der Merwe, 2017). This study will explore prominent choral conductors’ perspectives on the qualities and practices that produce unforgettable, charismatic, “It Factor” choral performances. More specifically, the purpose of this dissertation is to investigate if there is a correlation between the “It Factor” choral performance and spirituality. The It Factor is an experiential phenomenon that defines choral performances which produce a conglomeration of the following attributes: aesthetic beauty, exceptional musical technique, multi-level connectivity or synergism, and expressed levels of mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional engagement of all participants (audience, conductor, and choir), producing not merely a performance, but a performance experience that is transformative and transcendent. This definition was developed as a result of the researcher’s Ed.S. field project study entitled “The ‘It Factor’ in Producing Exceptional and Aesthetically Pleasing Choral Performances: Qualitative Interviews with Four Distinguished Choral Conductors” (Shuford, 2019). The present study investigated African American women choral conductors’ perceptions concerning spirituality and the “It Factor”. The researcher collected information needed for the study by a web-based Qualtrics survey that the researcher developed that also included The Intrinsic Spirituality Scale by Hodge (2003). Participants (N = 41) rated the extent to which the nine constructs represent the “It Factor”. Most participants indicated that all constructs: aesthetic beauty, exceptional musical technique, multi-level connectivity or synergism, mental engagement, physical engagement, emotional engagement, spiritual engagement, transformation, and transcendence are necessary and important in “It Factor” choral performances. The Spearman Rank Order Correlation test revealed that spiritual engagement is positively correlated with the “It Factor” as it concerns spiritual engagement being important, and necessary in generating “It Factor” performances, and in how confident one feels in generating “It Factor” performances.