School of Music


Master of Arts in Music Education (MA)


Lori Danielson


popular music, elementary education, social and cultural empathy, multicultural music, ethnography, elementary music




This qualitative ethnographic study explores the undocumented effects of popular music on elementary students’ social and cultural empathy. Previous studies have explored the effects of popular music on adolescent and college-age students, but no study has researched these effects in the elementary classroom. This study aims to show that learning about socially-relevant popular music in a social setting advances students’ sociocultural and musical development. The researcher recruited eighty elementary-aged students from a private school in the Las Virgines School District in Los Angeles to participate in this study. The participants were sorted into subgroups by grade, and each subgroup was subject to four lessons, each of which focused on a different type of cultural popular music. With each subgroup, the researcher conducted a pre-lesson interview and a post-lesson group interview. After the research period, the researcher watched video recordings of the lessons and observed the students in their natural classroom setting. This study found that utilizing socially-relevant popular music for formal study in elementary classrooms positively affects students’ development of social and cultural empathy. These results add to the existing body of literature and advocate for improving elementary music education curricula. For further research, one might perform this kind of study at a public school to determine the differences found between public and private schools or study student engagement with popular music versus other types of music to help determine if popular music is actually more engaging than other types of music.

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