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British Journal of Music Education

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Music, Gender and Education A Report on Some Exploratory


Lucy Green

British Journal of Music Education / Volume 10 / Issue 03 / November 1993, pp 219 - 253
DOI: 10.1017/S0265051700001789, Published online: 18 December 2008

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Lucy Green (1993). Music, Gender and Education A Report on Some Exploratory Research. British
Journal of Music Education, 10, pp 219-253 doi:10.1017/S0265051700001789

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Music, Gender and Education
A Report on Some Exploratory Research
Lucy Green

Sexual difference expresses itself not only in the musical practices and tastes of boys and
girls in schools, but also in teachers' discourse about pupils' musicality. The following
article explores this discourse through interpreting the findings of some questionnaire
research, which was intended to tap teachers' common-sense and sometimes unspoken
assumptions about gender, music and education. A considerable amount of both overt and
implicit consensus between teachers is revealed. Questions are raised about the implications
of such a consensus, both for the musical education of children, and for the musical roles of
men and women. This article was originally written and published as a Research Report
in the London University Institute of Education.

1. Context and aims of the research

The relationship of girls and boys to music in schools can impinge upon several
different areas of feminist enquiry. To make a rough division of these areas into three
broad categories, there is, firstly, that of compensatory history in the arts. During the
post-war years, inspired albeit sometimes ungratefully by Virginia Woolf s A Room of
One's Own, many scholars and writers discovered and re-discovered a rich history of
literature by women. A slightly later development took place in the history of art,
which today sports entire shelves of books about previously little-known as well as
contemporary women painters and sculptors. In music, later still and dating from
hardly more than a decade ago, writers and musicians began to dig up archives
uncovering hundreds of women performers and composers from the 10th century
onwards within Western classical music; to record information about contemporary
women musicians working in the classical, jazz and popular fields; and to explore the
musical position of women in many different cultures from an anthropological point
of view. This burgeoning interest has in the musical field been fuelled by an increasing
number of festivals, conferences and agencies involved in the promotion, discussion
and distribution of music by women, and providing support networks for women
Secondly, it is possible to distinguish a field, often overlapping with the first, which
can be called feminist aesthetics or cultural criticism. Not only has the work of women
writers, artists and musicians (to again name but three arts) been re-discovered, but
questions have been raised concerning the aesthetic quality and content of women's
and men's work in relation to gender and sexuality. Is there such a thing as a 'woman's
writing'; do women painters portray things differently from men; do women of
necessity write delicate music, rendering them incapable of composing large-scale
works? Questions such as these, which are about men's and women's creativity, and
its expression in art, may be approached from various starting-points, including the

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Music, gender and education Lucy Green

psychoanalytic, the philosophical and the sociological. There are also questions about
whether art itself helps to create and perpetuate discourses about gender and sexuality.
How are women portrayed in the early twentieth century novel; what does the classical
female nude tell us about sexual politics ? In music the connections between music and
words, especially their expression in opera, have been tapped as a rich source for
demonstrating ways in which musical structures can reflect or express implications
about gender and sexuality. When in the libretto, Da Pome's heroines say ' no', does
Mozart's music suggest that they really mean 'yes'? 2
Thirdly, there is the area of educational studies, particularly feminist work within
the sociology of education. Amongst several other approaches, there have been studies
about why different numbers of boys and girls opt for different curriculum subjects in
the secondary school. It is well known, for example, that far fewer girls than boys take
up the sciences. There are also studies about girls' and boys' relative achievements in
different subjects such as maths, in which girls statistically 'underachieve'. There has
been participant-observation work in classrooms, which explores ways in which girls,
boys and teachers behave and ways in which they articulate their expectations and
assumptions about this behaviour. There are also studies about the role of education
as a reproductive agent that helps to perpetuate relations between and among different
social groups, including those of class, ethnicity, and of course gender. Broadening out
from the school, there is work on popular culture or sub-cultures and the musical
positions of girls and boys within them.3
To recapitulate: the relationships of girls and boys to music in schools can impinge
upon any of these fascinating and complex areas. In the case of the first area, which
I have called compensatory history, there is for example work to be done on the
content and presentation of music in both historical and contemporaneous terms
within the school curriculum. A knowledge of the historical position of women in
music is also essential to any understanding of their present position both within and
outside educational networks. The second area invites new ways of understanding how
girls and boys relate to music as an aesthetic and cultural object, or how musical
meanings operate within this relationship. The third area could include studies of
pupils' musical behaviour and of teachers' related assumptions both within and
outside the classroom; or questions about how gendered musical relationships are
perpetuated by schooling. The research on which I am reporting here has implications
reaching into all these areas. However this particular report is situated primarily
within the third area, and represents a small-scale exploration into how teachers
understand aspects of girls' and boys' musical achievements in mixed secondary
schools. Inevitably, what is contained here is only the tip of an iceberg. I hope soon
to start work on a book, provisionally entitled Silent Music: Sexual/Musical Politics
and Education, in which all the issues will be more fully explored, with reference to
some of the wider areas which I outlined earlier.4
As many commentators are pointing out, there is an outstandingly obvious
conundrum between the shorter-term and the longer-term outcomes of music
education with respect to the sexes: unlike the sciences, girls opt for music courses at
14+ in far greater numbers than boys, and they achieve significantly higher grades.
The chart on p. 221 shows the figures for GCSE music since its first national sitting.
A similar level of educational success and endeavour has marked the history of girls'
school-based music education in the West since its beginnings in the 19th century, and
indeed that of girls' home-based music education for five centuries. Notwithstanding
this, throughout history and to a still quite surprising extent today, women's
representation among the ranks of highly valued and professional practitioners

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GCSE results for England broken down into gender

All Examining Boards; All Syllabi
(Figures provided by the Secondary Examinations and Assessment Council)

Total No. Boys No. Girls % Boys % Girls

Year entries Entered Entered Results Results

1988 30,005 10,637 19,635 A: 12-8 A: 140

B: 188 B:221
C:21-6 C: 23-6
D: 15-8 D: 16-4
E: 12-9 E: 119
F: 9-7 F: 7-6
G: 50 G: 31
U: 3-3 U: 1-3
1989 34,613 13,102 21,511 A: 13-4 A:150
B: 18-4 B:22-9
C:210 C:249
D: 15-6 D: 16-3
E: 13-6 E: 114
F: 10-2 F: 6-6
G: 61 G: 3-2
U: 1-6 U: 0-5
1990 34,249 13,434 20,815 A: 16-2 A:190
B: 18 9 B:22-3
C:20-9 C:23-2
D: 14-5 D: 14-3
E: 11-9 E: 10-6
F: 9-8 F: 6-7
G: 60 G: 32
U: 1-7 U: 0-7
1991 33,440 13,455 19,978 A: 160 A:191
B: 18 1 B:23-6
C:20-9 C:23-4
D : 15-2 D : 13-5
E: 11-7 E: 9-9
F: 10-2 F : 6-5
G: 6-3 G: 3-5
U: 1-6 U: 0-6

fulfilling almost any role within the classical, popular, rock or jazz fields has always
fallen far short of men's.5
The research aimed to explore this conundrum, not through statistics of what boys
and girls do in schools, but by tapping teachers' perceptions of boys' and girls' musical
relationships. The method used was questionnaire. I wanted to get at 'common sense'
notions about gendered musical relationships; to see how readily such notions can be
discerned; how much they are shared; what level of awareness of gender issues might
exist among secondary music teachers. Are we, as teachers and as musicians conscious
of anything that might underlie some of our more obvious and unquestioned
assumptions about gender? Do our assumptions actually serve to perpetuate any of the
situations that cause us to hold them in the first place? These were my central
concerns. The questionnaire revealed a great deal of consensus about various related
issues among teachers, and carries some interesting implications.
There are two central aims of this document. The first is to make available and
report the research, including most of the main issues that arose from it relating to the
above questions. In the pursuit of this aim there arises a general overview of various

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debates and issues concerning the field as a whole. Secondly, alongside this, the
teachers' responses point to a particular argument which can help to explain the
music-educational conundrum referred to above. This argument can be summed up
as follows: although on the face of it girls do better than boys at music in schools, there
is a hidden agenda existing at the interstices of pupils' behaviour and teachers'
perceptions, which partly explains, and partly perpetuates the exclusion of women as
a large group from the highest ranks of the musical world.

2. Structure and organisation of the research

Copies of the questionnaire were sent to two hundred state secondary co-educational
schools in three large English metropolitan areas and their semi-urban environs. I
received completed responses from seventy-eight music teachers working in thirty-
three schools in the South of England, twenty-two in the North, and twenty-three in
the Midlands. The particular questions that concern this report are reproduced below.
For each question, teachers were asked to put a ring around either 'Girls', 'Boys' or
'Both equally', and to give reasons for their answers.
A. In general, throughout the school, which group is the most successful at:
5. Playing an instrument
6. Singing
7. Composing
8. Listening
9. Notation-reading and -writing
B. Which group generally speaking prefers to engage in:
10. Classical music(s)
11. Popular music(s)
12. Other world music(s)
18. Add any further comments about gender and music which are of general
interest and/or relevance to your answers:
I was not looking for evidence of empirical reality. On the contrary, the questions
were phrased in an open and even deliberately ambiguous way designed to reduce to
a minimum any rhetorical implications and any nudging of answers. Thus it is left up
to the respondent to interpret, implicitly or explicitly, what is being meant by for
example the words 'success' or 'prefers' in the questions. Had I asked such closed
questions as 'Do more girls than boys sing in the choir?', or leading questions like 'Do
boys dominate the technology?', anyone who has ever worked in a mixed state
secondary school will assert that the responses would have been overwhelmingly
affirmative; and left me knowing little more than I did before. I was not primarily
trying to find out whether teachers would put a ring around ' Girls', ' Boys' or ' Both
equally', although as we will see these responses do contain much that is of interest.
What I really wanted to find out was what further comments teachers would put down
about the issues, what unprompted thoughts lay at the top of their consciousness. Not
all the teachers made further comments; of those that did, if a number of them have
all raised a certain issue they have done so voluntarily, without prompt and without
consultation. I have then taken such an issue to be a significant reflection of teachers'
views, impressions and concerns.
My interpretation of the questionnaire-response thus falls into two categories,
which run alongside each other. The first of these concerns the responses that involved

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Question No. of ringed responses

5: Playing 35 0 43 0
6: Singing 64 0 13 1
7: Composing 5 10 63 0
8: Listening 11 0 67 0
9: Notation 27 0 57 0
10: Classical 19 1 56 2
11: Popular 1 12 64 1
12: World 5 1 65 7
Girls Boys Both equally No response
Chart: 1

putting a ring around 'Girls', 'Boys' or 'Both equally'. These responses are shown
in Chart 1, above.
The majority of ringed responses overall indicated that boys and girls are seen to
achieve equal success or else prefer to engage equally in music. Two questions in
particular, no. 5 on playing and no. 6 on singing, indicated an impression of
overwhelmingly greater success on the part of girls rather than boys; and girls are also
ringed in modestly greater numbers than boys with relation to questions 8 on listening,
9 on notation, 10 on classical musics and 12 on world musics. Boys, on the other hand,
are only ever ringed marginally more than girls, and only with relation to two
questions: no. 7 on composing, and no. 11 on popular musics. The significance of
these answers will be explored during the course of the report.
Secondly, even though in most cases boys' and girls' musical achievements or tastes
are ringed as equal, there is an overwhelming consensus among teachers in their
further comments, that the sexes are equal but different. Indeed, many if not most of
the ringed responses indicating equality were qualified by comments. It is actually
these qualifications, the wealth of other reasons which teachers gave for their ringed
responses, and the many thoughts which they volunteered, that form the greater focus
of this report. I have therefore reported a great deal of the information through the
teachers' own words. At first glance this may seem unnecessary, but it is necessary,
precisely because it is the teachers' responses that I'm interested in, not any facts or
figures. In many cases I have included a representative sample of comments, and I
always indicate where this is so; in other cases I feel the impact of the comments would
be far too distorted were I to select a sample, and I have then included all the relevant
There is a complex relationship or a type of constant slippage between teachers'
perceptions of empirical reality, and empirical reality as it might be perceived by other
people. Furthermore the realm of the aesthetic which music inhabits is non-empirical.
If a large majority of teachers say, as in fact they do, that more girls than boys come
to the choir, then no-one would wish to query that readily identifiable fact. If however
many of them say that girls are less creative or imaginative than boys, such a
perception would be far harder to ' prove' and we would need recourse to the areas of
compensatory history, aesthetics, sociology and so on in order to seriously consider it
and its implications. Such complex impressions on the part of teachers by no means
arise from ignorance or prejudice: on the contrary they are the result of powerful,
historically informed, shared perspectives on musical reality. Even though as a
commentator upon these perspectives I must to some extent stand outside them, that
does not mean that I cannot myself be implicated in them: indeed, many of the
impressions which teachers report are ones that I recognise and share from my own

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experience. It is rarely a question that people are simply wrong or right in such

3. Reaction to the research topic

In question 18 where teachers were invited to make any further comments, nine
volunteered what they thought of the research topic, and all but one was interested or
entirely positive. Below is a sample of the positive comments:
School 23, Q. 18: further comments
I found this quite interesting to fill in - it's made me think about something I've
been wondering about since coming to a mixed school....
Will be very interested to hear the results of your survey,
School 22, Q. 18: further comments
... Interesting Questionnaire - I hope you get some results.
School 40, Q. 18: further comments
I feel this is a very important area that has often been neglected in research. Our
school is affected by gender and cultural stereotypes and as a department we have
worked to try and overcome associated problems through consciously adopting
methods and content appropriate to this aim. Rural and semi-rural areas often
neglect the need to work towards equal opportunities and it is in these areas that
many pre-conceptions flourish without being challenged.
I would be willing to offer any further help in your study if required!
All the best!
A further nine teachers say that they consciously aim to provide equal opportunity
for their pupils. There is in fact an ambivalence here: whilst these teachers clearly
endorse the importance of providing equal opportunity, some of them at the same time
appear to regard its provision as something which can quite straightforwardly be
assured by making and following a policy. The ambivalence then surrounds the
complexity of equality, rather than its desirability. These answers appear with
reference to several different questions. Again there follows a sample taken from
seventeen comments altogether:
School 30, Q. 5: playing Both equally
Equality of access and provision is a key issue in this school and has been so
for a number of years. This is adopted too at middle school age, when
children commence instrumental lessons...
School 46, Q. 5: playing Both equally
All have same opportunities, without any pressure to move in particular
directions, within the classroom...
School 78, Q. 7: composing Both equally
Input is given equally and outside influences are generally limited in this area.
School 1, Q. 12: world music(s) Both equally
Covered in curriculum music so all have equal opps.
School 5, Q. 18: further comments
Equal Opportunities hold a prominent position in the ethos of the school and
this is reflected in access and attitudes to Music.
On the more negative side of the reaction there was only one wholeheartedly
antipathetical comment:
School 70, Q. 18: further comments

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Spend less time, money and energy researching dubious gender issues and devote
time, money and energy to providing adequate resources.
However other teachers also were unenthusiastic in the sense that they said some
other factor was more important than gender, usually ability. Here are three out of
eight such comments:
School 39, Q. 5: playing Both equally
I believe that a musical talent will always out. If it is encouraged by the
presence of an active musical tradition within school anyone will respond in
accordance with their musical ability.
School 64, Q. 7: composing Both equally
I make no distinction between sex, ethnic origins etc. in my classroom - every
pupil is an individual - and I encourage pupils to work together and share
ideas and opinions at all times and then make decisions based on discussion.
School 54, Q. 8: listening Both equally
I can see no differences - academic ability and the ability to concentrate is
more important than gender.
Three others suggest that gender rarely or never arises:
School 25, Q. 10: classical music(s) Both equally
Maybe it's my teaching (for good or ill) but I've never given the matter any
thought. One might have thought it might have arisen in many years'
experience but it hasn't. It's CLASS RESPONSE (i.e. a whole group) rather
than individuals (even if such a response appears to be individually led).
School 13, Q. 18: further comments
The issue of gender rarely occurs within the classroom. There are only two
issues that do arise:...
School 37, Q. 18: further comments
I've never found that the sex of a person has dictated the way they feel about
participation/taste in musical things.
There appears then to be a general awareness about gender differences with respect
to music on the part of a number of teachers; although only one comments upon what
I have called the conundrum, that girls' and boys' success is reversed between school
and the professional world of music:
School 45, Q. 18: further comments
... It is interesting that girls generally take music particularly to A level, but are
underrepresented at higher levels in the music business.
On the other hand, there is an apparent lack of awareness about or even a denial of
any gender differences on the part of a few teachers above. We will also see later that
a small number of other teachers express concern for the provision of equal
opportunity, with special reference to helping boys rather than girls. The reason for
this is of course the already mentioned greater success or interest of girls in music-
education, which I will now address.

4. Greater success and interest of girls: singing and playing

With regard to singing, as Chart 1 (section 2) shows, sixty-four out of the seventy-
eight teachers put a ring indicating that girls are more successful at it than boys.
Twenty-six of these volunteer the further information that more girls take part in choir

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or other extra-curricular group-singing activities, often to the total exclusion of boys.

No teachers ring boys as being more successful singers than girls. In their comments,
thirty-one teachers say that boys are shy, reticent or awkward about singing in ways
that are connected to puberty or to the difficulties caused by the voice breaking. Only
thirteen teachers say that boys and girls are equal in singing.
As instrumentalists in schools also, girls are again perceived to be more successful
and numerous than boys. Thirty-five teachers indicate by a ring that girls are more
successful, forty-three that both sexes are equal, and none that boys are more
successful. Twenty-nine teachers further comment that again, more girls than boys
play instruments, often outnumbering boys by 2:1 and in many cases significantly
more. Even among those who ring 'Both equally', six comment that more girls play.
Two further teachers mention that more girls than boys participate in extra-curricular
activities and concerts, without specifying whether they mean instrumental or vocal.
Not surprisingly, whereas no teacher suggests that girls are in any way at a
disadvantage, the responses of several teachers suggest that boys are in need of remedial
help. Here are three explicit expressions of this:
School 16, Q. 18: further comments
More girls than boys participate in Concerts and musical activities... It is a
problem we have tried to address. In the end music is a voluntary activity and a
teacher can only encourage boys to participate. I would be glad to hear any
suggestions as to how to get more boys involved.
School 52, Q. 18: further comments
... The important thing, I feel, is that all pupils enjoy music and that (boys in
particular) feel comfortable and 'normal' doing music. (In my day boys who did
music were considered very strange!) The opportunity is there for everyone to get
something out of music at whatever level they are able to achieve...
School 56, Q. 6: singing Girls
Very few boys make an attempt to sing... I feel that I don't have enough
training to be able to overcome this. Persuasive measures or boosting
confidence don't solve the problem.
So girls are not disadvantaged or underachieving in school music education: boys
are. Therefore why conduct this research from a feminist point of view at all?
I will attempt to show that structures of sexual ideology are present within the
framework of girls apparently being advantaged and more successful. As readers may
already have realised, regarding singing, there is no conundrum between girls' vocal
achievements in school and women's involvement in singing after school. Women
have for five centuries in the West gone on to be successful and abundant professional
vocalists, and in so far as they have composed and improvised music at all, song is the
genre in which above all they have excelled - both classical and popular. Women have
been involved as amateur singers in many capacities, and in practically all cultures
women sing in the home, whence the image of a mother singing to her baby has
powerful, and almost universal sway. However, this freedom of woman to sing does
not represent her release from musical and general cultural definitions imposed upon
her by her sex.
Firstly, the voice is the one musical instrument that is completely lacking in
technology: it has no links with anything outside the intimacy of the self, and no
pseudo-scientific masculine overtones. Its use by women affirms and does not
challenge the unsuitability of any serious and lasting connection between women and
instruments, women and technology; it also affirms an image of woman as in tune

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with, or prey to the vicissitudes of nature and the body. These attributed non-
technological, natural characteristics of womanhood have a very long history and as we
will see are evident even in this short study.6 Secondly, the image of the paid female
singer who puts body and voice on public display is associated in many cultures with
that of the sexual temptress or prostitute: this association represents an alternative face
of woman which has always been present as the corollary of the perfect wife and
mother who sings to her baby. The connection between the woman singer and her
sexual availability has been made for millenia, just as has that between the loving
singer of lullabies and her maternal care. Thus the age-old dichotomy of woman as
whore/madonna is reproduced in her musical predominance as a singer.7
Regarding the playing of instruments, the case is different because as with most
other musical roles, the educational success of girls as instrumentalists does not lead
on to the predominance of women in the professional world of instrumentalists.
Indeed throughout history womens' roles as instrumentalists have been highly
circumscribed. From earliest known history they have played mainly plucked string
and keyboard instruments, predominantly to accompany singing in the home, or as
courtesans. As the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries progressed a few women
instrumentalists began to perform professionally, and increasing numbers of women
gradually took up bowed string, woodwind and brass instruments. Indeed, by the
Victorian era there were literally hundreds of professional all-women orchestras and
bands. However women were still excluded from top-ranking orchestras. Tragically
depleted ranks caused by the wars allowed women a glimpse into these orchestras, only
to be dislodged once the wars were over. Women's acceptability as players in the
developing jazz and popular traditions has been no easier and they have even perhaps
experienced more restrictions in these fields than in the classical field. The situation
today has changed slightly but women still only form a tiny minority of professional
instrumentalists in all fields, and are still virtually absent from the ranks of some
instruments.8 Contrary to this history of absence from professional instrumental
performance, as I've already noted, girls have continued to be more successful and
abundant instrumentalists than boys at the school level. I will now go on to further
explore this conundrum by taking a closer look at what I will call style. It is of course
not just a case of knowing that more girls sing or play instruments than boys, but
vitally, what musical styles and activities they are involved in, and what personal style
they are perceived to bring to this involvement. The word style here thus refers with
purposeful double-entendre, to both musical style, and personal style.

5. Style: girls
Teachers' perceptions of boys' and girls' musical proclivities revealed a clear
distinction between 'feminine' as against 'masculine' styles, and stark differences
between girls' and boys' musical relationships. Firstly, femininity is linked with
feelings, with delicacy, or with decoration:
School 39, Q. 6: singing Girls
... Girls, on the other hand, see singing as an extension of their feelings, I
believe; something they are more in touch with than boys.
School 39, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
Classical music seems to affect the feminine principle of anima as outlined by
School 40, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls

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Particularly higher up the age range.

Respond more easily to emotional stimulus.
School 13, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
I think the boys tend to prefer loud, electronically produced sounds, with that
constant electronic drum beat in it!
Girls seem to be prepared to play more ' delicate' music. Both, however, are
happy to play classical music adapted for keyboards.
School 76, Q. 8: listening Both equally
(GCSE) Just a comment: Girls tend to be more 'flowery' in approach to
answering questions and analysing, boys seem more 'to the point'. (GCSE
Girls are understood to possess more highly developed communication skills than
School 23, Q. 5: playing Girls
... More oriented towards group behaviour in many ways.
School 50, Q. 5: playing Girls
... (2) In the early years at Secondary School, team support/attitude amongst
girls is stronger...
School 34, Q. 9: notation Girls
Girls have the deeper sense of the need for communication and therefore give
more time to this aspect of music.
School 75, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
... I feel that because much of the classical music performed here is SOCIAL
i.e. where no ONE player takes the limelight - the girls, seemingly more
egalitarian, are more suited to this than boys!
In connection with this, girls are seen to be more open-minded, in a series of
answers that merge mostly on classical and on world musics. Below is a sample taken
from eight comments:
School 49, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
Girls seem to be more open and prepared to listen to a wider range of music.
School 38, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
Not sure why. Possibly it may be that girls are more open-minded or more
amenable - or perhaps they respond more easily to music...
School 33, Q. 12: world music(s) Girls
They are more tolerant and understanding. Can appreciate other faiths and
School 40, Q. 12: world music(s) Girls
Appear more responsive and 'open' about cultural variety.
School 53, Q. 12: world music(s) Girls
In the Lower school I find girls generally have a more open mind to listen to
unfamiliar sounds, rhythms, scales, instruments etc.
There is only one contradiction to the impression that girls are more open:
School 75, Q. 8: listening Both equally
... the girls are always better prepared and therefore more aware of what they
are listening for but seem to have more of a problem with concentration span
than boys. Boys are generally less well prepared but have a longer concentration

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span and are more broad-minded and open minded about what they listen
The statement above, that girls lack concentration also contradicts the much more
popular idea that girls concentrate better, work harder, or are more mature, motivated,
reliable and/or persevering than boys. I do not want to reduce the impact of this, so
here are all the relevant comments:
School 7, Q. 5: playing Girls
More motivated.
More mature.
School 10, Q. 5: playing Girls
Persevere for a longer period.
Punctual at lessons...
School 16, Q. 5: playing Girls
... All pupils have equal opportunity to take part but girls tend to favour and
work harder at their studies... Girls tend to be more successful academically.
School 19, Q. 5: playing Girls
1. Girls generally have more stickability.
2. Boys generally get disheartened very quickly if they don't make rapid
progress and consequently give up easily...
School 27, Q. 5: playing Girls
Girls are more reliable, remember lessons, instruments, times. Practice harder.
School 33, Q. 5: playing Girls
Apply themselves to practice, more organized, not so easily influenced by
peers or other activities, i.e. sport.
School 34, Q. 5: playing Girls
In classroom projects it is equal - boys and girls but many more girls are
prepared to persevere and join in extra curricular activities
School 35, Q. 5: playing Girls
... Less peer-pressure on girls.
School 38, Q. 5: playing Girls
... Girls tend to have greater ' stickability' than boys - possibly peer-pressure
on boys to do other things.
School 40, Q. 5: playing Girls
More girls than boys opt into our instrumental tuition scheme and tend to
continue playing for a longer period of time...
School 41, Q. 5: playing Girls
They seem to persevere more. Stickability.
School 42, Q. 5: playing Girls
Girls seem generally keener to learn and produce completed performances.
Many lads tend to mess around with equipment.
School 43, Q. 5: playing Girls
There is a greater numerical take up amongst girls and they tend to stick at it
School 45, Q. 5: playing Girls
More girls elect to play an instrument and continue to play whereas boys have
a go and give up more readily...
School 46, Q. 5: playing Both equally
... Outside the classroom, a few more girls than boys seem to continue playing
an orchestral instrument once begun.

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School 48, Q. 5: playing Girls

They seem to have more staying power and have a desire to improve in
orchestral instrument situation.
On classroom instruments the boys come closer, probably because the work is
achievable within a short space of time and needs no sacrifice of 'own time'.
School 49, Q. 5: playing Girls
... The boys that do have lessons seem to drop the commitment more easily...
School 50, Q. 5: playing Girls
... (3) Girls more mature earlier, and have a corresponding commitment to
their work.
School 52, Q. 5: playing Girls
Girls on the whole 'stick' at an instrument, therefore overcoming the
difficulties of learning and moving on to the more satisfying stage. Boys on the
whole tend to give up much more easily...
School 56, Q. 5: playing Girls
... The boys who have attempted to play, tried brass instruments. They gave
up within weeks...
School 58, Q. 5: playing Girls
... (b) ' Staying power'...
School 71, Q. 5: playing Girls
...2. I find that girls are more prepared to stick with the instrument than
School 19, Q. 6: singing Girls
...2. Poor motivation [on the part of boys]...
School 32, Q. 6: singing Both equally
... at the last concert there were 3 girls, 1 boy, but that's because those were
the people who obeyed their instructions.
School 33, Q. 6: singing Girls
Clearer sight of how enjoyable it can be...
School 41, Q. 6: singing Girls
In the 1st two years girls + boys sing equally well but by 9th year some boys
seem to think it's below them.
School 49, Q. 6: singing Girls
In the lower age range 11-13 I would suggest that the groups are equal...
Overall the girls still show a consistent commitment throughout the process.
School 52, Q. 6: singing Girls
Although many boys enjoy singing particularly in the lower years, girls work
harder at it and so generally produce a better sound...
School 58, Q. 6: singing Girls
(a) confidence in themselves.
School 70, Q. 6: singing Girls
Girls are more confident, especially by year 8 and 9. Both equally in year 7.
School 5, Q. 5: composing Girls
They get down to work faster and see the task through.
School 48, Q. 8: listening Both equally
... Sustained listening is best completed by girls.
School 68, Q. 8: listening Girls
They seem to find it easier to concentrate and think more carefully about
presentation of ideas.
School 76, Q. 8: listening Both equally

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... In some Lower school classes, I would say that girls have a longer
concentration span, but many boys are v. imaginative.
School 68, Q. 9: notation Girls
Again, because concentration spans seem longer.
School 78, Q. 9: notation Girls
Happier to learn systematically the rules and facts. Boys can't be bothered.
School 58, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
They seem to obtain a grasp of its message at an earlier age.
School 43, Q. 18: further comments
... Girls are more reliable and consistent...

Six teachers say that girls are better than boys at notation, for the reason that more
of them play instruments whose traditions involve musical literacy. A further thirteen
teachers attribute girls with superior writing abilities based on greater pride or else in
the absence of any explanation. Here is a sample:

School 28, Q. 7: composing Both equally

... The boys do well using an improvisatory approach - they are less inclined
to want to produce a ' score' for their work. The girls work more meth-
odically, and like writing things down. They take more pride in presenting a
well-written score.
School 33, Q. 9: notation Girls
Take more pride in how their work is presented therefore try hard to write
notation, complete evaluation sheets.
School 42, Q. 9: notation Girls
Girls generally like to present their work in a neat and orderly fashion, they
enjoy making their work presentable.

Three teachers disagree: for example:

School 25, Q. 9: notation Both equally

Perhaps there's a myth that girls are neater and more methodical. In my
experience it is not so.

6. Style: boys
Boys' style is seen to contrast starkly. A lot of comments further underline boys'
already noted embarrassment about the voice, by observing that various aspects of
music in school are considered 'un-macho' or 'cissy'. In this, boys are said to be
greatly influenced by negative peer-group pressure, a factor which does not show up
regarding girls. The attraction of sports activities, which frequently vie with music for
extra-curricular time in a school, is often also mentioned as a disincentive to boys, but
again, never once with reference to girls. The following is not a sample of the

School 8, Q. 5: playing Girls

... ' Image' - Girls music, Boys sport
School 16, Q. 5: playing Girls
More socially acceptable for girls to play instruments... Social stigma very
powerful. Last week one pupil doing GCSE refused to carry his guitar outside
while his peers were at games. He did not want them to know. We have a

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significant number of boys who don't care what others think - they do have to
be quite strong. Don't know how to change the situation...
School 19, Q. 5: playing Girls
...3. Boys are more aware of peer group pressure-it is still not seen as to give
one ' street cred.' if one plays an orchestral instrument...
School 20, Q. 5: playing Girls
Peer pressure on boys - negative.
School 35, Q. 5: playing Girls
... Less peer-pressure on girls.
School 38, Q. 5: playing Girls
More girls show an initial interest in playing an instrument... Possibly peer
pressure on boys to do other things.
School 40, Q. 5: playing Girls
... Despite continued efforts to promote equal opportunities attitudes boys do
generally see music, particularly ' orchestral' instrumental tuition as a ' female'
un-macho pastime.
School 49, Q. 5: playing Girls
... The boys that do have lessons seem to drop the commitment more easily,
possibly due to peer pressure and the idea of being a sissy for playing an
School 50, Q. 5: playing Girls
(1) Seen as an acceptable activity by peers...
School 53, Q. 5: playing Girls
... Boys in general still feel more pulled to sports activities and some still
suffer torments from other boys about music being 'cissy'. This has improved
greatly in recent years but there is still an undercurrent...
School 56, Q. 5: playing Girls
... The boys who have attempted to play, tried brass instruments. They gave
up within weeks. Possibly fear of peer group pressure.
School 57, Q. 5: playing Girls
... The reasons I think we have more girls is...
(b) boys prefer sport
(c) boys bow to peer group pressure.
School 60, Q. 5: playing Girls
... I suspect it's a question of 'image' - boys can get a considerable amount of
mocking from their peer group.
School 62, Q. 5: playing Girls
Boys at 13-16 years tend to be more bothered about spending time socialising
with peers; practising at home and lunchtime interferes with social events,
such as football etc.
School 73, Q. 5: playing Girls
Boys more interested in sport in playground.
Girls more willing to learn instrument...
School 78, Q. 5: playing Girls
In the area in which we work there is a very male dominated culture which
requires boys to be 'macho' and peer group pressure is strong insisting that
this is 'cissy'
School 4, Q. 6: singing Girls
Boys have too immature an attitude to this activity probably due to parental
opinion and pressure, and also the emphasis on sport...

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School 6, Q. 6: singing Both equally

Both are equally capable of singing. Often singing is associated as a female
activity though...
School 7, Q. 6: singing Girls
Less inhibited. No stigma attached, i.e. boys think it is 'sissy'.
School 8, Q. 6: singing Girls
... Image not ' cool' for boys.
School 15, Q. 6: singing Girls
... Some boys are very influenced by the attitude of their friends.
School 17, Q. 6: singing Girls
In my present (mixed) school it is fairly apparent that singing is thought of as
'non-macho' by the boys...
School 19, Q. 6: singing Girls
1. Peer group pressure...
School 21, Q. 6: singing Girls
... Also I think a lot of boys are put off singing by their feelings that it is a
girls' activity...
School 22, Q. 6: singing Girls
Past Year seven - boys seem reluctant to join in with general sing - Part of the
development of awareness of the ' male' role in society. However Boys have no
qualms about 'singing' rap or ragga as it represents most of their 'macho'
School 28, Q. 6: singing Girls
... The girls are also more confident when singing, on the whole... There is
perhaps a feeling among boys that singing does not improve their 'street-
School 35, Q. 6: singing Girls Both equally
[counted on chart as both equally]
Boys are successful in main school, though it is hard to get the numbers.
Singing seems to have little 'street cred.'...
School 38, Q. 6: singing Girls
Singing is not seen as an activity for boys and so the girls tend to form the
much greater majority of choirs...
School 39, Q. 6: singing Girls
Peer group pressure on boys is a perennial problem. Most see singing as a no-
go area...
School 41, Q. 6: singing Girls
In the 1st two years girls + boys sing equally well but by 9th year some boys
seem to think it's below them.
School 42, Q. 6: singing Girls
Very few boys enjoy singing or come to choir, they feel it is not a macho thing
to do!
School 47, Q. 6: singing Girls
... the choir is mostly girls because the boys perceive it is a girls' activity...
School 55, Q. 6: singing Girls
X [town] is a rather parochial, male dominated area. Heavy brass band/rugby
playing area - rather macho type of attitude towards singing (and music in
School 56, Q. 6: singing Girls
Very few boys make an attempt to sing. It is considered unfashionable...

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School 57, Q. 6: singing Girls

Boys decide it is cissy to sing.
School 60, Q. 6: singing Girls
Again 1, image-...
School 63, Q. 6: singing Girls
... Our school choir is all girls - two boys joined at the start of the school year,
and left after the first rehearsal because they were the only 2 boys.
School 67, Q. 6: singing Girls
Not regarded as the 'done thing' by boys. Shouldn't be seen doing it!
School 69, Q. 6: singing Girls
... Boys... seem to be more self conscious than girls and bow more to peer
School 72, Q. 6: singing Girls
Presumably as a result of a perception held by pupils that singing is not
something that secondary age boys should be interested in...
School 75, Q. 6: singing Girls
... the physical changes which affect boys PL US peer group pressure results in
a diffidence not noticeable lower down the school.
School 77, Q. 6: singing Girls
Inhibitions and peer pressure cause problems for both sexes but boys are
School 42, Q. 6: singing Girls
Very few boys enjoy singing or come to choir, they feel it is not a macho thing
to do!
School 47, Q. 6: singing Girls
...the choir is mostly girls because the boys perceive it is a girls' activity...
School 22, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
Again - classical music is 'classified' by a lot of contemporary youth pro-
grammes so it is difficult for teenage boys to step out of their macho role...
School 38, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
... It may be partly to do with the fact that it's not the done thing for boys to
admit to liking anything that might loosely be described as 'classical'.
School 39, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
... While it is true that [some] boys respond well I think, again, peer group
influence on boys stops this.
School 43, Q. 18: further comments
There is much peer pressure amongst boys that music still has a ' cissy'
School 50, Q. 18: further comments
With the advent of MUSIC TECHNOLOGY - Music (at GCSE especially)
has become less of a 'feminine' activity/option choice.
In Orchestral/vocal (classical) performance the trend is to ever increasing
female domination - especially where a school has a successful (and sometimes
dominating) sports tradition.
Some artificial manipulation of gender at GCSE Music - albeit undesigned -
can occur via option pool composition. E.g. If music is set against the sciences
or 2nd Modern Foreign Language:
If against SCIENCE - girls dominate Music option/choice
If against MOD LANG - boys dominate Music option/choice...
School 51, Q. 18: further comments

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... Boys do not generally stay with the recorder group for very long.
I try to interest them, but I fear peer pressure is stronger.
Boys who do not play recorders tend to taunt those who do.
'It's not "macho" to play a recorder with all those girls!'
Boys are seen as extroverts or show-offs:
School 43, Q. 7: composing Both equally
Boys operate at the extremes. Their work is more extrovert generally but they
do tend to misbehave more.
These comments also apply to question 8-12.
School 19, Q. 9: notation Girls
...2. Boys have generally acquired less skills in this area at Junior Schools
hence they have to compete with the girls. Consequently their motivation is
poor - they prefer to show off [rather] than working at developing their skills.
School 74, Q. 18: further comments
... Boys love to show off on keyboards and guitars...
Recorder and orchestra groups - all girls 50 % white/Asian.
School 65, Q. 6: singing Both equally
... Willingness to sing is, in my experience at this school, often one attribute
of an extrovert personality, usually that of a boy with a loud voice...
The last comment links extroversion with boys' willingness to sing: interestingly,
seven other teachers mention that boys will sing more willingly if in a stage
production. The stage provides both a mask, and an audience: it is not without
significance that boys find it a more possible arena for the voice.
In connection with this, boys are seen to be active and to prefer doing something
rather than sitting still:
School 22, Q. 8: listening Girls
Sitting still for any length of time is quite hard for most adolescent boys and
Music is no exception. Even if it is music they like (again, rap, ragga) they
tend to 'move to the music' rather than listen.
School 74, Q. 8: listening Girls
Boys are often restless.
School 76, Q. 12: world music(s) Both equally
(Haven't looked into this closely enough yet) - although boys especially enjoy
rhythmic music.
In areas other than singing, boys are also understood to have more confidence than
girls. Here is a sample from five comments:
School 6, Q. 7: composing Boys
Boys tend to have more confidence and are more willing to 'have a go'.
School 27, Q. 8: listening Both equally
Girls often know answers, but don't have the confidence to put up their hand.
Boys are quite happy to have a go. On the whole they are equal.
School 52, Q. 8: listening Girls
Boys often don't have the patience to listen carefully and often think they
already know it all!

7. Style and creativity

I have not so far mentioned very much about teachers' responses regarding
composition or musical creativity in the classroom. I now want to inject the issue of

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creativity into the presentation of style-differences. It is of course well-known that few

women have ever made a name as composers in the history of Western classical music,
or as improvisers, composers or innovators in jazz or popular musics. Although as I
noted at the beginning of this report the foundations for this knowledge are now being
challenged, there is a clear history of at best, wonder and fascination, and at worst,
prejudice and suspicion surrounding women composers.9 As we saw earlier, the ringed
responses shown on Chart 1 (section 2) attribute boys with greater success than girls
in only two areas, of which composing is one. However, it is only ten teachers who ring
boys in this respect, andfiveteachers do ring girls. All in all, teachers' responses about
composition displayed less consensus, and their comments were thinner and fewer
than those about the more empirically verifiable, that is, visible and audible activities
of singing and playing. However, those answers that do refer to differences in the
compositional or creative styles of girls and boys, are understandably highly informed
by music history; and they tend to reproduce psychologistic explanations for that
history. Thus, firstly, the greater confidence which as we have already seen, boys are
understood to have in areas other than singing, is linked to greater imagination or
creative spark:

School 19, Q. 7: composing Boys

1. Girls generally feel less confident in this area than re-creating music.
2. Boys are more inclined to experiment and have more confidence to assert
themselves and their ideas when composing in groups.
School 27, Q. 7: composing Boys
At this school the boys are more creative and seem more interested in
composition. Gain higher grades than girls + are more confident during
School 42, Q. 7: composing Both equally
Given a motivating task, equal amounts of pupils work. Boys tend to need
initial starting points. Girls like lots of reassurance.
The following all concur that boys have more imagination, creative spark or
improvisatory ability than girls. As well as reproducing historically-informed common
sense, this understanding carries further the earlier theme, which is the converse
impression that girls work harder, are more methodical, more persevering and more
conservative than boys. Again, this is not a sample:
School 15, Q. 7: composing Boys
I would not like to say which are the more ' successful' but on the whole, boys
produce more imaginative work than girls.
School 38, Q. 7: composing Both equally
Both equally successful, though for different reasons. The boys do well using
an improvisatory approach - they are less inclined to want to produce a ' score'
for their work. The girls work more methodically, and like writing things
down. They take more pride in presenting a well-written score.
School 33, Q. 7: composing Boys
Boys not so afraid to be inventive, and experiment - girls tend to stick to set
School 38, Q. 7: composing Both equally
No real difference. Girls tend to be more traditional and conservative in their
School 52, Q. 7: composing Both equally

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Although more girls in the upper years study music, much of the creative,
adventurous composing comes from boys. Girls tend to be more conservative.
School 53, Q. 7: composing Both equally
I find each sex has its own problems and strong points. With more girls
playing instruments they find composing at a piano or keyboard easier -
especially if it is in a 'classical' style. However, boys are much more
adventurous and not worried about playing wrong notes or putting unusual
sounds together, so achieve some pleasing results.
School 56, Q. 7: composing Boys
The number of boys composing (1 at GCSE+ 1 at 'A' Level) is smaller, but
the standard is higher.
Natural ability - girls seem to have to work harder + don't have as much
natural ability. Not sure why!
School 66, Q. 7: composing Both equally
At GCSE level most pupils are already performers and tend to write music
with their instrument in mind. At 13/14 years girls tend to produce more
'serious' compositions. The boys enjoy producing sounds rather than melodic
School 68, Q. 7: composing Both equally
Difficult to answer. It is my experience that girls are better when it comes to
exercises in composing and getting down to work, but quite a few of the boys
show imagination and ability.
School 71, Q. 7: composing Boys
Generally, boys seem to have a greater creative spark than girls.
In my experience I have had many better boy composers than girls. The
girls seem often to be devoid of ideas, + have a problem developing musical
School 27, Q. 9: notation Girls
Girls are more interested in writing things down and getting it right. Boys
would rather be creative and not bother learning how to write/record work.

8. Technology and the pop/classical split

One teacher explicitly links boys' creativity to their affinity with technology, and many
others note that boys have some extra interest in technology compared to girls. Often
this is also linked with both composition and popular music:
School 42, Q. 5: playing Girls
Girls seem generally keener to learn and produce completed performances.
Many lads tend to mess around with equipment.
School 76, Q. 5: playing Both equally
Equally successful at playing when the commitment is there, but more girls
than boys actually have instrumental lessons within school. However, a
growing interest amongst the boys in electronics (keyboards, guitars) plus
School 4, Q. 7: composing Boys
The boys seem on the whole to be excited more by the concept of hands-on
creativity, although only just!
School 8, Q. 7: composing Both equally
Boys tend to be more keen on electronics and music, girls more notation/
written based...

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School 38, Q. 7: composing Both equally

No real difference. Girls tend to be more traditional and conservative in their
compositions - possibly because the boys are more comfortable with the
technology required to compose more experimentally. Despite my best efforts,
the boys tend to monopolise computers, multi-track recorders, sequencers etc.
and girls mistrust the technology.
School 50, Q. 7: composing Both equally
... boys (unless checked) dominate music technology resources: synthesizers/
computer controlled notation; girls therefore veer towards orchestral insts if
School 55, Q. 7: composing Boys
Tend to be more interested in technology - computers/sequencers etc. They
make more use of this and it aids the compositional process.
School 3, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
Interest developed within school through recording studio.
School 77, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
Boys have more interest in technical equipment and electric guitars etc.
School 3, Q. 18: further comments
In the Lower School Females form the majority of musicians due to intake
from Junior Schools. Due to inclusion of IT into subject + fully equipped
recording studio the bias is redressed by the top end of the school.
School 16, Q. 18: further comments
... Boys tend to be more interested in Technology and percussion - a number
of boys are working hard at these activities.
School 47, Q. 18: further comments
Since the option system has changed and we have been able to introduce
keyboards in Year 9, the uptake of music has been much more balanced, [i.e.
more boys take it]
School 50, Q. 18: further comments
With the advent of MUSIC TECHNOLOGY - Music (at GCSE especially)
has become less of a 'feminine' activity/option choice...
School 76, Q. 18: further comments
It would appear that in the area of choral/vocal work females are generally
more evident than males. But I think the more technological the involvement
(i.e. computers, synths etc.) the more the males tend to come to the fore...
There are just two contradictions to the appearance that boys have a greater affinity
with, or more strongly, tend to dominate, technology:-
School 41, Q. 7: composing Both equally
Both sexes given equal opportunities + equipment.
School 58, Q. 7: composing Both equally
With the advent of computer assisted work. They are only restricted by the
size of their imagination and not their lack of ability on a keyboard.
As I have already noted, Chart 1 (section 2) shows only two areas in which more
teachers ringed boys than girls: one of these areas was composition which is discussed
in the previous section; the other area was popular music. Twelve teachers ringed
boys, and only one teacher ringed girls, as preferring to engage in popular musics. On
the other hand, regarding classical musics, nineteen teachers ringed girls, and only one
ringed boys. In fact, as we have already seen to some extent, many more teachers

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further underline these tendencies of boys towards popular and girls towards classical
musics, by the comments that they make.
Not only do twenty-nine teachers comment that more girls than boys play
instruments (see section 4), but many also say that girls and boys play different
instruments: girls, classical or traditional orchestral instruments, most notably the
flute and violin; and boys, brass, percussion, electronic instruments or those
associated mainly with popular music. Many of the teachers describe these leanings as
strong tendencies, some as stark differences: for example a teacher who says that out
of fifty flute players in her school, not one is a boy. The reports of these teachers can
again readily be backed up with staggering effect by collections of figures from almost
any mixed secondary school or Local Education Authority which provides
instrumental lessons.
Although as we saw earlier, boys do not like singing in choirs, and in many cases in
class lessons too, five teachers note that boys do like singing in popular or rock bands:
School 3, Q. 6: singing Girls
... Top end of school, boys tend to start singing in Rock Groups.
School 11, Q. 6: singing Girls
Not much singing has been done at this school for some time. Classroom
singing worked well with both sexes in yr. 7. Beyond that, only girls joined
the choir. (Though we have boys who sing in the Rock group)
School 22, Q. 6: singing Girls
Past Year seven - boys seem reluctant to join in with general sing - Part of the
development of awareness of the 'male' role in society. However Boys have no
qualms about 'singing' rap or ragga as it represents most of their 'macho'
School 61, Q. 6: singing Girls
More girls partake in singing activities therefore more likely to succeed.
However, more boys take part in rock band vocals.
School 68, Q. 6: singing Girls
All students are rather reticent when it comes to singing, but girls are more
easily persuaded. I do have a few boys who are excellent singers in the pop
Only one teacher suggests that rock is leading to a change of attitude among both
School 52, Q. 6: singing Girls
Although many boys enjoy singing particularly in the lower years, girls work
harder at it and so generally produce a better sound.
'Breaking' voices discourage boys from singing.
Rock music is again creating a demand for vocalists, and overall there appears
to be a change in attitude towards singing.

Three teachers link a male interest in popular music with male extroversion:

School 63, Q. 5 Both Equally

... Boys choose to play drums or guitar more than girls, probably because of
the rock band idea, some of them want to be rock stars!
School 33, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
Like to think they are different - delight in ' shocking' their parents, friends -
who has latest No. 1 etc. Rivalry exists between boys a lot more.

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School 56, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys

More extrovert characters involved and required in performing popular music.
There are altogether thirty-seven further comments which indicate that boys tend
to engage with popular musics, a few as singers and most as instrumentalists, whereas
girls tend to engage in these roles within classical or what is often described as more
traditional music. This impression heavily underlines those earlier ones in which we
have seen that boys are concerned with image, machismo and peer-group fashion,
whereas girls remain apparently unaffected by any parallel pressures; and that many
teachers find boys to be more creative or imaginative, and girls more conservative or
re-creative. A common-sense understanding of popular music as being somehow more
spontaneous, free of 'rules', more extrovert, more active, more masculine, is here
holding sway.10 The comments arise in response to several different questions and I
have included a small amount of further annotation between them.
With reference, firstly, to composing:
School 67, Q. 7: composing Both equally
Less social stigma, if we can call it that. Boys also tend to form 'pop' groups
etc. and suddenly they become interested in advanced chords etc. Quite often,
then, the boys veer to that side of things whilst the girls tend to stick to the
more traditional output.
We have already seen that various reasons are given for girls being more advanced
in notation; these two comments show how this advancement links into the association
of popular music with boys, and classical music with girls.
School 31, Q. 9: notation Girls
Most of the girls have learnt music from a classical standpoint - a good
number of the boys have come to music at GCSE through involvement in a
rock band and so their notational experience is not so great.
School 55, Q. 9: notation Girls
More boys seem to be happy to 'play by ear' and tend to play electric
guitars/drums etc.
The responses to question 10 which indicate that girls prefer classical music fall
into two categories. One category suggests that girls prefer classical music because of
their greater involvement with classical orchestral instrumental performance. Here are
three out of eight such comments:
School 31, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
The girls have had a more classical training - the boys have more of a
grounding in rock bands - This is of course a general observation and does not
hold true in all cases - The girls already have some affinity with classical
School 52, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
Although girls are more tolerant of classical music, both I feel, prefer to
engage in different styles of music. More girls do engage in classical music,
however, because more play orchestral instruments.
School 65, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
Again a function of their continued learning of instruments, as this involves
them in a school-based Music Centre.
The other category of responses simply indicates that girls prefer classical music per
se, or because boys do not like it, or without giving a reason. Here are two out of five
such comments:

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School 8, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls

Only an 'impression'. Depends also on what you mean by 'classical' and
'engage in'.
School 56, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
Boys tend to moan and groan more at the thought of listening to classical
music — they more seriously find this unfashionable.
The following are the remaining statements, which I have not reduced, all of which
further support the view that boys prefer popular music over girls' preference for
classical music. The links with technology, image, fashion and action on the part of
boys can again clearly be seen.
School 3, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
Interest developed within school through recording studio.
School 9, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
Pop groups mainly boys.
School 27, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
More likely to know words from existing songs and raps to sing along to and
more likely to get up and dance to.
School 31, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
Many of the boys who opt for GCSE (not all) have had experience in a rock
It is only natural to identify with what one has had first hand experience of.
School 50, Q. 11: pop music(s) Girls
... In the later years (e.g. at GCSE level) boys veer to Pop Music performance
- with the willingness to imitate performers/styles on guitar, drums, keyboard.
At this stage girl performers tend towards classical orchestral performances or
pop 'vocals'.
School 52, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
All pupils, almost without exception, enjoy performing pop music. However
boys generally want to do so exclusively and often have little time for anything
School 57, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
Because they think it's the fashion to do so.
School 63, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
We have a few good guitarists, drummers and a bass guitarist at this school
who are all boys. They like rock, and heavy metal music especially. Some girls
perform pop songs from time to time, but the boys play popular music more
School 65, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
Boys tend to monopolise drums, bass and guitar, despite arduous efforts to
involve girls (either in a mixed or girls-only group).
School 77, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
Boys have more interest in technical equipment and electric guitars etc.
School 67, Q. 18: further comments
... it tends to be the males who form the pop groups, jazz group etc. whilst the
string quartets would appear to have a female dominance.
School 68, Q. 18: further comments
In my last school Music was definitely not a subject for boys. At [X school], I
don't find this as there is a fairly strong brass tradition in the area and also
boys enjoy the idea of being in a pop band.

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9. Sexuality
Sexuality and music are in a symbiotic relationship of mutual production: although
neither one necessarily invokes the other, the two have been linked in many guises
throughout history. I have already indicated some of the ways in which such links
might be made regarding singing: clearly there are more links possible both there and
with reference to other performance activities; and there are also the thorny questions
of how music itself creates and perpetuates sexual themes. A proper inspection of these
issues falls outside the boundaries of this report. I have therefore restricted the
following comments to the few issues pertaining to sexuality which are brought up
more or less directly by teachers' comments.
Further comments link into the appearance that boys are more active, and girls more
passive in their musical involvements. Here, singing may be regarded as a passive,
feminine activity as compared to playing, or indeed rapping, which then becomes
contrastingly male; and both listening to music and talking about it are clearly passive
corollaries of playing.11
School 73, Q. 6: singing Girls
... Girls more into singing along to Pop records and have better voices.
Boys enjoy rapping though.
School 8, Q. 11: pop music(s) Both equally
Girls more singing-wise
Boys more on forming groups etc.
School 66, Q. 11: pop music(s) Both equally
Boys are more likely to perform pop music, but girls listen to it more and talk
about it more.
School 75, Q. 11: pop music(s) Girls Boys
Girls prefer to Listen to Popular music [more ?] than boys here - enjoying just
sitting and listening or getting involved through dance.
Boys get frustrated just listening and prefer to be actively involved in doing
- sometimes playing along - but mainly creating own groups. Much stereo-
typing here! In spite of encouraging both.
In connection with this theme of female passivity and male activity, girls are said to
idolise pop stars, whereas boys are never said to do so. The sexuality of idolisation
needs not involve females as the doters on male objects but can also be the other way
around; it need not be heterosexual; and it is certainly not simple. However, dominant
sexual discourse defines idolisation as a passive, female or feminine weakness, and the
legacy of the Enlightenment is that sexual adoration weakens men.12
School 50, Q. 10: classical music(s) Boys
In very general terms (in the younger years at sec. school) = boys, because
they tend to be less inhibited by the social/pop idol elements in 'pop music'.
Young teenage girls often think they like Pop Music when really they are
captivated by the performers...
School 1, Q. 11: pop music(s) Both equally
But there is a wide variety of styles: girls seem to like it if it's sung by a nice
boy, boys if it suits their dancing skills.
School 22, Q. 11: pop music(s) Both equally
I realise that this is an over-simplification but male pop singers win all round
- While appealing to boys' masculine values the girls will probably think the
singer is 'cute'. It may be manipulation to trade on this - but it works.

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School 34, Q. 11: pop music(s) Both equally

Girls tend to idolize singers and get more involved in the music, boys are
more reluctant to show emotion and therefore often embarrassed by pop music
sentiments. Rhythms however are appreciated by both sexes.
Dancing is a peculiar activity in relation to musical passivity and activity: passive
in that it is not directly musically productive or even reproductive; active in that it is
physical and energetic, and in that it produces a demand for particular kinds of music.
This ambivalence comes across in the handling of dance by teachers, only a handful
of whom in fact mention it. Some of these suggest that girls dance and boys do not,
and others, that boys dance and girls do not.13
Sexuality or desire are only explicitly mentioned by two teachers, and in both cases
it is with reference to the interest in them displayed by boys, through popular musics:
School 39, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
Popular music has a large degree of image projection - Boys seem to identify
with alter-egos and thus respond well. Rock music with its sexual emphasis
and aggression seems to compliment the image many boys seem to need.
School 59, Q. 11: pop music(s) Boys
There is a link between bangra and pop which is immediately identifiable - a
lust. [School 85 % Asian]
Although as we have seen, girls do play musical instruments in great numbers,
throughout history they have tended to be restricted to certain kinds of instrument
only; and concomitantly, certain styles and venues of performance. Not insignificantly,
pre-pubescent girls have in many cultures been to some extent excused the restrictions.
But nonetheless, in a similar way to that already mentioned regarding singing,
womens' instrumental performance activities balance on tightrope between the
transgression of display and the imposed virtue of modesty. This balancing act
expresses itself partly through the circumscription of instrumental and performance
styles in which women are involved. As we will see again in the next section, such
circumscription is often strengthened when coupled with religious belief. For the
moment, I want to observe a contrast between two images: one is that of the sexually
interested boy described by the two teachers above, the boy who is active, creative, and
free to be involved in technology and popular music; the other is that of the retiring
girl who eschews popular music performance, or the girl who is believed to be
incapable, that is, inept, when it comes to performing popular music, described below:
School 61, Q. 18: further comments
More boys than girls participate in rock music making - although girls have equal
skills in drumming and guitar playing they are loathe to perform for their peer
School 13, Q. 18: further comments
Peripatetic expectations of some staff are questionable - esp. percussion i.e. Girls
can't play the drum kit!
(Our best ever drummer was a girl.)
The history of girls' and womens' reluctance, ineptitude, or, more strongly,
prohibition to play certain instruments, sometimes at all and sometimes in public, is
connected not merely with empty beliefs about propriety, but with the dangers of
musical performance as a threat to the sexual order. This threat is felt by both boys
and girls. No teacher answering the questionnaire expressed the opinion that girls
cannot play drum kits, or boys cannot play classical music. However, to whatever

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extent teachers might have divested themselves of sexual/musical prejudices regarding

the suitability of particular instruments or musical activities for each sex, the threat
remains alive and powerful, contracted from all their musical experiences both within
and outside schools, in the minds of children themselves.

10. Role-models, the media and ethnicity

In section 3,1 described teachers' responses to the research topic. One response which
I left out, however, was that connected to outside influences on pupils. Clearly, when
boys and girls choose or discover their musical boundaries, what informs them does
not arise spontaneously only from their peers, nor is it imposed by their teachers. In
this section I wish to examine the responses of teachers who brought the influence of
role-models, the media and ethnicity to bear in quite a few of their comments.
Six teachers regard parental influence as important. For example:
School 5, Q. 5: playing Both equally
We have a small number of pupils who have been playing for longer than one
year. I think that parental enthusiasm and support is most significant.
School 4, Q. 6: singing Girls
Boys have too immature an attitude to this activity probably due to parental
opinion and pressure, and also the emphasis on sport...
School 54, Q. 10: classical music(s) Both equally
The kind of home background has more influence than gender.
Thirteen comments indicated that where singing or playing are concerned, pupils
follow or are in some way influenced by role-models provided by the teachers
themselves or other musicians within the school or community. On top of these, two
comments earlier suggested that boys want to imitate rock stars. Here again is a
School 65, Q. 5: playing Both equally
... (2) A new resource (brass instruments) has appeared and been seized upon
by boys, following a recent concert by an all-male brass quintet...
(3) Confidence of boys to imitate or identify with male-only music staff.
School 30, Q. 6: singing Girls
Boys... lack role models.
School 17, Q. 18: further comments
... I'm pleased to note that quite a few girls are now opting for sax and
keyboards, you will have noticed that those two are taught by ladies...
School 52, Q. 18: further comments
... I have built up the number of boys playing clarinet, though only one plays
flute - despite my persuading a popular male PE teacher to play in the Concert
School 65, Q. 18: further comments
I feel, as a male teacher, very conscious of the difficulty some (or all ?) girls
have in relating to music. There are a few girls for whom this obstacle is
overcome, but mostly I am aware that the girls would benefit from more
contact with female musicians.
The importance which these teachers obviously place on role-models is to be
contrasted with a relative lack of importance or an ambivalence apparently attached by
the group of teachers as a whole, to the role-model of the composer-figure. Only two

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teachers volunteer the unmitigated opinion that role models are important in
School 39, Q. 7: composing Both equally
Again, creativity must express itself, but I have noticed that girls have only
recently come forward as composers - (in the last four years or so). This is
undoubtedly due to the influence of innovators like Kate Bush.
School 75, Q. 7: composing Both equally
Given lots of scope to develop their performing skills both boys and girls
respond extremely well to the composing element... Plus the opportunity to
work with local composers has enhanced youngsters' work. I think also that
the youngsters can relate this to the world of work and see a practical
application because of use of Artists in Residence.
One teacher has a conscience about not using any female composers:
School 17, Q. 10: classical music(s) Both equally
Both boys and girls respond well to the ' diet' they are given e.g. Bolero,
Sorcerer's Apprentice, Greensleeves, Rite of Spring (perhaps I ought to
consider some female composers!)
And one teacher is aware of the over-representation of male composers in the history
books, but does not regard this as a problem:
School 72, Q. 7: composing Both equally
Composing in the classroom is a relatively recent classroom activity (as
compared with appreciation/performance opportunities) - presented on an
equal opportunity basis - and as such does not suffer from the fact that
historically 'known' composers are male dominated.
This is not an unreasonable suggestion: indeed most music teachers would readily
agree that composing as a general classroom activity for all pupils is far newer than
listening and even playing; therefore there is not an entrenched way of presenting
composing to pupils. Here there is real potential for some intervention in the neglect
of women composers by received music-history; a potential which it is in the hands
of teachers and curriculum developers to realise. The fact that only these four out of
seventy-eight teachers mentioned this area regarding the sexes at all is indicative of
work needing to be done: the fact that so many teachers willingly showed so much
concern about, awareness of and interest in gender issues suggests that the potential
for intervention is great.
In the following comments we see that the media are understood to have the effect
of countering inequality in the eyes of several teachers. These six teachers say that
wide media coverage has helped classical music to lose some of its sexual
School 1, Q. 10: classical music(s) Both equally
Largely due to its use in the media, e.g. in adverts, classical music has a much
wider audience and no longer seems 'uncool' or 'un-macho'.
School 12, Q. 10: classical music(s) Both equally
Publicity and general acceptance of ' light' classical, use in films, TV ads,
popular personalities.
School 33, Q. 10: classical music(s) Both equally
Both seem to be cultivating an interest in classical composers, mainly I think
due to media as Mozart and number of operas/concerts on TV now.

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School 53, Q. 10: classical music(s) Both equally

Especially recently with the considerable use of Classical music in adverts, to
introduce sports activities etc.
School 76, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
... More and more children are appreciating classical musics because of the
adverts on TV - perhaps visual images promote a liking for/recognition of?
School 12, Q. 18: further comments
There has been a real benefit from TV coverage of different styles of music
and the acceptability of MEN playing serious music (flute/violin). Also, film
scores are accepted in youth culture and often use serious music (- Ditto TV
We ' go from what we know' and the starting point has been greatly
narrowed, even met, in the last 10 years.
Only one comment contradicts that position:
School 22, Q. 10: classical music(s) Girls
Again — classical music is ' classified' by a lot of contemporary youth pro-
grammes so it is difficult for teenage boys to step out of their macho role.
However - I am working on it - But it is difficult!
The following say that the media involving popular music, again like those who said
this of the media regarding classical music, aids equal appreciation and involvement
by the sexes.
School 12, Q. 5: playing Both equally
With the wide T.V., video and film coverage of popular and 'serious' solo
artistes, I feel the students do not identify with gender/music/instruments.
School 73, Q. 11: pop music(s) Both equally
Media - both sexes enjoy and listen to Pop music.
School 76, Q. 11: pop music(s) Both equally
Part of their culture-much 'pop' has visual images attached (videos etc.).
Much of it is 'background' music (whilst doing Maths H.W. etc.!).
And this interesting comment on music in general links the split between pupils'
music and teachers' music, which ten years ago held much more sway than it does now
in many schools, to gender issues.
School 72, Q. 18: further comments
Many of our pupils are musically orientated in the sense that it is part of their
everyday life. Often in the past and to some extent still with us is the perception
that' their' music and ' school' music are poles apart. As we continue to work to
alter these perceptions and offer school music as relevant many of the gender
issues are also addressed together also with the other important issue of
multicultural awareness.
The role of the media in the construction and perpetuation of discourses about
music, about sexuality and about the musical styles of the two sexes is a gigantic field.14
Here the main issue that I want to raise is the irony of the appearance that, except in
one case above (school 22, Q. 10), the media are perceived as inducing equal relations
between the sexes in an area that otherwise displays so much difference between them.
The relationship here between the visual (that most prominent aspect of the media)
and the aural (that characteristic of invisible music which renders music so difficult to
talk about) is most interesting and would bear fruitful further examination.

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The reader will probably have been aware that until now I have not mentioned one
particularly important and relevant area of musical life in contemporary English
schools: that of ethnic difference. Only seven teachers mention ethnicity as a factor
affecting musical relations between the sexes. Of these, five indicate differences
relating to Muslim Asian pupils, and four of them are in schools, the pupil population
of which they describe as being at least 80 % Asian. The other two teachers who
mention ethnicity are in a Jewish Orthodox school, and a school described as
predominantly Afro-Caribbean. Ethnic differences in attitudes towards and customs
in music regarding the sexes, which usually include religious differences, tend to
further strengthen all the dominant themes which I have been exploring in this paper,
rather than to contradict or seriously challenge them. The musical roles of Western
women, in so far as they fall into a single category of women at all, have historically
embraced many of the same musical roles of the diversity of non-Western women; the
only one changing at different times and speeds to the other. Asian girls and boys from
Muslim families, and Orthodox Jewish girls and boys today do not strictly make music
together or in front of one another, although this may be more or less the case
depending on circumstances and the particular inclinations and beliefs of those
Only two teachers comment upon the relationship between the 'host culture' and
the homes or communities of ethnic minorities. Both are in predominantly Asian
schools, and both indicate that pupils are at odds in various ways with the
requirements of a Western music curriculum. In connection with this, the following
teachers express the reluctance among Asian communities to encourage performance
by girls:

School 59, Q. 5: playing Girls

Girls do tend to be more successful in this task, but are reluctant to
demonstrate their skill. The high Asian population of this school, and in
particular the guidelines of their religion place females in a disadvantaged
position compared to males. This produces the situation of quiet but diligent
girls - and vice versa. [School described as 85 % Asian.]
School 32, Q. 18: further comments
Possibly reasons for GCSE Group being unbalanced: (Gender)
... -Parent views of music particularly with regard to Performance and Girls
[School described as 80 % Bengali.]
School 64, Q. 18: further comments
I am particularly delighted by the participation level of Asian girls in music
lessons which has improved significantly during the 3 years I have been here
although I take no credit for this.
School 74, Q. 18: further comments
... Asian boys are allowed to do far more than girls anyway, pupils here are
mainly from strict Muslim villages. I've just got 2 prs Tabla, 2 dholaks,
bansery and harmonium. Particular interest from boys but I have promised to
teach single-sex groups otherwise parents will not allow girls to participate.
Concerts - 1 have to fetch some girls myself, but even so others are now
allowed out at night.
Boys love to show off on keyboards and guitars - all pupils here are low
ability but many are very poor.
Recorder and orchestra groups - all girls 50 % white/Asian.
[School described as predominantly Asian.]

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School 77, Q. 12: world music(s) Boys

Asian pupils who take part are on the whole male - part of their culture.
And regarding Orthodox Jewish girls and boys:
School 18, Q.-6: singing Girls
Female staff not permitted to sing with boys in accordance with Orthodox
Jewish tradition.
It is of course the connection between music and sexuality, mentioned in the
previous section, which lies at the root of such prohibitions.
The position of Afro-Caribbean girls within the discourses of ethnic difference and
music contrasts starkly with that of Asian, Jewish and White British girls. This is
actually illustrated by one school only, but powerfully. It is most interesting that out
of all the comments that mention peer-group pressure as an influence on children,
there is only one teacher who says it is a girls' peer group that applies the pressure onto
boys in any active or domineering way: and this is with reference to Afro-Caribbean
girls. The image of the strong Afro-Caribbean female, pitted in the Western collective
unconscious against that of the retiring Asian girl or woman, is very powerful. Like
all our shared and historically informed impressions, this dualistic stereotype arises
partly from experience, and thinking back to all the pupils I have been deeply involved
with, the only two really competent girl drummers able to perform well in public, are
London-born, of Afro-Caribbean origin. Such impressions strongly imprint them-
selves on the consciousness of all teachers who work in ethnically diverse schools: they
are true, and they are untrue.16 In the words of the teacher below, who so concernedly
expresses this and many other issues:
School 24, Q. 18: further comments
I feel that gender is an exceptionally important issue in music teaching. I also feel
that the Afro-Caribbeans (the largest group in our school) are particularly prone
to gender-oriented decision making e.g. one girl wants to start steel band - then
the rest follow, and no boys dare join!
On rare occasions I have managed to get boys and girls working together on
GCSE projects, regardless of gender. These occasions have given me great
satisfaction - although I must stress that they are rare, even though children
indulge in group work right from the beginning of the first year where the groups
are compulsorily mixed.
I feel strongly that the progress of individual children is often hindered by
gender-oriented decision making-but I have never really been successful at
dealing with this except on a temporary basis.

11. Sexual/musical boundaries: the hidden agenda

It is by no means just a case that 'poor girls' feel uncomfortable engaging in a
particular musical activity or instrument, and that ' lucky boys' have the freedom to
choose any. On the contrary, as we have seen, both boys and girls tend to restrict
themselves or find themselves restricted to certain musical activities and instruments
for fear of intruding into the other sex's territory, where they might stand accused of
a sort of musical transvestism. However, in the case of boys, their reluctance prevents
them from engaging in large numbers with classical, traditional or more polemically,
'safe' music. Girls, on the other hand, do not preponderantly leap into action within
areas involving technology, popular music or again polemically, areas that are
innovatory or challenging. Boys can always perform at least without their sexuality

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being an issue, unless they choose it to be; whereas girls, and especially as they turn
into women, must balance the associations of display against the adoption of modesty.
Thus the gendered roles of the male as explorer, innovator, scientist, libertine; and the
female as home-keeper, reproducer, custodian of tradition, passive object of desire, are
affirmed by boys' and girls' musical styles and by their teachers' interpretations of
their proclivities.
Not surprisingly, given that they are seen to be more imaginative, creative, and
active, many teachers perceive boys, not the more hard-working and persevering girls
whose success and enthusiasm are everywhere so evident, but boys to be ultimately or
naturally more musically successful, or at least equal. This appearance and assumption,
that even though boys gain lower results, learn less willingly and show less general
enthusiasm, they are actually brighter, is also discovered in many areas of schooling
from the infant class upwards by many feminist educationalists.17 I have not reduced
the sample here:

School 23, Q. 5: playing Both equally

Throughout the school this really does break down quite evenly. There are
some variations from class-class but not I think necessarily a gender bias. But
when I look at 4th/5th Yr there is a difference, with generally the boys being
more successful.
School 43, Q. 5: playing Girls
There is a greater numerical take-up amongst girls and they tend to stick at it
The good boys tend to achieve a higher standard.
School 52, Q. 5: playing Girls
Girls on the whole ' stick' at an instrument, therefore overcoming the
difficulties of learning and moving on to the more satisfying stage. Boys on the
whole tend to give up much more easily.
However those boys who do play instruments overall do so very suc-
cessfully, whereas many of the girls, despite their work, are only average
School 72, Q. 5: playing Both equally
... Here, at present the ratio of Girls/Boys learning to play is approximately 3
Girls to 1 Boy, but those going on to achieve success in the sense of standard
achieved (grades etc.) provide a more equal balance of Boys and Girls.
School 56, Q. 8: listening Both equally
Boys tend not to listen carefully enough most of the time, but when they do
can make more sense of what's happening more easily than the girls.
School 54, Q. 9: notation Both equally
Boys begin more slowly but soon catch up and often but not always become
School 56, Q. 9: notation Both equally
Girls are neater, but not always technically correct. Boys are more untidy, but
precise when work is legible.
School 23, Q. 18: further comments
... In the lower school groups (years 7-9) there is quite a balance in terms of
music achievement - and gender is something I'm aware of when I'm looking
at placements for instrumental tuition.
But very definitely in the Years 10 and 11 it is the boys who are the highest
achievers - and there are considerably more boys in the 5th Year option group.

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The numbers balance out more in the 4th Year group, but again the boys
are the highest achievers.
The new 4th Year group however looks as though it may be different...
School 43, Q. 18: further comments
There is much peer pressure amongst boys that music still has a ' cissy'
stigma. Boys that do have the character to resist the pressure tend to achieve
Girls are more reliable and consistent but tend to fill the rank and file
This understanding of teachers is partly, but powerfully, explanatory: it helps to
unravel the music-educational conundrum that there is an ultimate reversal in success
and involvement between the sexes in the musical realm. Firstly, from what we have
seen, there is a strong process of self-selection which takes place among boys at an
early age: the peer pressures against taking up music for a boy are likely to mean that
only boys with exceptional talent or interest will persevere, and they are therefore less
likely to be ' de-selected' at a later stage. This is expressed by the teachers below:
School 76, Q. 7: composing Both equally
By the time the pupils have opted for GCSE, they seem more sure of their
future plans/needs, and want to succeed despite gender. Although more girls
than boys play instruments, the boys who choose the course are usually the
better players (i.e. better than the other boys) with more dedication, and so
they tend to have gained C grades and above.
School 16, Q. 5: playing Girls
... We have a significant number of boys who don't care what others think -
they do have to be quite strong. Don't know how to change the situation...
This same phenomenon of self-selection will carry its effects on to Higher
Education and/or the professional world of music.
However, secondly, this explanation must not conceal the more hidden and difficult
contention suggested by the teachers' discourse in this questionnaire: that, despite
appearances and indeed despite public examination results, which suggest that girls
have a high level of musical autonomy and success in schools, girls in fact fulfil musical
roles which are ultimately circumscribed by deeper historical definitions of femininity
as musically inferior. These definitions lock girls into an apparent inclination towards
activities historically deemed as suitable for their sex, of which singing is the prime
example, and performance within relatively conservative forms of music-making is
another. Within these roles, girls are understood to possess the more feminine
characteristics of being close to emotion, open, communicative, more hard-working,
motivated, reliable and persevering than boys. These very accomplishments go hand
in hand with their postulated or apparent lack of active energy, creative spark,
imagination, ability to manipulate technology, interest in innovatory or challenging
musical forms, and natural talent, which boys appear to possess in far greater
abundance. With bitter irony, it is the very fact of girls' hard work, that proves their
lack of an attribute which history has made possessable only by males: that of genius.18
To whatever extent teachers themselves provide opportunities and encouragement for
girls and boys to cross sexual/musical boundaries, the complex process of labelling
and self-fulfilment which circulates around this hidden agenda cannot be easily
overcome; nor can the deeply-rooted sexual ideology which lies within this

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I am grateful to all the Local Education Authorities who kindly agreed to take part in
the research. Most particularly I am indebted to the teachers who responded to my
questionnaire. Many of them were encouraging, and many gave their time and
thoughts to a degree far beyond what was required by the form. I would like to thank
Nancy Williams for all her help and support with administering the questionnaires.

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FAULKNER, WENDY & ARNOLD, ERIK (Eds) (1985) Smothered by invention: technology in womens'
lives, London: Pluto Press.
FRITH, SIMON & GOODWIN, ANDREW (Eds) (1990) On record: rock, pop and the written word.
New York: Goodwin, Pantheon Books.
FORD, CHARLES (1991) Cosi? Sexual politics in Mozart's operas. Manchester University Press.
FULLER, MARY (1983) "Qualified criticism, critical qualifications, in Jane Purvis and Margaret
Hales. Achievement and inequality in education. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
GARRATT, SHERYL (1984) "Teenage dreams" Frith and Goodwin op. cit.; also as chap. 7 of
Steward and Garratt, op. cit.
GREEN, LUCY (1988) Music on deaf ears: musical meaning, ideology and education. Manchester
University Press.
GREEN, LUCY (1993) "Music and gender: can music raise our awareness?" in Women: A
Cultural Review, Vol. 4, no. 2. Oxford University Press.
KENT, GRETA (1983) A view from the bandstand. London: Sehba Feminist Publishers.
KILMINSTER, SALLY (1992) " Aesthetics and music: the appropriation of the Other", in Women :
A Cultural Review, vol. 3, no. 1, summer. Oxford University Press.
KOSKOFF, ELLEN (1987). Women and music in cross-cultural perspective. London and New York:
Greenwood Press.

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LEFANU, NICOLA (1987) "Master musician: an impregnable taboo?", in Contact, Autumn.

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in Women: A Cultural Review, vol. 3, no. 1, summer. Oxford University Press.
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of girls. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
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Delhi: Sage Publications.
TICK, JUDITH (1986) "Passed away is the piano girl: changes in American musical life,
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For an excellent overview (and more) of work in literature studies see Moi (1985); for work
in art, Parker and Pollock (1981) and Pollock (1988); in classical music, Bowers and Tick
(1986); in popular music, Steward and Garratt (1984); in jazz, Dahl (1984); and for
ethnically various musics, Koskoff(1987). These texts by no means represent an exhaustive
list of the enormous literature but will provide helpful starting-points for anyone interested
in following up the relevant areas.
Last year saw three international conferences on women and music; and in this country
an injection of Arts Council funding to the London-based organisation Women In Music,
which can be contacted at Battersea Arts Centre, Old Town Hall, Lavender Hill, London
SW11 5TF.
Again see note 1; for aesthetics or cultural criticism on music and gender also see Kilminster
(1922), Raitt (1992), Green (1993), McClary (1991) and specifically on opera, Ford (1991).
An interesting treatment of the historical construction of artistic creativity with regard to
gender is provided by Battersby (1989).
An excellent, succinct overview of feminist work in education is available in the first part of
Weiler (1988) or in the classic reader, MacDonald (1981); also see the lengthier readers
edited by Arnot and Weiner (1987), and Weiner and Arnot (1987); and for interesting work
cutting across the mathematical and cultural spheres, Walkerdine (1990). On girls and
popular or sub-culture, see McRobbie (1991).
Several other projects are all currently underway on gender and music-education in this
country. Information about three of these can be found in the Women In Music Newsletter
(no. 18, May 1992). Increasing numbers of students and teachers are showing an interest in

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the field and a growing corpus of information is coming to light; as illustrated for example
by the Music Educators' Journal vol. 78 no. 7, (1992), which focused on gender; and the first
relevant curriculum materials such as the USA anthology of women's composition ed.
Brisco (1997) and the recent Cambridge text on women in music for secondary school pupils
by Pugh (1992). A few conferences have already taken place in this country, and Women In
Music are organising a conference on gender and music-education at Bristol University for
March 1993.
For a scholarly history of the music profession in England since the 18th century which
includes quite a lot of information about gender and educational provision, see Erlich (1985).
For more contemporary figures re. women composers in classical music, see LeFanu (1987),
and for instrumentalists, South (1991); re. popular music, Steward and Garratt (1984) and
re. jazz, Dahl (1984). The Women in Music Newsletters carry regular, useful statistics.
The percentage of women registered as composers, ace. to LeFanu (ibid.) is c. 15 %. The
membership of the Musicians' Union is currently 32,757 men and 7,623 women.
For work on girls and technology in education see Whyte (1985); and on women and
technology generally, e.g. Faulkner and Arnold (1985).
This is not to deny that there are also other reasons why women have been so evident as
singers: they have been required in operatic roles for dramatic reasons since the 16th century
which is when they were first allowed to sing on stage (although this has also never been an
entirely reputable occupation devoid of sexual innuendo). There is also the more simply
musical reason that the female voice possesses special qualities which composers have
wanted to use.
This potted history of both singing and instrumental playing on the part of women is
unsatisfactory, but it is the only appropriate thing to do in the context of this report. See
Notes 1 and 5 for texts giving further information; and for information about women
instrumentalists in Victorian Britain also see the delightful memoirs of Greta Kent (1983).
For a clear expression of how this operates, see esp. Tick (1986). This is also further
addressed in Green (1993).
See Green (1988) for a fuller expression of this problem.
See McRobbie (1991) and Garratt (1990) for discussions of the ways in which girls'
involvement in musical sub-cultures have been understood to be passive and doting, as
compared to boys' active and creative involvement. Both McRobbie and Garratt provide
challenges to this conception.
See Ford (1991) for how this works out in the Enlightenment and incidentally its expression
in Mozart opera.
For work on girls and dance see McRobbie (1991); and for a discussion of the relationship
between music, dance and the body, Middleton (1990) pp. 242ff. and chapter 7. I have
placed the subject of dance outside the bounds of this study.
For work on music, the media and the construction of teenage sexuality see e.g. Ehrenreich,
Hess and Jacobs (1986), Stockbridge (1990), or various relevant articles in Frith and
Goodwin (1990).
See Koskoff (1987) for a variety of perspectives. It is difficult getting written information
about the position of music within Islam, even apparently for Muslims themselves. I would
like to thank Naseem Khan for providing me with valuable information here. The
complexity of the issues makes it impossible to go any more deeply into this area here than
through the teachers' responses.
For Black feminist critiques in education see various relevant articles in the readers
mentioned in Note 3; also Brah and Minhas (1985), Riley (1985) and Fuller (1983). A useful
reader is Arnot (1986).
See esp. Walkerdine (1991) chapters 1 and 6; and Clarricoates (1978) and (1980).
Again see Battersby (1989) for a full expression of the historical construction of genius as a
male-only preserve.

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