Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Music

Department

College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Heather Russell

Subject Headings

Education, Music, Music Education

Abstract

A large portion of the choral music canon is sacred or religious in nature because the history of choral singing is in large part due to its importance in the development of the Christian church. Many public school choir teachers include sacred or religious music as a part of their repertoire because of its historic, musical and educational value. The fact that religious songs and sacred texts are often included in public school choir curricula has raised numerous philosophical and legal questions over the past several decades, although research regarding public school choir curriculum and religion is limited. The purpose of this study is to examine the present state of religious and sacred music in public school choir classrooms. I administered a survey to 100 5th-12th grade choir teachers from 32 U.S. states to gauge their attitudes towards sacred and religious music, their teaching practices involving sacred and religious music, and discover experiences teachers have had with someone who expressed concern over the religious content of their repertoire. The majority (87 out of 100) of choir teachers surveyed were in favor of teaching religious music in public schools, and most (98 out of 100) program at least some religious music for their choirs. A majority of teachers (68 out of 100) surveyed have also had a student, parent, or administrator express concern about religious content in their repertoire, and a variety of measures were taken to resolve these concerns. Legal precedents, guidelines from professional organizations such as NAfME, and many school policies suggest that religious music is in large part permitted in public schools, but the many experiences recounted by respondents to the survey indicate that choir teachers should also be aware of how their repertoire choices are perceived by others. The survey data suggests that choir teachers who program sacred or religious music are likely to receive concerns from students, parents, or administrators, but further research is needed to confirm this assertion on a larger scale.

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