Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

Factors Influencing Nonparticipation in College Band Programs among First-Year Students

Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

Factors Influencing Nonparticipation in College Band Programs among First-Year Students

Article excerpt

For the past several decades an indictment of instrumental music education has been made regarding the lack of participation of undergraduate nonmusic majors in college bands. Collegiate band directors today tend to view this problem as a contemporary issue. Clark, however, stated as far back as 1952:

It is high time for the liberal arts college to recognize its responsibility to provide a reasonable amount of natural, normal music participation for the vast majority of its students who are non-music majors, (p. 50)

Yet five decades after this statement, has the issue been sufficiently addressed on America's college and university campuses? Recently, reports would seem to indicate otherwise.

Many studies exist regarding the problem of instrumental ' music dropout between the transitional years of elementary to middle school and middle school to high school. However, a similar problem of great magnitude exists as students make the transition from high school to college. Data collected by casey (1992) and Spradling & Tracz (1993) suggest that between 40 to 50% of college-bound high school seniors with instrumental music experience elect not to participate in their college band program.

Mountford surmised in his 1977 study that many students often consider the transition from high school to college as being an appropriate time to make the decision to discontinue playing in band. Prior studies indicate that many possible factors for this decision exist at both small and large institutions. However, additional factors of influence may exist within a large university band program that are not present at smaller colleges. This problem is primarily due not only to the structure of the band program, but also to the wealth of opportunities that abound for students on large college campuses, particularly those situated within a large metropolitan area.

Enrolling as a member of a large university band can become a very competitive undertaking. At large institutions, the process of holding auditions for the purpose of determining ensemble membership is generally an accepted and widely practiced procedure. However, anxiety and tension created by the audition process may tend to actually persuade students from seeking membership in their college band program as was the earlier findings of Stanley (1964), Clothier (1967), and McClarty (1968). Yet this audition is necessary at the large university to uniformly and equitably select the most capable musicians from the usually large pool of interested students.

However, on large campuses, directors generally have the luxury of offering several bands, some of which the membership may be selected strictly through a structured audition, while others may only require a brief seating audition. With such apparent and ample opportunity for involvement in a large university band program, the question still remains as to why so many students who were once active in their high school band choose not to participate in a band at the collegiate level.

A preliminary review of literature revealed that since 1964 only six major studies had been conducted that focused on factors of college band participation. They are Stanley (1964), Clothier (1967), McClarty (1968), Mountford (1977), Milton (1982), and Delano & Royse (1986). In examining these studies, it is worth noting that even though numerous similarities existed in the issues under investigation, the sample populations varied substantially. Stanley and McClarty, as well as Delano & Royse chose to sample freshmen at relatively small state universities, whereas Clothier and Milton sampled subjects at small Midwestern liberal arts colleges. Mountford conducted the most in-depth examination of this topic utilizing a longitudinal study to sample high school students in northeastern Ohio as well as the state universities and small liberal arts colleges that they eventually attended. Only the Delano & Royse study examined a sample population taken entirely from a university in which the undergraduate enrollment was greater than 10,000. …

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