The University of St. Thomas


Sollitt, Keri

Sollitt, Keri

Nature and Nurture: Parental Attitudes Regarding the Development of Singing Ability Keri S. Sollitt

The intent of this study was to determine parents’ attitudes regarding their singing ability, and the beliefs that inform their opinions.  The sub-problems in the study focused on parents’ ability to identify prior musical experience, singing skills in large conceptual areas, influence of others in singing participation, current state of musicianship, belief in singing as an innate talent or an acquired skill, and beliefs about singing in their children’s lives.  Differences and similarities between fathers’ and mothers’ responses were also considered in this study.

Data were collected through a self-administered survey, mailed to parents of sixth-grade choir students at a middle school in Minnesota.  The survey directed participants to respond to questions regarding the varying influences in their personal musical development, prior experiences, self-assessment of skills, and the perceived benefits of their children’s musical involvement.

Assessing why people believe themselves to be “singers” or “non-singers” is a complex endeavor, involving multiple overlapping influences.  Culture, education, the psyche, gender stereotypes, talent development, and interpersonal influences were examined in the review of related literature, and studies showed that all of these areas have some impact on a person’s self-perception of singing ability and capability for life long singing involvement.

Results of the present study confirmed that the influential people in one’s life have the greatest impact on the encouragement of musical participation and the identification of oneself as a musician.  Parents were the greatest influence upon the survey participants, followed closely by teachers.  While the other areas examined were also influential, the people who delivered messages regarding gender stereotypes, the psyche, and the development of talent had the greatest impact upon study participants.  Although approximately one-half of the participants reported receiving some kind of encouragement from their parents to sing, the vast majority of survey participants reported that they believe singing to be an important, beneficial activity for their children, one that could be enjoyed throughout their lives, signaling increased value placed upon singing.

Thesis Supervisor
Dr. Bruce P. Gleason