Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


School of Music

First Advisor

Wendy Valerio


The purpose of this exploratory ethnographic case study was to examine music improvisations co-constructed by my elementary students and me, their music teacher. Guiding research questions were (a) How do my elementary students and I co-construct music improvisations? (b) How do I describe our music improvisations? (c) How do my elementary students describe our music improvisations? (d) How do my elementary students describe their own music improvisations? (e) How do my elementary students describe their peers’ music improvisations?

I facilitated co-constructive music improvisation sessions with each music class at Coosa Elementary School for seven weeks during Fall 2020. Each student in each music class was a co-constructor participant. As a complete participant observer, I considered myself a co-constructor participant with students. Using emergent phenomenon sampling to select information-rich cases (Patton, 2015), I purposefully selected three video-recorded improvisation sessions and reflective discussions for data transcription, initial and descriptive coding (Saldaña, 2009), and ethnographic analysis (Spradley, 2016).

Through coding and ethnographic analysis, three cultural themes emerged: (a) fluidly adopting the roles of listener, improviser, and commenter, (b) connecting music improvisations to lived experiences and imagined experiences, and (c) being in music together. I provide rich, thick descriptions of co-constructor participants’ improvisations, comments, and behaviors regarding each theme.

With co-constructive improvisation, elementary music teachers may engage their students in music learning that inspires joy and enhances relationships among students and teachers. Future research regarding co-construction in music education is needed to achieve a better understanding of its effects on music learning.