Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Music



First Advisor

Donald C Portnoy


While there has been interest in the subject of diversity in orchestras and audiences, very little qualitative research exists exploring this issue. The purpose of this study was to identify factors that motivate African-American musicians to begin and maintain involvement in orchestral music. This research is a case-study of three African-American amateur musicians comprised of participant observation, in-depth interviewing, document collection, and analysis. Field observations and interviews occurred over a 22-week period. The resulting analysis revealed common themes that contributed to the participant's initial interest in string music and their continued participation as adults. The availability of music programs in schools, the importance of mentors, and the need for a supportive family were all factors contributing to involvement in classical, orchestral music. The predominant theme tying subtopics together is the importance of a supportive community. For all participants, social network ties played a key role in their exposure to string music and the support they received participating in orchestras. Connections between teachers, students, local support organizations, and families laid the foundation for them to begin and maintain involvement with string music.

Included in

Music Commons