Exploring the Artisitc Decsion-Making Processes of Professional Woodwind & Brass Players in Symphony

August 31, 2019 / By: Michael J. Anderson

A value held by numerous education disciplines is that educational practices should focus on process and reflect those of professionals.  It is unclear if this is true for instrumental music education, as research has rarely focused on the artistic decision-making processes of performers in large ensembles.  The role of the performer in a large ensemble is the primary experience of instrumental music education students in the United States and without an understanding of the decision-making processes professional musicians engage in, the instrumental music education community has been unable to determine whether educational practices reflect those of professionals.  As such, the purpose of this grounded theory qualitative research study was to explore the artistic decision-making processes of professional woodwind and brass players in symphony orchestras.

For this study, seven musicians were interviewed and their interviews were transcribed and coded.  There were enough commonalities found amongst the musicians to propose a generalized process of preparing an artistic performance as an orchestral woodwind or brass player.  The proposed theory has two phases–preparation and rehearsals/concerts–and each phase has attendant goals and stages.  The preparation phase features stages of listening, score study, personal practice, marking parts, and consideration of expressive elements.  The rehearsals/concerts phase features stages of finding consensus, leading and following, personal practice between rehearsals, and performances.  Future research would reveal whether or not the processes students engage in fit this theory.