Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




bell, adam p.

2nd Supervisor

Wright, Ruth



In this dissertation, I discuss how elementary students responded to a music curriculum that foregrounds music production practices. The following question guided this inquiry: How can music industry professionals, music teachers, and students collaborate, share ideas and their experiences to inform a curricular design for public elementary school music education? I theorized that music production practices should be introduced at an earlier stage of learning than discussed by other educators, i.e., at the secondary level. The study consisted of adapting, implementing, and reflecting on a music production curriculum in public elementary school music education through participatory action research, alongside three other music teachers, their students, and two prominent Canadian music industry experts such as recording engineers. The study was adapted in three phases; phase one consisted of music industry experts informing the content of the project; phase two consisted of teacher planning and implementing a flipped classroom design; and, phase three included gathering student input and experiences, leading to the creation of open access video resources. The videos are free and available publicly as an animation series on YouTube called “Dr TooNice.” Specific to this research, North American, or in particular, Canadian public school music education has traditionally focused on instrumental and vocal performance-based programs by using approaches such as Kodály, Orff, and Dalcroze with a limited focus on music production techniques. These techniques are pertinent to students interested in performance-based and non-performance-based settings, underscoring their significance in diverse contexts and environments. To obtain the quality of the sonic features heard on most recordings requires a specific skill set beyond performance. Educators turning to contemporary popular music for song selections are often unaware that they are expecting students to recreate sounds on instruments that have been altered through music production techniques. Understanding what one is hearing, and knowing how to create and recreate these sounds, is a crucial element missing in public school music education. The results of my research all lead to the recommendation of beginning music production at an early stage of learning, including, but not limited to, the processes of vocal mixing, beat making, and recording with digital audio workstations (DAWs).

Summary for Lay Audience

As the integration of music production into music education continues to expand, the process of recording (capturing, manipulating, distributing) remains limited in research at the elementary school level. This study demonstrated that elementary-aged students have the potential to produce music professionally by meeting industry quality standards. Moving beyond composing with technology, teachers can guide students in developing a technical ear to understand what it is they are hearing when listening to recordings. Producing music entails comprehension in performance and sonic concepts. The focus of this study was to engage with the process of music production rather than assessing end results.

This participatory action research study consisted of three participating groups. These groups interpreted and reflected on an elementary music curriculum using a music production lens. The first group consisted of music industry professionals informing the study with their expertise from first-hand experiences in the field. The second group consisted of elementary music teachers with various degrees of experience implementing this curriculum in a flipped classroom design. The third group consisted of primary, junior, and intermediate elementary students applying various concepts to music production projects of their choice. Based on this exploration, the following question guided this inquiry: How can music industry professionals, music teachers, and students collaborate, share ideas and their experiences, to inform a curricular design for public elementary school music education that has music production as its core?

Findings indicate that music production interests most students and teachers, however it should complement existing programs rather than being the core. By blending music production concepts within existing programs, students can: (a) develop technical skills beyond performance, (b) develop independence skills, (c) work alongside anyone, regardless of experience level, (d) collaborate with others anywhere in the world, and (e) produce music of their choice in a welcoming environment. Moreover, teachers can: (a) create a learner-centered environment, (b) learn alongside their students, and (c) meet curricular goals in a modern educational setting. The students in this study developed an understanding that what they hear on recordings might not be reproduced on their instruments without the aid of music production.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.