Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Music Education and Music Therapy (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Carlos Abril

Second Committee Member

Stephen Zdzinski

Third Committee Member

Brian Powell


The purpose of this case study was to examine the sociomusical dimensions of high school orchestra culture. There were three main areas that were investigated: the sociomusical nature of the orchestra, social stratification within the orchestra, and alignment of perceptions between the director and students. Of particular interest were participants’ perceptions of the school orchestra, what it means for them socially to be part of the orchestra, and the nature of social groups within the orchestra. The seven student participants were all of junior or senior class standing and ranged in age from 16 to 18 years old. The director had taught for 35 years. The study took place in a large suburban public high school in South Florida. Data were gathered through interviews, extensive field work, and miscellaneous artifacts. Through individual interviews, participants in the study shared their perceptions of the sociomusical aspect of the orchestra. A thematic analysis of the interviews revealed several emergent themes including 1) meaning and value, 2) collective identity, 3) socialization and social stratification, and 4) leadership. Results of the study suggest that high school orchestra is an important social space for many adolescents, and that this opportunity to socialize with their peers through music-making is highly valued by them. Participants indicated that, unlike their school band, many different types of students played in the orchestra including baseball players, “math nerds”, cheerleaders, and students involved in student council. This diversity, in part, was thought by the participants to contribute to the orchestra’s lack of a cohesive identity throughout the larger school community. Implications and suggestions for orchestra directors to embrace and foster a positive social atmosphere within their ensembles are offered.


music education; orchestra; social culture; social stratification; collective identity; meaning and value