Mama's Turn: A Mother's Musical Journey

Ms Christa Kuebel, Mrs Sarah Smith & Dr. Lisa Koops
Research Track
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The purpose of this narrative inquiry was to document the musical journey of a mother, Betsy[1], taking weekly piano lessons beginning in the summer of 2013. The research questions explored the influence of the mother’s musical journey on her three young children’s musical expression, on their expressed desires to participate in music outside of their current experiences, and on Betsy’s experience of musical parenting.

On three occasions over the course of the twelve months we interviewed Betsy at her home and observed her playing the piano and interacting with her children. Betsy kept lesson notes, took videos on her iPhone, and sent emails related to her musical journey during the year. In January, 2015 she wrote a 3000-word summary, titled “Mama’s Turn Reflections,” including a chronology of the project and summary of three themes she identified: “Focus and Attention, Small and Doable, and Quality over Quantity.” We bounded and coded our analysis (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Clandinin, Pushor, & Murray Orr, 2007) followed by re-storying. We employed member-checking and peer review to establish trustworthiness.

Betsy’s daily piano practice seemed to influence her children in direct and subtle musical expressions. Perhaps the most profound finding was the impact of the lessons not only on Betsy’s musical parenting but on her life experience in general; taking the lessons seemed to nourish her as a person and were important to her during a time of life when time for self pursuits can be rare (Senior, 2014; Schulte, 2014). We discuss implications for this study, including considerations of involving parents not only directly in their children’s musical growth, such as through parent-child music classes and being involved in lessons, but also through encouraging parents to model and develop their own musicianship and music-making.



Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in

Qualitative research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Clandinin, D. J., Pushor, D., & Murray Orr, A. (2007). Navigating sites for narrative

         inquiry. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(1), 21-35.

Senior, J. (2014). All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. New York:

         Harper Collins.

Schulte, B. (2014). Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time.

         New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.


[1] Pseudonym


Christa Kuebel is a Ph.D. student at Case Western Reserve University. She is focusing her research on early childhood music and the connection to literacy and language development. She has taught general music, band, and choir in Chicago, Shanghai, and Warsaw. Christa holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, Ohio) and Master of Music from Boston University (Boston, Massachusetts).  Christa also teaches early childhood music classes in Cleveland.

Lisa Huisman Koops is associate professor of music education at Case Western Reserve University. Her research interests include the role of the family in optimizing early childhood music development and education as well as the interplay of agency and enjoyment in children’s musical play.

Sarah Smith is an educator and musician in the Salt Lake area.