In Depth Interviews

Being from a marketing background, I used a similar approach to best practice market research theory which suggests gathering information from a variety of sources, both qualitative and quantitative, which can be analysed for any commonalities or contradictions. These can be teased out and the data transforms into dynamic ‘insight’, from meaningless statistics.

Initially, I wanted to interview a variety of post graduate music students, to ask them about their general approach to characterisation, and how they alter this (if at all), for the concert platform. I had then intended to film them performing an opera aria in a concert setting, to support what they had said in their interviews, and so they could demonstrate their approach to others. I chose post graduate students, believing that they would have a strong vocal technique, so discussions could more easily circulate around the subject of characterisation, rather than the struggles with achieving a decent vocal technique, which is a major aspect of classical singing which could have dominated the interviews and skewed the resulting data.

It was surprising that there was immense resistance to being interviewed, and an even stronger resistance to being filmed singing for a web resource, amongst the students. Cajoling via social media and email, as well as face to face, did not help to reassure most students that their input was valid and necessary. Objections included fears of how they would come across on camera, and that the aria would not be ‘perfect’ and could sabotage their chances of future engagements.

I posted the interview of the first student on a private Facebook page, to show other potential interviewees that the questions were answerable, and that the editing would ensure the speaker came over well. However, this did not have the desired affect, and only two other students came forward to be interviewed, as well as an adult amateur student of mine.

The resources, therefore, comprise my own performances and publicly available clips from http://www.youtube.com as I was unable to persuade anyone to be filmed singing. This indicates that the students feel ill equipped to speak in an informed way on this subject. This backs up my original assertion that little has been written on the topic, as students have little frame of reference. My assertion that there is an overwhelming emphasis on singing technically well also plays out in the reluctance of students to be filmed singing, because ‘perfection’ could not be guaranteed to be achieved.

On reflection, I may have under estimated how vulnerable research participants can feel, particularly when being videoed as opposed to audio recordings.  Inside Interviewing: New Lenses, New Concerns[1] expresses opposing ideas within the research community about the best way of encouraging people to participate in research.  One body of opinion within the research community is that a ‘one-off encounter’ encourages the participant to disclose information that they would otherwise not volunteer if they thought they would have further contact with the researcher. However, another body of opinion believes that a close relationship between researcher and participant which engenders high levels of trust will encourage much deeper and candid disclosure[2].  In being in agreement with the latter opinion, I was very surprised by the reluctance I encountered and would therefore re-assess my assumptions in planning a methodology if embarking upon further research in the future.

Surveys with qualitative and quantitative questions

[1] Pitts Stephanie E, ‘Everybody Wants to Be Pavarotti’: The Experience of Music for Performers and Audience at a Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, Journal of the Royal Musical Association , Vol. 129, No. 1 (2004), http://www.jstor.org/stable/3557491 (accessed 1st July 2012); Botstein Leon, ‘The Audience’, The Musical Quarterly , Vol. 83, No. 4 (Winter, 1999), http://www.jstor.org/stable/742613 (accessed 1st July 2012).

[2] James.A.Holstein and Jaber.F.Gubrium, Inside Interviewing:New Lenses, New Concerns, (Sage Publications, 2003)

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