A multi-institution exploration of secondary socialization and occupational identity among undergraduate music majors

James R. Austin, University of Colorado Boulder
Daniel S. Isbell, Ithaca College
Joshua A. Russell, University of Hartford


Researchers are increasingly interested in the psychological and sociological processes by which college students develop competence and confidence as musicians. We surveyed 454 undergraduate music majors enrolled in one of three NASM-accredited music schools in the US. Participants completed a questionnaire that addressed beliefs about influential people and experiences, occupational roles within music, and music career commitment. Studio teachers were viewed as the strongest musician and teacher role models, studio teachers and parents had the most positive influence on pursuit of a music degree, and most performance-related activities were considered extremely important. People and experiences merged to exert influence through multiple contexts (both within and outside the music school environment), and occupational identity was multi-dimensional in nature (corresponding to different musical roles/occupations). Social influences, as well as teacher and musician identity, contributed to music career commitment prediction. We found evidence of some institutional differences and strong degree program effects, implying that decisions about which music school to attend and degree program(s) to pursue may have important consequences for socialization and occupational identity construction. We concluded that the presence of diverse but mutually supportive socialization structures may facilitate the integration of music, teacher and scholar identities among undergraduate music majors. © Society for Education, Music, and Psychology Research 2010.