Stephen Shoop

Hist. Res. in Music Ed.

Basics of Historical Research

 In Music Education

by Stephen Shoop, Ph.D.







I. Introduction

The purpose of this presentation is to provide a rationale for doing historical projects in music education, discuss various types of projects, and share where to obtain information. Also discussed will be thoughts on carrying out these projects to completion.

II. Rationale for Historical Research Projects in Music Education

At a basic level, a rationale for historical research projects in music education is to satisfy one's general interest and curiosity.

Studying the past may serve as a basis for understanding the present state of affairs; it may provide a sense of perspective.

The justification for historical projects in music education is similar to similar projects in other fields- such as American history, world history, music history, etc. Knowing about the past is being literate.

III. Various Types of Historical Projects in Music Education

Historical projects in music education cover a wide variety of areas- including significant persons, organizations, movements, and the evolution of pedagogical techniques. Also included may be such efforts as the compilation of information contained in music education journals and/or magazines, etc. Examples of historical projects in music education may include the following:

Term Paper.  A term paper on a historical topic may vary in length from 5 to about 100 pages, with 5 to 25 sources.

Masters Thesis. A master’s thesis on a historical topic may vary in length from 100 to about 200 pages, with 20 to 50 sources. Specific guidelines and format are usually required by a given department or school.

Doctoral Essay.  A doctoral essay on a historical topic may extend upward to 300 pages in length, with 40 to 100 sources. Specific guidelines and format are usually required.

Doctoral Dissertation. A dissertation is usually a multi-level study that may include several layers of research. (Mine involved three layers: 1) methodology involving leadership; 2) content analysis; and 3) the construction of a historical timeline). Specific guidelines and format are required.

Other.  Other types of historical projects may include the following:

Oral History Project.  An oral history project involves conducting one or more taped interviews, transcribing the information, and writing a paper or other document. Oral history may be conducted as part of a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.

Bio-bibliography.  An example of a bio-bibliography would be a compilation of biographical information on pioneer music educators, bandmasters, orchestra

directors, applied teachers, professional musicians, etc., of the 19th and/or 20th centuries.

Bio-discography.  A bio-discography is an annotated catalog of recordings. Roger E. Rickson, for example, wrote and published a bio-discography of Frederick Fennell's wind band recordings.

Compilation Project. An example of a compilation project would be the

organization of information gathered from such sources as one or more music education journals or magazines.

IV. Finding Ideas and Selecting a Topic

Personal Interest. The writer might know of a significant person, organization, or movement that has not been explored.

Masters Theses and Doctoral Dissertations. Ideas can be found by browsing master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, especially in the following areas:

Recommendations for Further Research. Ideas may be found in recommendations for further research sections in the final chapter of many doctoral dissertations.

Bibliography.  The bibliography section of theses and dissertations lists books, master’s theses, doctoral dissertations, journal articles, and other sources that may provide ideas on one's own project.

Related Literature. The related literature chapter of dissertations provide information about the sources that are cited.

Music Education History Sources. Ideas may be found by looking through music education history sources. A topic may be chosen that is related to another topic discussed in one of these sources.

Music Education Textbooks. Many music education textbooks include at least a small amount of historical information, usually at the beginning of the book.

Related Fields. Ideas may come from the knowledge of similar works in other fields.

For example, there is a book titled Brass Bibliography, by Mark Fasman. This might give the writer an idea to compile a bio-bibliography of significant music educators. 

V. Examples of Specific Historical Projects

The following works illustrate ways of getting ideas by reviewing the works of past writer-researchers:

Barrow, Gary Wayne. "Colonel Earl D. Irons: His Role in the History of Music

            Education in the Southwest to 1958." Ph.D. diss., University of North Texas, 1983.

This dissertation contains information about Colonel Irons' leadership in local, state, and national band/music education associations, as well as the area of cornet pedagogy. In addition to obtaining a copy of Dr. Barrow's dissertation, I was permitted to copy his interview tapes of oral history he conducted in the early 1980s about the state of affairs during the 1920s through 1960s.

Grant, Daniel Ross. "The Texas Music Educators Association: A Historical Study of Selected             Landmark Events Between 1938 and 1980 and the Decisions Which Influenced Their             Outcomes." Doctoral diss., University of North Texas, 1989.

This study focused on pivotal events and the decision making process regarding the Texas Music Educators Association. Not only did the dissertation provide historical information for my chronological timeline, but I was fortunate to obtain copies of Dr. Grant's transcribed interviews for use in my own dissertation. The theoretical framework involving pivotal events could be used in other projects.

Shoop, Stephen Scott. "Texas Bandmasters Association: A Historical Study of Activities, Contributions, and Leadership (1920-1997)."  Doctoral diss., University of North Texas, 2000.

The format of my dissertation involves three layers: 1) historical research methodology; 2) content analysis; and 3) the construction of a historical timeline of the Texas Bandmasters Association from 1920 to 1997. Someone doing a historical project involving leadership or the use of content analysis for example, might be interested in looking at my study, in order to see how those techniques may be employed in historical research.

VI. Suggested Topics

1) A project might involve writing a biography about the life and career of a prominent music educator (band or orchestra director, college professor or dean, or applied teacher). A purpose of such a study might be to preserve the pedagogical ideas of a prominent person.

2) A historical study could be conducted that involves the history of applied pedagogical techniques and approaches pertaining to a particular musical instrument or family of instruments --such as a history of brass teaching in the 20th century. 

3) Another study might outline the evolution of literature for a particular genre or solo instrument.

4) A project involving the evolution of method books for band, orchestra, or choir might have merit.

5) The evolution of marching band styles might be the subject of a worthwhile historical project.

VII. Getting Around the Library and Other Places

School and Public Libraries. Libraries are sources for books, dissertations, journals and magazines, archival information, etc. Nearly all libraries are now internet accessible.

Archives. Important archival information and artifacts may be housed at associations' headquarters, or be in the hands of private sources.

Personal Interview. Information is available in books and on the internet on how to conduct personal interviews. Another source of information on conducting oral history is the Oral History Association.

VIII. Writing the Document

Guidelines and format for writing the document varies by instructor and school. Those individuals working on a long and involved project would benefit from the services of an editor. The major professor oftentimes serves in this capacity.

IX. Conclusions and Final Thoughts

It is important to present a balanced viewpoint in your project. One must also be able to detect bias in the works of other writer-researchers.

One should look for opportunities for good luck! I was in the middle of conducting research for my dissertation when the Texas Bandmasters Association was preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary convention. I volunteered to serve on a committee that was charged with compiling a special printed program commemorating the 50th anniversary. I also wrote one of the essays included in this program. During the course of serving on this committee, I had direct access newly found archival materials and artifacts. The most important of these was a scrapbook of T.B.A. meeting minutes, that for many years, was in the basement of prominent bandmaster Bill Moffet. One of the "thrills" of doing research for a historical project happens when this type of information is discovered.

Each T.B.A. clinic-convention printed program includes several pages of pictures, in chronological order, honoring the past presidents of the association. During the course of compiling information for the 50th anniversary, it became apparent that the year of presidency for several of the T.B.A. past presidents had been listed incorrectly. This error had been perpetuated for some 20 years! I was able to supply the information needed to straighten out the situation. This is an example of erroneous information being corrected as a result of conducting a historical research project.

Characteristics of weak and strong projects: In a weak project, the writer simply transfers information from one piece of paper to another; in more meritorious projects, the writer finds new information, clarifies erroneous information, and/or finds additional uses for previous information.

(A comprehensive list of sources will appear here once formatting is completed).

Dr. Stephen Shoop

Stephen Shoop holds a BME degree from Texas Christian University, MME degree from Indiana University, and a PhD in music education from the University of North Texas.  Steve has recently completed his twenty-seventh year of teaching band and instrumental music in the public schools of Texas.

Dr. Shoop’s doctoral dissertation, completed in 2000, is The Texas Bandmasters Association:  A Historical Study of Activities, Contributions, and Leadership (1920-1997).  Particular areas of interest include (1) historical research in music education, (2) instrumental and techniques, and (3) technology as applied to music and music education.

Steve has presented clinics at Baylor University, Valdosta State University, University of Texas at Arlington, Texas Music Educators Association Convention-Clinic, Texas Bandmasters Association Clinic-Convention, and the Mid-West International Band and Orchestra Clinic.  In March 2004, Steve was awarded a historical research grant by the Harvey Phillips Foundation for the work he is doing documenting the artistic contributions of early tuba and euphonium players.  For twenty-five years, Steve served as the primary coordinator of annual TUBACHRISTMAS concerts in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas.    

In addition, Dr. Shoop is a tuba player, arranger, author, and publisher.  He has over thirty published compositions and arrangements to his credit, as well as a number of articles in The Instrumentalist and I.T.E.A. Journal.  In 2004 Steve started his own music publishing company—Stephen Shoop Music Publications.  Current specialty areas include solos, ensembles, and pedagogical materials for low brass instruments, and music of historical significance. 

Professional affiliations include Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, Music Educators National Conference, Texas Music Educators Conference, College Music Society, National Band Association, Pi Kappa Lambda, and Phi Beta Mu.  Stephen holds a life membership in the International Tuba Euphonium Association (I.T.E.A.) and honorary life membership in the Texas Parent Teacher Association.
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