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Seeking professional fulfillment: US symphony orchestra members in schools


Psychology of Music

Published online on


Symphony orchestra musicians have characterized their careers as stressful, boring, and lacking in artistic integrity. In addition, they typically do not score high on job satisfaction inventories. This study describes how symphony orchestra members seek professional fulfillment through participating in school-based programs. Forty-seven musicians from two US orchestras who were participating in their orchestra’s education program were interviewed and observed in schools working with children. The interview transcriptions and classroom observation field notes and summaries were analyzed and coded for emergent themes. The results indicated that the musicians valued four major outcomes of their work in classrooms: the opportunity to express their creativity that the development of their presentations provided, the relationships forged with schools and children, the impact they could have on individual students’ lives, and the opportunity to serve the community. Orchestra musicians’ perspectives of their career paths appear to be enhanced by providing opportunities for them to work closely with students, particularly in under-resourced schools in their communities.