10.1177/0255761420914667 ">

An investigation of musical ability beliefs and self-concept among fourth-grade students in the United States

Document Type


Publication Date



Music and Dance

Publication Title

International Journal of Music Education


© The Author(s) 2020. The purpose of this ethnographic case study was to explore the musical ability beliefs and musical self-concepts among eight fourth-grade students whose music teacher believed in universal human musicality—the idea that all human beings have the potential to be musical and can become competent music makers. Data collection lasted 12 weeks and included twice-weekly observations of the students’ music class, numerous one-on-one interviews, and student journal entries. Findings included three themes: (a) conflicting beliefs about the root of musical ability (effort/practice or innate talent), (b) the fluidity and malleability of students’ musical self-concepts, and (c) a perception that musicmaking in the real world is only for performers. Implications include the need for music educators to actively confront the “talent myth” with their students, to be aware of the potential effects of overt comparison and judgment on students’ musical self-concepts, and to provide a learning environment in which mistakes are embraced and music-making is seen as possible and valuable for all.

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