The purpose of this study was to observe two middle school choruses at a single-site location and to investigate how movement, modeled by the teacher and imitated by the students, affected expressivity. Criteria for choosing the teacher and site were that (a) the teacher consistently employed strategies of movement in rehearsal, and (b) students imitated movements in rehearsal. Primary participants included choral students and choral director. Secondary participants included school administrators and ancillary staff. Ethnographic techniques of observing, interviewing, and artifact collecting was used in gathering data during one semester.
Building on classic kinesthetic music studies of Dalcroze, Kodaly, and Orff, cognitive and social development studies, nonverbal gesture studies, the mind-body philosophy, and contemporary gesture research, in this study I describe how middle school choral students experienced movement and its affect on expressivity in this particular context. The following questions guided this study: (1) How do middle school choral students describe their experience using movement in a choral rehearsal?, (2) How does the movement contribute to the students' ability to convey the expressive elements of the music?, (3) Why does the choral teacher use movement in rehearsal?, and (4) What are the specific movements being used and for what musical purposes are they employed?
The research design chosen for this study was a participant-observation case study of a middle school music director who used movement in choral rehearsals. This research is a single, within-site case study of a music teacher who used movement in choral rehearsals at a public middle school. Twice per week, the researcher observed, with permission, two choruses—Gr. 6 and Grade 7–8 mixed choruses—using digital audio recording and videotaping, field notes, and memo reporting. Primary and secondary participants were interviewed and recorded upon permission.
Implications of the study suggested, first and foremost, that movement in the middle school choral rehearsal did benefit singers' musical expression. Rehearsals opened with a brief time of aerobic movement with musical accompaniment and a vocal exercise session. This kinesthetic and vocal routine coupled with the teacher's personal gestures focused the choral students, developed social camaraderie, and brought deeper musical understanding in the rehearsal. The director then integrated creative personal movements to fit the expressive needs of the music. In turn, the movements/gestures were imitated by the students as they rehearsed the music. These expressive movements represented qualities of dynamics, phrasing, breathing, articulation, and interpretation. Observations of movement in rehearsal also showed that movement aided students in the recollection of expression and interpretation when performing the music.
Implications of the study also suggested that it would be advantageous for preservice music teachers to enroll in several courses of dance or aerobic movement in order to feel comfortable in their creative movement expressions. Accordingly, the integration of movement courses in the undergraduate music education curriculum is most important and needed. Additional themes that emerged from this case study were: developing independent musical thinking, listening and evaluating, student assistance and mentoring, improving piano skills, and teacher-mentoring.