The relationships between private lessons and adjudicated solo & ensemble contest ratings
Many high school orchestra members are strongly encouraged to take private lessons in addition to their regularly scheduled rehearsals, and recently researchers have begun evaluating the effect of private lesson instructors (Fredrickson, Gavin & Moore, 2011; Villarreal, 2010). To what extent do such private lessons result in better performances? One way of evaluating performance is by means of adjudicated competitions. In an effort to examine the possible relationship between private lessons and successful performances at Solo & Ensemble Contest, the author of this study compared the performance evaluation of students who participated in private lessons either during class time or outside of school, with students who did not participate in private lessons. As part of a regularly scheduled solo event in a North Texas school district, high school and middle school string musicians (N = 226) performed for an adjudicator and received a numerical rating based on the quality of that performance. Note that participants in the varsity orchestra were required by their curriculum to participate in the district’s solo & ensemble contest, but participants who were in non-varsity ensembles could volunteer to perform at the contest. For this study, only performances in the solo category of the contests were considered. The participants performed their chosen solo music for a single judge who then rated them on a six-point scale from V to I-Honors. A rating of V represented a poor performance, while a rating of I represented a superior performance. The rating of I-Honors was given to those who performed their solo from memory at a superior (I) level. All judges had received adjudication training by virtue of their membership in the Texas Music Adjudicators Association (TMAA) and were active clinicians and adjudicators throughout the state. Any rating of I or I-Honors was categorized as a superior performance, while all other ratings including disqualifications and DNAs (Did Not Attempts) were listed as not superior performances for the purpose of this study. It is important to note that all data were collected after the contest was completed and results were finalized, therefore the study had no impact on the outcome of the performances or ratings of the participants. Adjudicated results were publicly available and private lessons data were gathered from individual orchestra directors with no student names attached to protect privacy. This study made no attempt to evaluate student motivation, number of hours practiced weekly, or ability level of the participants and how those factors may have impacted private lesson participation or adjudicated ratings. Results were analyzed via the Chi Square Statistic or Fisher Test of Exact Probability as appropriate for small cell sizes. Results showed there were significantly more superior (n = 160) than not superior performances (n = 66) regardless of the participants’ private lesson status (X² [2, N = 226] = 61.18, p < .0001). Analysis of ratings divided by private lesson status also revealed a significant difference with (X² [1, N = 226] = 55.62, p< .0001). Further analyses were conducted to determine whether grade level, or types of lessons received (lessons taken either at school, or outside of school) impacted the ratings. Differences were not significant for these two factors.