Talking 'privilege': Barriers to musical attainment in adolescents' talk of musical role models

A. Ivaldi, Susan O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (SciVal)


Using a discursive approach, this study explores the ways that adolescents construct the notion of social status and ‘being privileged’ through their talk about musician role models. Drawing on social identity theory (see Tajfel, 1978), we examined how adolescents moved between the relational ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups of being privileged versus being disadvantaged as a framework for discussing classical and popular musician role models. Seven focus groups were conducted, each composed of male and female adolescent musicians and non-musicians aged 14–15 years. Participants were asked to discuss 19 pictures of famous classical and popular musicians, commenting on whether they were familiar or unfamiliar figures, and whether they were liked or disliked and the reasons why. Through their talk, the adolescents constructed and negotiated a complex understanding of musical subcultures, whereby high levels of expertise and success were perceived within the notion of privilege. Findings suggest that adolescents' perceptions of privilege may act as a barrier or constraint to their exploration of alternative conceptualisations of musical expertise and success, thereby limiting their own musical aspirations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Music Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'Talking 'privilege': Barriers to musical attainment in adolescents' talk of musical role models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this