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Music Education Ph.D. Wins Outstanding Dissertation Award

June 09, 2021 School of Music | College of Arts and Humanities

 Headshot of Adam Grise.

Adam Grisé’s dissertation focused on access, representation and equity in music educational settings.

By Jessica Weiss ’05

Adam Grisé, who completed his Ph.D. in music education in 2019, has won the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Council for Research in Music Education for his dissertation that focused on issues of access, representation and equity in secondary and postsecondary music educational settings. 

The Council, which is based at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has awarded outstanding doctoral dissertations in music education for nearly four decades. 

Grisé’s dissertation, titled "Making It Through: Persistence and Attrition Along Music, Education, and Music Education Pathways," used a nationally-representative dataset to examine uptake, persistence and attrition along pathways to becoming a music teacher, a professional musician or a teacher of a non-music subject.

“I feel incredibly honored to be recognized,” said Grisé, who now works as a systems and data analyst at the School of Music. 

Grisé used data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, an ongoing government study of 21,000 students across the country who have been tracked since their ninth-grade year, and identified those who had said they might like to be a musician, a teacher or a music teacher. He then tracked their development through four key decision points to see where the path narrowed.  

The resulting analysis shows the impact of factors like race, gender and socioeconomic status on students’ paths—and thus on equity in music education as a whole. For instance, Grisé found that music education majors tend to come from high schools with fewer racial or ethnic minority students and lower concentrations of poverty. Schools with high concentrations of poverty produce fewer aspiring music teachers. And women leave the path of being aspiring professional musicians or music educators at twice the rate of men. 

Associate Professor of Music Education Kenneth Elpus, who served as Grisé’s faculty advisor, said Grisé used “ingenuity and innovation … to help the profession understand key characteristics about the students who become music teachers and the pathways they take to get there.”  

“It's a monumental piece of scholarship that brings strong evidence and strong interpretation to bear on questions of importance, and I'm so proud to have seen it through from germ of idea to completion,” Elpus said. 

Grisé said this research will also have an impact at the University of Maryland, where he’s working to help transform the ways the School of Music uses data to inform processes and decisions.
“I am able to apply many of the insights from my dissertation as we strive to increase equity and diversity in our music programs,” he said.