Identity formation, as a critical process during adolescence, has been found to impact the musical and non-musical lives of students. As students rise to secondary education in the United States, they are navigating complex intersections of identity and the presentation of those identities within complex social environments. Marginalized communities are navigating many of these identities with a lack of support from those in their lives, whether from family, friends, peers, teachers, coaches. The historic underrepresentation of people of color, women, and LGBTQIA+ individuals in the Western Classical Tradition adds another layer of complexity to student identity in the orchestra classroom. High school orchestra student survey participants (n=98), and interview participants (n=6), enrolled at a large senior high school in Texas described their identity and related orchestra experiences. Analysis of survey data provided insight into student perceptions of identity, identity affirmation, self-concept, and safety in orchestra. Interview thematic analysis revealed three themes related to student identity in orchestra: student self-concept, creating connection with others, and the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Teachers have the power to create an environment and culture that affirm student identities. The goal of this study was to understand which identities orchestra students present and do not present in the orchestra classroom, which identities they feel affirmed in, and to provide insight into how this affirmation occurs in secondary education.

Keywords: identity formation, identity affirmation, music education, high school orchestra, musicians

Degree Date

Summer 7-31-2023

Document Type


Degree Name





Sarah Allen

Second Advisor

Julie Scott

Third Advisor

Kristina Nielsen

Fourth Advisor

Janice Lindstrom

Subject Area

Music, Education

Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License