While there are examples of excellent music education in schools, many students lack access to effective music programs. Music education in school thus really needs reforms to curb the problem. The quality of music education depends on the quality of teaching that should blend with active and quality support. The music teachers require support from all corners that includes parents, head teachers, the wider community among others. Music teachers should then be supported greatly with curriculum support materials, advisory services, networks and in their professional development through good training. These efforts if actuated would bring about tremendous effects on school music participation and there would be a positive increase in participation.
While some have found that musical skill was not related to attitudes toward or participation in school music (Mizener, 1993; Pognowski, 1985), others were able to relate music self-concept to successful participation (Austin, 1990; Haygood, 1994; National Center for Educational Statistics, 1999). In this study, most choir participants (63.6%) have been told they are good musicians, while only 22.3% of non-participants received that message from others. Positive feedback evidently contributed to musical self-concept and continued participation in school music. Are there ways that some of the non-participants could have been made to feel more successful in their musical pursuits and activities? Could prior musical experiences have been designed or structured to maximize student success and minimize student frustration?
It seems that prior music experiences in school are also related to participation in high school choral music. For this sample of high school singers, 93.2% had also participated in middle school music programs. The middle school music teacher was an inspiration to continue music for 33.7% of the high school participants. Although this study did not examine how many middle school students choose to dropout of music or the reasons why, there appears to be a relationship between continued musical studies in middle school up through high school.
Although the percentages of participants and non-participants who had a trained music specialist in elementary school were very similar, several elementary music activities served as predictors of continued vocal music participation. Playing classroom percussion instruments and singing songs were activities that came through in the step-wise multiple regressions as predicting continued participation in high school choir. As suggested by Mizener (1993), use of percussion instruments and enjoyment of musical games in elementary school were common elements for many of these high school musicians. Performing in elementary school programs was a positive experience for 84.2% of the choir participants. The enjoyment of performing continued through high school with 82.4% of current musicians listing performance as a reason for continued participation.
Peer influence was also a factor in predicting music participation in high school choir. For these high school singers, 60.8% participated in choir because it was “where their friends are,” while only 31.5% of the non-participants considered that to be a valid reason. Choir students would seem to be attracted to and share commonalities with other choir students. The sense of camaraderie and support was palpable in the choir room of this high school. Because the survey occurred at the end of the school year, there had been many opportunities to bond and connect through the rehearsals and performances of the prior academic year(s).
To summarize, the factors that predicted continued participation in choral music for these high school students in Southern California were positive support and involvement at home, positive music experiences in elementary school and middle school, a positive self-concept in regard to music skills, and the support of peers. While there are many factors to consider, and not all are in the realm or control of the music educator, positive, quality, meaningful music experiences in elementary and middle school would encourage students to continued participation and predict further musical development.