Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-jbqgn Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-23T23:40:42.188Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Power relations in the music teaching studio

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 July 2023

Kim Burwell*
University of New South Wales, Anzac Parade, Kensington, NSW, Australia


Power relations operate in any educational setting, and there may be particular vulnerabilities in a tradition conducted in the relative isolation of the music teaching studio. These vulnerabilities have been highlighted dramatically in recent years through high-profile cases of power abuse, but power is implicated in a wide range of contexts related to the studio, including cultural, gendered, pedagogical, artistic, institutional and interpersonal issues. It may be impossible to divest power of its negative connotations, but there is a good deal of theory focused on power, even if its terms are broadly political or philosophical, and subject to debate. This theoretical paper explores power relations with regard to the music studio, investigating popular conceptions and everyday usage before turning to scholarship focused on interpersonal and broader social perspectives. Some reflections are offered on the uses and abuses of power in the studio. A better understanding of its dimensions and usage can support the ongoing development of studio practices and contribute to the conversation that we need to have about power.

© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


AGUS, A. (2001). Heifetz as I Knew Him. Portland: Amadeus.Google Scholar
ALLSUP, R. E. (2012). Music education and human flourishing: A meditation on democratic origins. British Journal of Music Education, 29, 171179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
ALMQVIST, C. & WERNER, A. (2022). Gender in Higher Music Education . Association of European Conservatoires.Google Scholar
ARENDT, H. (1958). The Human Condition. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
BJERSTEDT, S. (2016). Stealing knowledge in a landscape of learning: Conceptualizations of jazz education. British Journal of Music Education, 33, 297308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BOURDIEU, P. (2000). Pascalian Meditations. Tr. Nice, Richard. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
BURWELL, K. (2005). A degree of independence: Teachers’ approaches to instrumental tuition in a university college. British Journal of Music Education, 22, 199215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BURWELL, K. (2012). Studio-based Instrumental Learning. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
BURWELL, K. (2016a). Dissonance in the studio: an exploration of tensions within the apprenticeship setting in higher education music. International Journal of Music Education, 34, 499512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BURWELL, K. (2016b). “She did miracles for me”: An investigation of dissonant studio practices in higher education music. Psychology of Music, 44, 466480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BURWELL, K. (2017). Feeling and thinking about studio practices: Exploring dissonance in semi-structured interviews with students in higher education music. British Journal of Music Education, 34, 189202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BURWELL, K. (2018). Coaching and feedback in the exercise periods of advanced studio voice lessons. Orfeu, 3, 1135. Scholar
BURWELL, K. (2019). Issues of dissonance in advanced studio lessons. Research Studies in Music Education, 41, 317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BURWELL, K. (2021). Authoritative discourse in advanced studio lessons. Musicae Scientiae, 25, 465479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BURWELL, K., CAREY, G. & BENNETT, D. (2019). Isolation in studio music teaching: the secret garden. Arts & Humanities in Higher Education, 18, 372394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
BUTLER, J. (1997). The Psychic Life of Power. Theories in Subjection. Stanford: Stanford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
CHAZELLE, D. (Director) (2014). Whiplash . DVD. Universal Sony.Google Scholar
CHOTZINOFF, S. (1956). Toscanini, an Intimate Portrait. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
COLWELL, R. (Ed.) (2011). Roles of direct instruction, critical thinking, and transfer in the design of curriculum for music learning. In Colwell, R. & Webster, P. R. (eds.), MENC Handbook of Research on Music Learning (vol. 1, pp. 84–139). Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DRABBLE, M., STRINGER, J. & HAHN, D. (2007). Trilby. In Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DUKE, R. A. & SIMMONS, A. L. (2006). The nature of expertise: narrative descriptions of 19 common elements observed in the lessons of three renowned artist-teachers. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 170, 719.Google Scholar
FERNÁNDEZ-MORANTE, B. (2018). Psychological violence in current musical education in conservatoires. Revista Internacional de Educación Musical, 6, 1324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
FOUCAULT, M. (1980). Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977 (C. Gordon, Trans.). New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
FOUCAULT, M. (1990). Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings, 1977-1984. In Kritzman, L. (ed.), London: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
FREIRE, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Tr. M. B. Ramos. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
GALLAGHER, P. & MANNING, S. (2013). Famous cellist was abusive monster, says former pupil. The Independent, 9 May. Scholar
GAUNT, H. (2008). One-to-one tuition in a conservatoire: the perceptions of instrumental and vocal teachers. Psychology of Music, 36, 215245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
GAUNT, H. (2017). Apprenticeship and empowerment: The role of one-to-one lessons. In Rink, J., Gaunt, H. & Williamon, A. (eds.), Musicians in the Making. Pathways to Creative Performance (pp. 2856). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
GRIMES, H. (2008). Power in flux: mesmerism, mesmeric manuals and Du Maurier’s Trilby. Gothic Studies, 2, 6783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
HAGGIN, B. H. (1979). Conversations with Toscanini. New York: Horizon.Google Scholar
HANEKE, M. (Director) (2001). La pianiste (The piano teacher). DVD. Artificial Eye.Google Scholar
HAUGAARD, M. (2012). Rethinking the four dimensions of power: domination and empowerment. Journal of Political Power, 5, 3354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
HAYS, T., MINICHIELLO, V. & WRIGHT, P. (2000). Mentorship: the meaning of the relationship for musicians. Research Studies in Music Education, 15, 314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
JØRGENSEN, H. (2009). Research into Higher Music Education: An Overview from a Quality Improvement Perspective. Oslo, Norway: Novus.Google Scholar
KEMP, A. E. (1997). Individual differences in musical behaviour. In Hargreaves, D. J. & North, A. C. (eds.), The Social Psychology of Music (pp. 25450). Oxford, New York, Tokyo: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
KINGSBURY, H. (1988). Music, Talent, and Performance. A Conservatory Cultural System. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
LATHAM, A. (Ed.) (2011). The Oxford Companion to Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
LEBLER, D. & HODGES, N. (2017). Popular music pedagogy. In Smith, G. D., Moir, A., Brennan, M., Kirkman, P. & Rambarran, S. (eds.), The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music Education (pp. 272284). London, New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
LEECH-WILKINSON, N. (2021). Challenging performance: classical music performance norms and how to escape them. Scholar
LUKES, S. (2005). Power: A Radical View (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MANTURZEWSKA, M. (1990). A biographical study of the life-span development of professional musicians. Psychology of Music, 18, 112139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MARSHALL, J. D. (1990). Foucault and educational research. In Ball, S. J. (ed.), Foucault and education. Disciplines and knowledge (pp. 1128). London, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
NERLAND, M. (2001). Discourses and practices of instrumental teaching. Paper Presented to the Research in Music Education Conference, 3–7 April, University of Exeter.Google Scholar
NERLAND, M. (2007). One-to-one teaching as cultural practice: two case studies from an academy of music. Music Education Research, 9, 399416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
NIELSEN, K. N. (1999). Learning at the Academy of Music as Socially Situated. Aarhus: Psykologisk Intitut, Aarhus Universitet.Google Scholar
NUNAN, R. (2013). Rethinking hysteria through artistic genius in George du Maurier’s ‘Trilby’ and F. W. H. Myers’s ‘Human personality and its survival of bodily death’. PSYART, 119. Gainesville: University of Florida.Google Scholar
PAYNE, C., ANNETTS, D. & POHL, N. (2018). Dignity in study: a survey of higher education institutions. Incorporated Society of Musicians. Accessed 11 April 2022.Google Scholar
PERSSON, R. (1994). Control before shape. On mastering the clarinet: a case study on commonsense teaching. British Journal of Music Education, 11, 223238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
RABINOW, P. (Ed.) (1984). The Foucault Reader. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
RICKEN, N. (2006). The power of power – questions to Michel Foucault. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 38, 541560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
SCHNABEL, A. (1934/1988). My Life and Music. New York: Dover.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
SCHNEEBAUM, G. (2015). What is wrong with sex in authority relations? A study in law and social theory. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 2, 345385.Google Scholar
SHULMAN, L. (2005). Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134, 5259 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
SOSNIAK, L. A. (1985). The phases of learning. In Bloom, B. S. (ed.), Developing Talent in Young People (pp. 409438). New York, Toronto: Ballantine.Google Scholar
STERN, K. J. (2010). Rule Bohemia: The cosmopolitics of subculture in George du Maurier’s ‘Trilby’. Victorian Literature and Culture 38, 547570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
TICKNER, L. (2011). Bohemianism and the cultural field: ‘Trilby’ and ‘Tarr’. Art History, 34, 9781011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
TREGEAR, P., et al. (2016). Conservatoires in society: Institutional challenges and possibilities for change. Arts & Humanities in Higher Education, 15, 276292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
WARTENBURG, T. E. (1988). The situated conception of social power. Social Theory and Practice, 14, 317343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
WEBER, M. (1922/2019). Economy and Society. Ed/Tr. K. Tribe. Cambridge MA, London UK: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
WICKSTRÖM, D. (2021). Dealing with (institutionalized) forms of power abuse. In Strengthening Music in Society. Tools and Resources for Higher Music Education. Association Européenne des Conservatoires, Accessed 11 April 2022.Google Scholar
YOUNG, M. & MULLER, J. (2010). Three educational scenarios for the future: Lessons from the sociology of knowledge. European Journal of Education, 45, 1127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar