Date of Award



© 2020 Sharese Pearson-Bush

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Heather Wilmot

Second Advisor

Darren Akerman

Third Advisor

Ryan Westberry


The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to explore how African American students in a South Carolina metropolitan area perceived their experiences in band and orchestra at their middle school. Fifty-one sixth through eighth grade students responded to an inventory that measured students’ predisposition to music, pedagogical preferences, and cultural awareness. Furthermore, seven of the fifty-one students engaged in individual, semistructured interviews that measured students’ personal connection to musical experiences within their culture and communities. This study examined the minimal rate at which African American students participated in music programs through the conceptual lens of African-Centered Pedagogy and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. It was proposed that race, culture, musical preference, physiological needs, socioeconomic level, and community or family structures were variables that created significant inequities and lack of inclusion that influenced the recruitment and retention of African American students in school-based band and/or orchestra programs.

The quantitative data was used to investigate students’ predispositions to music, pedagogical preferences, and cultural awareness. The following six themes emerged: (a) student/teacher relationships, (b) student self-awareness, (c) teacher cultural acceptance of students, (d) student desirability of instrumental music classes, (e) teacher community and cultural consciousness, and (f) student outside perception and influence. Furthermore, qualitative data collected through individual interviews was used to develop a profound understanding of African American students’ perspectives and experiences in school-based band and orchestra programs. The following five invariant constituents and themes emerged: (a) music preference implies listening and/or performing; (b) family, friends influence music listening, music performance, and instrument selection; (c) self-esteem, physiological needs and self-actualization in class; (d) class attentiveness, practice, and teacher feedback influence achievement; and (e) student preference to activities combining music and culture.

This study also explored areas for action to expand research to identify what motivates academic success of African American students and broaden horizons of what motivates African American students to join and remain in band and orchestra programs. These areas of action are as follows: (a) individual awareness of the teacher, student, and school community; (b) district initiatives through professional development and band and orchestra framework; and (c) state curriculum to diversify music education and transform music studies.


Ed.D. Dissertation