Preferred Name

Gregory Conway

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

ORCID 0000-0002-5966-1351

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


School of Music


W. Bryce Hayes

William M. Dabback

Amy B. Lewis


Over decades of work, scholars have created varying definitions of folk songs. While many have developed clear definitions (Karpeles, 1973; Lornell, 1993; Seeger, 1948; Texas Folklore Society, n.d.), others have concluded that no true definition exists (Brumfield, 1998; Nettl 2011). This lack of clarity in what a folk song is invites an exploration into how we define this genre. The purpose of this multiple case study was two-fold. First, I collected songs sung by families within a rural school community and examined them by using interview data to identify the characteristics of folk music in this context. Second, I shared a step-by-step process of collecting music from families within a school community to help other music teachers begin this process. I addressed three research questions; (1) What is a folk song? (2) How do folk songs collected within a community compare to previously identified characteristics? (3) How might a music educator go about collecting music from their school community? Families were asked through various communication media to submit songs they sung at home. Participants who submitted songs were also invited to participate in semi-structured interviews to learn more about their submissions. Data collected through interviews served as the basis for selection of analysis for the project. Of the nine songs submitted, five were analyzed within this paper. Five ideas presented themselves through the analysis; (1) Electronic communication and its involvement of learning songs, (2) Informal creation as informal learning, (3) Transition from media to folk, (4) Community size and how that impacts folk song definitions, and (5) The nuance of folk song defining.



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