Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Music Therapy

First Advisor

Fei-Lin Hsiao

First Committee Member

Eric G. Waldon


Singing is often used in music therapy sessions. It can provide physiological, psychological, and interpersonal benefits, and music therapists use it to address clinical goals including improved blood oxygenation, emotional expression, and increased interpersonal engagement between clients and their family members. Singing uniquely combines musicality, the body as the instrument, and meaningful words. Furthermore, the voice is a personal instrument, which makes musical engagement accessible to many people. Though singing can provide various benefits, many people experience singing negatively, especially when singing with an exposed voice, i.e., when others can hear their singing voice. Whidden (2015) found that one can easily develop a non-singer identity, i.e., the belief that one is not capable of singing, by hearing a negative comment about one’s singing in childhood. Studies also have found that people can feel vulnerable and embarrassed when singing. It is important to understand how people experience singing, especially with an exposed voice, and how past experiences with singing shape one’s singer identity so that clients can benefit from singing without experiencing unnecessary discomfort.

  1. The research questions that guided this study were:
  2. What are the experiences of non-musician adults when singing with an exposed voice?

How do past experiences with singing shape one’s identity as a singer?

A phenomenological design was used with interviews of nine participants who were non-musicians in non-clinical live music experience sessions. The participants joined the researcher in singing a song of their choice and a predetermined well-known song. Five themes emerged including 1) the onset of insecurity; 2) singing together; 3) right here, right now; 4) that’s my song! and 5) I’ve got the music in me. These were each accompanied by song lyrics that capture the meaning. The results show how one’s singer identity and experience of singing in the present moment can be impacted by past experiences and that preferred songs are often emotionally evocative. These findings provide insights for use in music therapy practice, including a simple assessment question to evaluate a client’s singer identity.



Included in

Music Therapy Commons



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).