An examination of factors that influence students’ decisions to continue to participate in high school orchestra



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The purpose of this study was to determine factors that contribute to students’ decisions to continue to participate in high school orchestra programs. Four high schools agreed to participate in the study. The population for this study was comprised of 9th to 12th grade high school orchestra students. Students were contacted through their orchestra directors. Out of the anticipated 287 participants for this study (based on the number of students registered for orchestra in each school), a total of 183 responded (63.76% response rate) from school A (105), school B (30), school C (10) and school D (38). A descriptive survey was designed in which participants were asked to rate the level of influence a series of factors had on their overall decision to play in their high school orchestra. These ratings were done on a 4-point Likert-type scale (1= strongly disagree; 4 = strongly agree). The top three factors ranked by participants to represent their greatest influences were: (1) personal motivation (the love and enjoyment for playing music), (2) influence of the participants’ middle school director and (3) influence of friends. The last part of the survey included an inquiry into the participants’ plans to continue playing in orchestra in their high school and college. Participants responded by checking the appropriate response; yes, no, or maybe. The results indicated that 27 participants (14.8%) planned to continue participation, 67 participants (36.6%) planned to discontinue participation and n=89 (48.6%) were undecided. Findings in this study suggested that the participants’ intrinsic motivation to continue participation in orchestra is largely due to personal motivation, and the influence of their teachers. These findings should be generalized with caution as the researcher examined only four school within one school district in a single US state. Further research may investigate specific aspects related to high school orchestra and ensemble experience to reduce attrition. Such research should focus among others on pedagogical techniques that directors can use to encourage lifelong music making among their students.



Factors, Influence, Student decisions, Continue in orchestra program