“And It Turns Out that It only Has Two Chords”: Secondary School Music Teachers’ Orientations on Dealing with Learners’ Music Cultures in the Classroom in Germany

In this study, we reconstruct German secondary music teachers’ strategies for dealing with learners’ (pop) music culture(s) in music lessons as well as shared implicit and explicit knowledge that underpins this practice and orientates teachers in their everyday teaching. Findings arise from data collected in group discussions analyzed with the help of the documentary method (Bohnsack 2014). Our study shows differences between learners’ and teachers’ (implicit) conceptions of the goals and the content of music lessons in school, especially with regard to the different notions of the value of pop music. It seems to be an everyday practice in school to functionalize pop music and positioning Western art music higher than other musical styles included in lessons. This is combined with an orientation toward the analysis of music as a common modus operandi. Our findings confirm the gap between students’ musical interests and practices in everyday life and school music education. This leads us to discuss the power relations in the educational system and the structures that cause social injustice, as well as new perspectives on music teacher training and music education in schools to face these issues in the future.

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Pop or classical, established or new, own or foreign music? The privilege of choosing the repertoire for music lessons puts teachers in a powerful position: They decide which music makes its way into the classroom and how learners deal with it. Because of this, they have great impact on how music culture(s) are valued in lesson contexts. But how do music teachers intentionally and non-intentionally use this power? How do they value learners’ music cultures and how do they take learners’ interests into account when planning and conducting lessons? In this study we use the documentary method (Bohnsack 2010; 2014; Przyborski 2004) to reconstruct the orientations that guide German music teachers in dealing with the musical interests of learners in their professional practice.

Our results show that learners’ interests and especially pop music is considered as less important in music lessons by the secondary school music teachers interviewed, independent of social factors such as age, experience, gender or the school context that they work in. The aim of the music teachers featured within this study is to analyze and understand Western classical music even though they recognize that learners in their classrooms are less interested in this music. We discuss our findings in regard to questions of power and processes of exclusion in the music education system.

Theoretical Background

Music, especially pop music, is deemed to be “one of the most meaningful interests of youth” (Heyer et al. 2013, 4, translated by the authors; see also Busch and Lehmann-Wermser 2018) and plays a central role in processes of self-socialization in the phase of adolescence (Müller 2004; Rhein and Müller 2006). In this context, music as a way to express “styles” serves also as a medium to demonstrate affiliation to (youth) “subcultures” (Hebdige 1979) as well as to position oneself in society:

Style in subculture is, then, pregnant with significance. Its transformations go “against nature”, interrupting the process of “normalization”. As such, they are gestures, movements towards a speech which offends the “silent majority”, which challenges the principle of unity and cohesion, which contradicts the myth of consensus. (Ibid., 18)

In the same phase of a person’s development, school as the main “instance of socialization” (Heyer et al. 2013, 4, translated by the authors) has an important function, along with a child’s peer group. However, research in this field indicates a considerable difference between music in school and music in students’ everyday life (Hargreaves and Marshall 2003; Lamont and Maton 2010, Schmidt 2015). Wolfgang Pfeiffer described the gap between learners’ interests and content that is taught in school and argued that this gap is getting wider because of the focus on cognitive learning in music lessons (Pfeiffer 2013, 193). Pfeiffer’s position is confirmed from the learners’ perspective portrayed, in detail, in Adam J. Kruse’s case study “‘They Wasn’t Makin’ My Kinda Music’: A Hip-Hop Musician’s Perspective on School, Schooling, and School Music” (Kruse 2016). Kruse describes how his informant’s interest in hip-hop was not considered in his school music education at a public school in a Midwestern city in the United States. Therefore, he did not engage in the school music program.

Despite a keen interest in music as an adolescent and considerable musical activity as an adult, Terrence had precious little interest in the musical activities happening at his school. (Kruse 2016, 250)

It seems that school music education (still) neither meets the expectations of youth nor values learners’ music cultures. As a consequence, learners cannot link their experiences from inside and outside of school together.

In 2004, Renate Müller argued that “teenagers do not need a music education that excludes musical youth cultures from educational institutions and ignores the cultural identities of youth” (Müller 2004, 14, translated by the authors). However, youth culture and especially pop music is still not a main focus of music education in German schools. Michael Ahlers and Dirk Zuther stated that pop music is underrepresented in music educational periodicals (Ahlers and Zuther 2015), school books and teaching materials, as well as in final examination tasks and in music teacher training (Ahlers 2016). Michael Pabst-Krüger (2015) points out that “[a]n analysis of the actual integration of popular music into teacher training in Germany shows a very fragmented picture: in terms of both quantity and quality” (ibid., 321, translated by the authors) and highlights the necessity of further improvements in music teacher training.

In the international discourse, Ruth Wright and Brian Davies (2010) identified the predominance of Western art music in British curricula, indentifying structural social injustice in the educational system as this thematic focus redounds to middle- and upper-class students’ advantage:

The National Curriculum for Music was influenced by the dying throes of the Thatcher era and an attempt to cling to the vestiges of an education system governed by twentieth-century, British, upper-middle-class values. Within this value system, the habitus of the dominant group was largely framed by public-school education and musically by the western art-music canon. (Wright and Davies 2010, 48)

In this context, recent German curricula can be seen as evidence for change. Daniel Mark Eberhard analyzed the curriculum for primary schools in Bavaria and concluded that pop music is represented in different contexts, especially in music making (Eberhard 2015, 88–89). The introductory chapter of the curricula for secondary schools in Baden-Württemberg published in 2016 states the following:

In times of the unmanageable and omnipresent offer of music, music in school contributes to cultural identity-generating. Including learners’ socio-cultural origin offers individual and authentic approaches to learning. In this way, music can contribute substantially to the integration of the individual in our varied society and to the intercultural dialogue. (Ministerium für Kultus, Jugend und Sport Baden-Württemberg 2016, 3, translated by the authors)

As learners’ perspectives are (still) not well included in music education in school, it is questionable if and how these well-formulated claims from educational policy are heard and implemented by teachers in schools. Suggesting a way out of this dilemma, Sidsel Karlsen and Heidi Westerlund (2015) highlighted the importance of the teacher, illustrating how teachers’ repertoire choices could lead to more social justice and democracy, when musical diversity is “transferred into the classroom” (ibid., 382, emphasis in original). In addition to lesson content and teachers’ repertoire choices, Gary Spruce underlined the importance of the “student voice” (Spruce 2015, 287) in the classroom and criticized teacher-centered educational settings. Jacqueline Kelly-McHale’s findings from a case study confirmed the isolating effects of a teacher-centered approach of direct instruction, suggesting that it led to “an isolated musical experience that did not support the integration of cultural, linguistic, and popular music experiences and largely ignored issues of cultural responsiveness” (Kelly-McHale 2013, 1).

In Germany, Christine Stöger and Heinz Geuen (2017) create a thought experiment (Gedankenexperiment) that reflects music-making in general music education from the perspective of cultural studies. They criticize the power relations in school regarding the meaning and the value attributed to music (ibid., 62). In their point of view, music education should take learners as cultural actors seriously and design school and school music education as a place that gives opportunities to articulate learners’ perspectives on music and making music (ibid., 68–69). Their concept is in line with the meaning-oriented concept of culture (Barth 2008) that our study refers to and that allows us to describe culture(s) as dynamic, non-(ethnic)-holistic and non-normative. Therefore, we interpret dealing with and reflecting on different (youth) music cultures in school as processes of intercultural learning.

Research Questions

The short literature review illustrates, on the one hand, the central meaning of music in processes of socialization in the phase of youth and, on the other, the powerful position music teachers have in the complex system of power relations governing access to cultural capital in school music education. The question remains: How do teachers deal with learners’ musical interests and culture(s) [1] in their everyday school work? At the very beginning of our research on migration, interculturality, and music education [2], we observed that the participating music teachers considered the topic of interculturality in everyday school life by reflecting on the musical cultures of the learners in comparison to the content of the music lessons’ and their own musical interests. In this context, the musical cultures of the learners were discussed, evaluated, and considered according to whether or not they were found useful or meaningful (in educational contexts) by the participants. We analyzed this thematic aspect in our data guided by the following research questions:

  • How do music teachers at different secondary schools deal with learners’ (pop) music culture(s) in music lessons?
  • Which shared implicit and common-sense knowledge orient music teachers in their everyday teaching, especially in dealing with learners’ music cultures and musical interests in the classroom?


In our study, findings arise from data collected within group discussions (Bohnsack 2010) with the music teaching staff at three different secondary schools (type: “Gymnasium”, that is a higher secondary institution) at different locations in Germany:

School #1 is a Catholic school for girls in a mid-sized German university town. 7% of the students do not have German as their native language and 2.45% of the students do not have German citizenship. Three female and two male music teachers took part in the group discussions.

School # 2 is a music-specialist high school in a German megacity. Through co-operation with conservatories, as well as their general education, student receive musical education (instrumental lessons, choir and orchestra, music theory, and ear training). 10% of the students do not have German as their first or home language and 17.14% of the students do not have German citizenship. Two female and two male music teachers took part in the group discussion.

School # 3is a high school located in a district of a German megacity that is characterized by a high proportion of foreigners and migrants. Music education can be chosen as a main subject at school. Furthermore, the school offers an education program for talented students. As part of a specific pedagogical concept, self-determined learning as well as self-reliant action on the part of the students is promoted through free study time. 66,5% of the students do not have German as their first or home language and 14,87% of the students do not have German citizenship. Three female and one male music teacher took part in the group discussion.

In the context of an ongoing research project that serves as the data basis for the study presented in this paper, the participants were asked to discuss the topics migration, interculturality, and music education against the background of their everyday experiences as music teachers in school. The group discussions were transcribed and interpreted using the documentary method (Bohnsack 2014; Przyborski 2004). Aiming at reconstructing the “implicit knowledge that underlies everyday practice and gives an orientation to habitualized actions” (Bohnsack, Pfaff, and Weller 2010b, 20), the documentary method fits our research question asking for music teachers’ common-sense and implicit knowledge in dealing with learners’ personal musical interests and youth music cultures in everyday school life.

In a first stage of analysis we identified passages in the material that show thematic relevance to our research questions. Out of this sample we selected excerpts that show special features in the dramaturgy of the discourse: involvement of a high number of participants, self-dynamic in the discussion, and “culminating points in the dramaturgy of the discourse” (Bohnsack 2010, 105). These selected passages were analyzed regarding to thematic aspects and content (“immanent meaning”, ibid., 102–3). This was followed by a reflective interpretation of the material to find the “documentary meaning” (ibid.). To get access to the implicit knowledge it is very important to distinguish between the content of the group discussion and the way how the participants talk to each other in the analysis of data:

The documentary method offers – on the level of an observation of the second order – an access to the pre-reflexive or tacit knowledge, which is implied in the practice of action. Asking for the documentary meaning can […] be understood as asking for how: how is practice produced or accomplished. That means, asking for the modus operandi of practical action. This question has to be distinguished from asking what (on the level of the observer of first order), for the immanent or literal meaning. (Bohnsack 2010, 103)

In the final step of the interpretation we compared the selected passages and identified homogenous features and differences within and between the three cases. This helped us to reconstruct the implicit and explicit knowledge that orientate the teachers in our sample when dealing with learners’ music cultures and musical interests in the classroom independent from individual motives and beliefs.


The data from the three group discussions enables us to reconstruct common-sense theories and implicit knowledge that orients secondary music teachers in their everyday practice. This data is currently too narrow to generate a socio-genetic typification that illustrates differences related to, for example, age, sex, and work experience. However, we can already identify shared common-sense knowledge and (implicit) orientation patterns of higher secondary school (Gymnasium) teachers that are homogenous in all three cases, as well as differences related to the school settings our participants work in. Later we will illustrate our findings by analyzing three connected excerpts of a passage of the group discussion in school #3. In the interpretation, we refer to homogenous features and differences to our other cases.

In all three group discussions, we found that learners’ music cultures and musical interests are considered as “sub-topics” (#2, 122 [3] ) in lesson contexts by the teachers. This viewpoint is explicitly shared as common-sense by the participants and could also be considered an implicit orientation pattern on the basis of narrative passages within the group discussions, as can be shown by the first excerpt of the passage from group discussion #3. One participant (Af [4] ) is talking about her 12th grade (17- to 18-year-old students) music course curriculum on “non-European / non-Western music” (Af, #3, 762). In this context, the teachers are discussing how foreign music from India is to their students compared to music by Schubert. The following transcript excerpt starts directly after this.

Transcript 1: Asian Music (#3, 76884)

Transcript 1b: English Translation of Transcript 1a [5]

Bf talks about two students who are interested in dealing with “Asian music” (770) in her course. Her narration puts an emphasis on the high motivation of the students (“absolutely”, 770). Af is validating the students’ interest and high attraction to Asian music in 773 and again later by starting a narration of a comparable experience in her own class (777). Bf is interrupting her by telling her colleagues that the students “already ask [her] now” (778) to cover Asian pop music in class. However, she is evaluating this demand as a misunderstanding, in an amused way. Dealing with “Japanese pop or something like that” (782) in her course is not an appropriate option for Bf, “even if we’ll do Japanese music” (781). As her colleagues are validating this remark by shared laughter, it is evident that this is a shared orientation pattern in the group: Asian pop music is not regarded as a relevant content for the music course on non-European music. On the basis of this passage and homologous passages in our data we can also reconstruct a discrepancy between learners’ and teachers’ (implicit) conceptions of goals and the adequacy of the content of music lessons in school, especially in regard to different attributions of meaning to pop music.

A little later in the discussion another discrepancy between the learners’ and teachers’ conceptions of music lessons can be seen. 

Transcript 2a: Carrot and stick (#3, 810–30)

Transcript 2b: Translation of Transcript 2a

Referring to a narration of her colleague Af about “little presentations” (#3, 787) by the students on pop music, Cf reports on a similar practice in her 7th grade. Cf starts her course with the “music that they listen to themselves” (812–13) to motivate the students toward music in school and then moves on to the time of baroque music (815). The first narrative part of this passage shows the orientation pattern of functionalizing pop music for further goals (motivation for music in school). Thereby, the teacher is contrasting the students’ musical interests in pop music with baroque music as the real aim of her lesson. This reveals the implicit orientation toward teaching Western art music. That is validated by the ironic comment “carrot and stick” [“Zuckerbrot und Peitsche”] (817) and the laughter of her colleagues. We can find many other examples for the orientation toward teaching Western art music repertoire as the main goal of school music education in our data.

The teacher’s reflection is interesting in the second part of her narration. She reports of a “gobby” [“eine relativ Vorlaute”] (816) student who questioned her decision to work on baroque music as irrelevant because “this is history” (818). The incident leads Cf to doubt her practice and to imagine alternatives (820–30). This shows a discrepancy between the implicit knowledge that is guiding the teacher’s practice (focus on Western art music) and the explicit doubts about this that could be related to the social norm of tolerance and the educational common-sense theory of learner-centered teaching. This dilemma for the teacher illustrates a typical conflict between habitus and (social) norms (Bohnsack 2017, 54–56) that teachers face in their everyday practice and might be interpreted as an impetus for change in the long term.

A specific characteristic of school #3 compared to the others is the reflection on Arabic music from the 16th century (829) as an alternative, more student-oriented, content to baroque music. The staff of school #3 describes their school as a “hotspot” (#3, 113) for cultural diversity due to the high percentage of foreign or immigrant students and students that are 1st or2nd generation German. In the reflections of their practice they often report on strategies to provide better access to the curriculum for their students. However, the basic orientation toward teaching Western art music regardless of the learners’ interests and (music) cultural orientations is shared in all three cases.

Again, teachers’ and learners’ different conception of music in school is illustrated by the passage where the teacher reports on her students’ opposition to dealing with baroque music. It becomes obvious that the teacher is reflecting on the differences between her students’ interests and her own objectives in her role as a teacher. In comparable passages in other group interviews, the students’ lack of interest in Western art music is described in metaphorical language: “It’s all Greek to them” [“das sind für die böhmische Dörfer”] (#1, 872), “all of this is very far away for them” (#1, 873), “for some of them a very very different, really a different continent, sort of” (#3, 299–301).

However, a difference can be seen in school #2 which offers education to highly talented (mainly classically trained) young musicians. In the group discussion, Western art music is presented as common ground that connects teachers and learners regardless to their nationality or region of birth. This can be seen in the following excerpt from the group discussion #2 in which the focus is similar. The teacher is reflecting on a justification for dealing with Gregorian music from Central Europe (171) , that “no German students knows” (174–75):

Transcript 3a: The fundament (#2, 180–87)

Transcript 3b: Translation of Transcript 3a

In addition to the focus on a selected repertoire in music lessons, in many passages of our material we see an emphasis on cognitive approaches to music in the teaching of the participants. The following passage is an example for that modus operandi:

Transcript 4a: Bright light of analysis (#3, 831–49)

Transcript 4b: English translation of Transcript 4a

Af validates (“indeed” [“total”], 831) the thought experiment of Cf on teaching Arabic music instead of baroque music, but immediately starts to say the opposite. She questions whether the students would “prefer to do that” [“lieber machen würden”] (833) and compares it with the students’ aversion to analyzing pop songs. Dm validates her argument (836). His validation of the opposite viewpoint can be interpreted as a shared orientation pattern of the two participants. Both of them judge Cf’s thought experiment as a non-realistic option for action, affirming their practice of focusing on Western art music (see above).

Af continues her elaboration in the mode of an argumentation by stating that analyzing pop songs in lessons means to take the students away a “protected space” [“Rückzugsbereich”] (838). This is validated by Dm and Bf. Af uses the metaphor “bright light of analysis” [“grelle Licht der Analyse”] (842) as an illustration of the music lesson practice. In the context of the discussion it is used as a negative counter image (“counter-horizon” [6] [Bohnsack 2010, 119]) to the private engagement with pop music that was characterized by words like “protected space” [“Rückzugsbereich”] and “identity” [“Identität”] by the participants. Even though Af starts laughing during her confirmation of her own argument (843), the negative connotation of this metaphor for their teaching practice is not questioned by the participants. Instead Bf continues her narration, adding that “it turns out that it only @has two chords@” [7] (844). Her mocking is validated by laughter and continued by Af (849). Dm doubts Af’s position but changes his position by validating his colleagues’ position (848).

This excerpt illustrates that the teachers share the orientation concerning analyzing music as a common modus operandi of the music lessons. Analyzing and understanding music can be viewed as an implicit goal of the music lessons in homologous passages even though the teachers, especially those in school #3, highlight that students “really like the practical approach” [“die [mögen] eigentlich diesen praktischen Zugang total”] (#3, 853) and identify strongly with music they know from playing it.

Another orientation that becomes apparent in this excerpt is the teachers’ practice of distancing themselves from learners’ pop music culture by devaluing the quality of the students’ music. In this example, implicit criteria used to judge the pop song are drawn from the quality criteria of the Western art music canon (the complexity of the harmony). This shows that in their professional practice the teachers are guided by an implicit normative concept of culture (Barth 2008) that rates Western art music higher than pop music. In homologous passages students’ musical taste is devalued and teachers clearly distance themselves from youth (music) culture:

Transcript 5a: Ed Sheeran or whatever (#2, 495–97)

Transcript 5b: English translation of Transcript 5a

In our data we find further evidence for this pattern. But the practice of illustrating the differences between the learners’ musical practices and the common repertoire of the music lesson is not limited to pop music. In group discussion #1 (722–41), the teachers report on students who commute to school from surrounding villages and play brass instruments in local wind bands. The teachers perceive that these students are ashamed of talking about this practice in school; they seem to differentiate between their private social contexts in the rural setting, and the urban social world of their school. The teachers also devalue these musical practices.

However, distinguishing between musical practices outside school and those in a school context is not only a common practice for students. One female teacher in the group discussion #2 reported on an experience where she did not dare to tell people in school that she attended a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, as she felt that this would be inappropriate in the context of an institution whose curriculum is mainly focusing on Western art music. This example shows that she is implicitly sharing her institution’s music cultural orientation even though she reflects on the narrow canon of the school as problematic. This is another example of the typical conflict between the implicit knowledge and an explicit accessible social norm,  both important parts of the framework of orientation that guides everyday practice (Bohnsack 2017, 54–56). The examples illustrate that drawing lines of demarcation between musical practices inside and those outside schools is a pattern of social practice that is constructed since teachers and students are all members of the “common space of experience” (Bohnsack 2010, 105), that is, school.

Discussion and Further Thoughts

The results of this study confirm the gap between students’ musical interests and practices in everyday life and school music education which focuses on the Western art music canon as well as on cognitive learning in the music lessons, congruent with the findings of other studies (Hargreaves and Marshall 2003, Pfeiffer 2013, Kruse 2016). However, we provide new qualitative insights into the patterns of orientation that guide music teachers when dealing with students’ personal musical interests and youth music cultures in school. Furthermore, our research has clarified the powerful position music teachers have in the educational system. Their choices of the repertoire for music lessons contribute to reproducing a structural social injustice in the educational system parallel to the thematic focus in schoolbooks and lesson material (Ahlers 2016, Ahlers and Zuther 2015). Our findings also parallel the unjust power relations caused by the thematic focus on Western art music in the National Curriculum in England illustrated by Wright and Davies (2010). In contrast to their findings, our research shows the strong discrepancies between music teachers’ everyday teaching practice and goals formulated in recent German Curricula, and the demands for a more learner-centered repertoire and an orientation toward youth music cultures in educational institutes. These were noted, by researchers, years ago (Müller 2004) and have been repeated more recently (Kelly-MacHale 2013, Karlsen and Westerlund 2015, Spruce 2015, Stöger and Geuen 2017).

In regard to the German music education system our findings also should be discussed in a broader perspective, to avoid our research being misunderstood as some kind of “teacher bashing”. However, the fact that we present music teachers’ shared orientations independent of individual motives, and that our central findings are homologous for all three cases which represent very different secondary school contexts, indicate that the orientations are strongly framed by the institutional role of music teachers. This is confirmed by the differences between teachers’ private musical practices and their repertoire focus in school, as well as the conflict between their actual practice and common-sense theories. Our findings are evidence of structural issues in the German music educational system. Wright (2010, 2015) described “school music as hegemonic practice” (Wright 2010, 263) and points out that the process of hegemony in schools “reproduces cultural and economic dominance in society” (ibid., 273) which leads to social injustice and social exclusion. Our results illustrated how music teachers’ implicit knowledge that orients everyday teaching practice excludes learners’ interests and leads to an affirmation of a musical repertoire selection that favors the members of the upper- and upper-middle class. Access to Western art music requires cultural capital and, as parents in Germany usually have to pay for private music lessons, economic capital.

But again, reasons for that cannot be ascribed solely to individual music teachers. How music teachers act on a day-to-day basis is, for instance, highly influenced by their music teacher training. Discussing whether higher music education has adapted to social change or not, Wright concludes:

If higher music education were to have adapted to social change therefore, one might expect corresponding changes to appear in the form of broader repertoires and forms of pedagogy to reflect a general societal expansion of cultural taste. In compulsory education in many countries, other than the Nordic countries, however one sees a higher music education that still reflects an uncritical assumption of the superiority of western art music and reifies musics and musicians, languages and literatures, to reproduce an outdated cultural hegemony. (Wright 2018, 18)

Christopher Wallbaum (2010) observes a focus on Western art music, especially in German music teacher training programs. By developing a typology of music teachers in a European comparison, he characterized the typical music teacher in Germany as a “semiprofessional musician Classical” that “only plays notated music” but “is interested in all music” (ibid., 275). The Western art music focus of German music teachers becomes obvious in comparison to the characterization of the typical music teacher from Norway who is a “professional musician [in] Jazz or Rock and amateurish classic” or from Sweden or The Netherlands who are characterized as “professional school-musician; amateurish pop and Folk; knowledge about classic” (ibid.). Wallbaum concludes that “an applicant for music teacher training at a German University of Music barely stands a chance of gaining entry if s/he has not taken classical private lessons for years” (ibid., 272, translated by the authors). Often trained in Music Universities, higher secondary music teachers need this focus to get access to music teacher training programs and then they often deepen this specialization during their studies. Even though the access to teacher training for pop musicians and the opportunities to specialize in different music styles has become easier in recent years, opening up the repertoire and the range of music cultural orientations in secondary music teacher training, especially in music universities, is still an important task for the future (Buchborn 2019, Buchborn and Völker 2019, Ahlers 2016, Pabst-Krüger 2015).

On the Authors

Prof. Dr. Thade Buchborn is full professor of music education and head of music teacher training at Freiburg University of Music. His research is informed by documentary method and design-based research and deals with processes of compositing and improvising in formal and informal contexts, cultural diversity in music education, instrumental tuition in general education, and social aspects of music education.

Verena Bons holds a master’s degree (1. Staatsexamen) in music and French for teaching in secondary schools and wrote her master thesis on music teachers’ perspectives on intercultural learning. During her studies, she worked as a research assistant in the project „KoMuF – Kooperative Musiklehrer/innenbildung Freiburg.“ Currently, she is in her in-service training in a secondary school near Freiburg and started working on her Ph.D. in the project “MOkuB – Musikvereine als Orte kultureller Bildung.”


[1] As a theoretical framework for this study we are using a meaning-oriented concept of culture (Barth 2008) that allows us to describe music cultures as dynamic, non-(ethnic)-holistic and non-normative. Nevertheless, our reconstructions show that our informants are implicitly and explicitly following other concepts of culture, that we use to contextualize our empirical findings.

[2] Data for this investigation is taken from the ongoing study “Migration, interculturality and music education” by Thade Buchborn.

[3] #2 indicates the case/group discussion, 122 the line number in the transcript.

[4] We follow the following system for indicating our informants: A = first speaker in the discussion, B = second speaker and so on; f = female / m = male.

[5] All transcripts are translated from German by the authors and are following the guidelines “Talk in Qualitative Research – TiQ” (Bohnsack, Pfaff, and Weller 2010a, 365).

[6] The orientation framework of a social group is often elaborated by the use of negative or positive counter images (“counter-horizons”). They are used to distinguish their own norms, habits or orientations patterns from those of others. A group of teenagers for example describes the way of living of a young teacher to illustrate how they do not want to live in the future (Bohnsack 2014, 137–39).

[7] @…@ = spoken while laughing.

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Proposal for Citation

Buchborn, Thade, and Verena Bons. 2021. “‘And It Turns Out that It only Has Two Chords’: Secondary School Music Teachers’ Orientations on Dealing with Learners’ Music Cultures in the Classroom in Germany.” In Pop – Power – Positions: Globale Beziehungen und populäre Musik, edited by Anja Brunner and Hannes Liechti (~Vibes – The IASPM D-A-CH Series 1). Berlin: IASPM D-A-CH. Online at www.vibes-theseries.org/buchborn-bons-classroom.

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Cover Picture: Group of students performing violin music in front of the opera museum (photo: Angel Chavez/Pixabay)

Abstract (Deutsch)

Im vorliegenden Beitrag rekonstruieren wir, wie Musiklehrer*innen an deutschen Gymnasien mit den Musikinteressen von Schüler*innen sowie mit Musikkulturen von Jugendlichen im Unterricht umgehen und welche impliziten und expliziten Wissensbestände dieses alltägliche Unterrichtshandeln leiten. Als Datenbasis dienen uns Gruppendiskussionen, die wir mit Hilfe der dokumentarischen Methode interpretieren (Bohnsack, 2014). Unsere Ergebnisse verweisen auf gegensätzliche (implizite) Vorstellungen von den Zielen und Inhalten des schulischen Musikunterrichts von Lehrer*innen und Schüler*innen – insbesondere in Hinblick auf den Umgang mit Popmusik. Es scheint alltägliche Praxis zu sein, Popmusik in der Schule zu funktionalisieren und klassischer Musik gegenüber anderen musikalischen Stilen eine höhere Wertigkeit zuzusprechen. Dies geht mit einem Schwerpunkt auf analytische und kognitive Zugänge zur Musik im Unterricht einher. Unsere Ergebnisse bestätigen damit die Distanz zwischen den musikalischen Interessen und Praxen von Jugendlichen außerhalb der Schule und den Angeboten des Musikunterrichts. Auf dieser Grundlange diskutieren wir einerseits die Machtposition von Lehrenden sowie Strukturen des musikalischen Bildungssystems, die einer gerechten Teilhabe entgegenwirken. Andererseits verweisen wir auf Veränderungen und Neuerungen in der Musiklehrer*innenbildung, durch die die dargestellten Problemen behandelt werden könnten.