The Experience of Students as Part of a Secondary School Musical Theatre Course
Stokes, William Warren Cook
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This thesis captures the nature of musical theatre in secondary schools in order to understand more completely the intrinsic benefits of the activity. The research surrounds the essence of students’ experience as part of a secondary school musical theatre course, and how students come to understand the meaning of their experience over time. The research design uses a hermeneutic phenomenological lens to capture the lived experience of six former musical theatre students using in-depth, semi-structured interviews. The data is organized in a narrative-like style and analyzed according to the emergent themes, the literature, and this researcher’s personal experience. The data suggest musical theatre is a journey of self-discovery where process is paramount. The alumni describe the impact of teacher quality on the musical theatre process, the family inherent in the musical theatre cast, the allure of performance and notoriety, and the frustrations toward other students’ apathy. Recent graduates note increased confidence and improved public speaking abilities, but older graduates see musical theatre as something life changing. The intensity of experience, therefore, seems to depend on the number of years students have to reflect on the impact of their experience. Holding these experiences in such esteem, in this study however, decreases the probability of participation in future musical theatre opportunities for fear of their inadequacy. These former students fear they will be unable to repeat the musical theatre experience to the same quality they experienced back when they were in secondary school. This regrettable cycle is unfortunate, but seems to be the reality of how students come to understand this experience over time. The analysis is intended to inform curriculum delivery, advocacy, and alumni relations for future courses in musical theatre.