Preferred Name

Rachel Marie Smith

Creative Commons License

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


Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


School of Music


William Dabback

Alice Hammel

Charles Dotas


Authors have studied informal music learning with different age groups. Lucy Green (2005) studied the topic with adolescents and identified it an intuitive and natural way children learn. Chad West and Radio Cremata (2016) studied informal music learning at the collegiate level, and Martina Vasil (2019) studied secondary music teachers who implemented informal music learning strategies in their teaching practices. Informal music learning in adults is relatively under-explored compared to adolescent and collegiate age groups. Utilizing lenses drawn from John Dewey’s curricular ideas to help students find meaning in learning and motivation as viewed through Self-Determination Theory, I sought to investigate informal music learning practices of professional musicians. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the informal music learning experiences and current practices of professional musicians based in Virginia. Four research questions guided the interview questions and analysis: 1) What informal music learning experiences were formative to professional musicians who perform live music? 2) How did participants utilize informal music learning in their practices? 3) What are the challenges of informal music learning? 4) What are the benefits of informal music learning? I interviewed eight professional musicians about their informal music learning experiences in individual interviews as well as a focus group interview, and conducted a rehearsal observation. I used an iterative coding process to analyze interview transcriptions and the following themes emerged: Self-Teaching, Autonomy, and Collaboration.



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