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Title: 'Giving voice' : exploring enforced occupational change in opera choristers
Author: Oakland, Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 9500
Awarding Body: Glasgow Caledonian University
Current Institution: Glasgow Caledonian University
Date of Award: 2010
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Within the performing arts, the understanding of 'who we are' and 'what we do' appears less straightforward than in many professions. Performance becomes more than a means of earning a living; it becomes a way of living. This thesis presents a qualitative investigation into enforced occupational change for individual opera choristers and highlights aspects of career disruption that are unique to singers, in that they make their living using a biologically embedded instrument. The consequences of such change are considerable but until now, musical career transition has only been explored within the context of natural development such as the transition from music student to professional musician. This thesis spans three major academic disciplines: Music Psychology, Occupational Psychology and Developmental Psychology in order to present a rich, holistic account of the participants' experiences of unexpected and premature career transition. The thesis comprises two distinct but related empirical studies. Study One investigates the effects of redundancy on seven opera choristers. Study Two is a case study of one singer (Joe) who has been forced to abandon an operatic career due to undiagnosed physical disabilities. The personal aspects of life-changing events are not always addressed by traditional research methodologies. Motivated by these concerns, both studies adopt an idiographic approach and the method used is Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. IPA is concerned with the subjective meanings people ascribe to their experiences, but also recognises the active role of the researcher in gaining access to that window of experience. In Study One, three super-ordinate themes are discussed. 'All about me' examines identity construction for the participants. 'Who's in Control?' examines the participants' attitudes to and expectations of the power structures within the operatic profession. 'Re-defining Me' explores the process of adapting to a changed working environment, whereby three of the singers were able to experience positive growth out of career disruption. In Study Two, three further super-ordinate themes encapsulate the experiences of career transition for Joe. 'Music is Master' deals with the complex relationship between music and performer. 'I love Music, but I don't like to Sing', deepens the understanding of vocal embodiment and what singing means to Joe in the context of his disabled body. 'Staging a Life' examines how Joe moves between stage and real-life to make sense of his experiences. Despite the differing contexts of the investigation, it was seen that the singers from both studies engaged with their life world primarily through interactions between voice, music and the stage which contributed to an established sense of self. Conflicts of power were a major source of disruption to the singers' perception of self. The participants of Study One felt powerless against the control that managements had over their work and personal identity. In Study Two, Joe experienced an internal power conflict between his perception of music as a powerful force to be served and the empowerment he expected as a musical performer. Common to both studies is the question of what it means to be a singer when professional work can longer validate a vocal identity. The participants' individual abilities to re-align established professional values determined their experience of career transition. The thesis concludes that a flexible approach to what it means to be a singer is a key issue in adapting to career transition as well as to the current changes in the contemporary music profession. Recommendations are made for there to be more awareness of the special needs of musicians when faced with career transition and for training institutions to equip students for the demands of the changing music industry.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available