Pitts, S. (2008). Extra-curricular music in UK schools: Investigating the aims,experiences, and impact of adolescent musical participation. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 9(10).


This study examines the effects of extracurricular music programming on the likelihood of students continuing with music-based activity later in life, as well as why and in what capacity. The study was twofold: evaluating current secondary school students on their experiences regarding music activities, and an adult survey of individuals who have remained involved in music. The experiences of participants and non-participants are considered. The findings suggest a strong positive correlation between successful, positive experiences in music in school and remaining active in musical activities and communities later in life.

Key Findings:

  • The data show that the “role of extracurricular music is particularly crucial in shaping attitudes to music that are carried into later life and often one of the strongest points of connection with the independent musical development of young people engaged in out of school.”
  • When students were excluded by opportunities, due to lack of knowledge or not gaining entry via an audition, they were much less likely to want to continue with music.
  • Those who were “accepted” or even given significant roles were very likely to continue with music due to the positive, self-esteem-boosting effects of being awarded a role.
  • The personality, abilities, and temperament of the teacher facilitating the activities had a significant role in the above effects.

Significance of the Findings:

The authors note that this study “offers new perspectives on the extent to which performing opportunities in schools help to lay foundations for lifelong musical involvement.” It is important for schools to offer music programs that are broadly inclusive of all students with interests in pursuing music, while also encouraging those who excel to be rewarded for their talent. Moreover, it is vital that the teachers in these programs are adequately prepared and engaging.


The project included two phases. Phase one consisted of a case study of a high school musical, Anything Goes. The teachers administered a questionnaire to the entire school population regarding music engagement. Six students completed audio diaries about their experience in the musical, of which four were selected for analysis.

The second phase included a survey administered to adults, aged 19-86, who had retained interest in music. This phase used a personal history approach along with collection of biographical information. The researchers used qualitative analysis to identify themes in the data. Joint analysis of both sets of data yielded complementary findings.

Limitations of the Research:

This is not a longitudinal study; thus the experiences and contexts of the older respondents in phase two are different from those of the students in phase one. Moreover, phase one respondents attended a single school, whereas phase two responses varied across geography, age, socioeconomic status, and background. The first phase focused on a musical theater experience, while the second asked about music in general terms.

Questions to Guide New Research:

  • How can teachers help students who have not previously been involved in musical activities to feel included?
  • How can schools include students that are not accepted in competitive music activities into other activities that offer similar benefits?
  • What are the long-term effects of participation in extracurricular music in secondary school on the type and rate of participation in adulthood?
  • How can alumni surveys inform extracurricular programming?