Tuesday, June 11, 2013

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards at Sheffield

TWO AHRC-FUNDED DOCTORAL STUDENTSHIPS: Music, place and people: investigating the impact of Western classical music provision and attendance in two English cities


The Department of Music, University of Sheffield is pleased to announce two doctoral studentships under the AHRC's Collaborative Doctoral Awards scheme, in conjunction with Music in the Round (MitR) and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). Students will be supervised by Dr Stephanie Pitts and their work will fall within the remit of the Sheffield Performance and Audience Research Centre (SPARC). The studentships will begin on 1st October 2013, and can be taken as full-time (3 years) or part-time (6 years) registration.


Project overview

The Music, Place and People project seeks to understand the place of Western classical music providers in two contemporary English cities, by investigating the factors currently affecting the cultural provision and impact of the two partner organisations' work, and their remit within their home cities of Sheffield and Birmingham.


The context in which both Music in the Round (MitR) and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) operate is a rapidly changing one, encompassing shifts in public funding, demographic profiles, changes throughout the education system and an increased foregrounding of digital distribution of all kinds of music. Both organisations have a wide musical remit, within which Western classical music is the most prominent feature of their programming; both have worked hard in recent years to broaden the demographic of their audience and to offer events in new formats, such as MitR's 'Pay What you Want' concert and CBSO's 'Friday Night Classics'. Both recognise, however, that while these initiatives might have

short-term effects on attendance and box office income, there is a need for a more radical examination of contemporary attitudes to Western classical music. This project aims to provide such investigation, shedding light on the place of these

organisations within the cultural life of their cities, and asking broader questions about the cultural and social value of live classical music listening for current, potential, and absent listeners:


1.      How does live music listening relate to other arts/leisure activities for regular audience members at CBSO/MitR?

2.      What are the attitudes to Western classical music expressed by non-attenders? How are these affected (or not) by the place of CBSO/MitR in their home cities?

3.      How can existing methods of audience research be developed to capture the experience of infrequent or non-attenders more effectively?

4.      How could these arts organisations and others like them adapt to their circumstances, in relation to social media, local demographics, changes in live/recorded listening habits?

5.      Where does the future of Western classical music lie in these two cities and beyond?

The starting point for both studentships will be a mainly qualitative investigation of the existing provision and perceptions of the partner organisations in their home cities, through questionnaires, interviews and focus groups with existing audience

members, city officials (Council, Education Dept etc), and other leisure groups and audiences. Comparisons will be made by the end of the first year across the two cities and types of classical music provision (chamber/orchestral), to analyse

factors shaping the attitudes, attendance habits and experiences of local residents and to theorise more widely about the future of live classical music listening in relation to previous research. From this initial groundwork, the students will be

expected to define more challenging questions for the remainder of their doctoral studies, and it is anticipated that the two projects could take quite different directions after their first year of shared focus and investigation. Possibilities could

include 'audience exchanges' with other arts providers in the cities, the use of life history research to establish the factors that draw people into or away from classical music, and the exploration of digital media as a way of engaging new audiences.


This project will contribute to knowledge by addressing current challenges in research and practice: how to attract new audiences to classical music (Dobson & Pitts, 2011; Kolb, 2001; Arts Council England, 2011), how to capture the experience of live arts attendance through more sophisticated research tools (Radbourne et al., 2011) and how to respond to changes in technology in promoting audience engagement (Wall & Long, 2012; MTM London, 2010). It will enable knowledge exchange between the partner organisations and others, and so demonstrate the value of research in supporting arts engagement and understanding.


The studentships

One student will be appointed to work closely with each partner organisation, who will provide workplace experience in marketing, audience development and/or educational work, as well as free access to concerts or events that are relevant to the research. 


The timescale outlined below illustrates how the two students will be

encouraged to work in parallel for their first year, gathering extensive and rich data

about the perceptions of the two organisations across their cities, before defining

independent research questions in the second and third year of their studies:


Year 1



Student 1 attached to MitR

Student 2 attached to CBSO

Both engaging in regular work placements and initial fieldwork, including interviews with current audiences, city officials, other leisure groups in the city

Reporting &



Regular meetings in the university and MitR/CBSO

Six monthly reports to MitR/CBSO governance

End of Year 1 presentation at Graduate Study Day and at MitR annual conference


By end of year 1: both students to have compiled a report on their organisation, addressing preliminary research questions and identifying a focus for continued investigation. Plan for Year 2/3 of PhD to be approved as part of confirmation process in university, and to be agreed with partner organisations.

Year 2


Students now working more independently, still

attached to 'their' organisation but pursuing research questions defined at end of Year 1. These should include more innovative methodologies, attempts to reach previously silent constituents in audience research, theoretical frameworks drawn from interdisciplinary literature.

Example: The student working with CBSO could

investigate perceptions of Western classical music

amongst the BME community, by carrying out

fieldwork in contexts where this audience is more

prevalent, and conducting life history interviews to find out how attitudes to music are shaped by school and home.

Reporting &



Regular meetings in the university and MitR/CBSO

Six monthly reports to MitR/CBSO governance

Presentation at a national conference e.g. Society for Education Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE) Jointly written article based on first year data collection.


By the end of Year 2, both students to be working on independent questions, and to be networking across each city to broaden the scope and reach of their work. Data will have been collected that is sufficient to make recommendations to the organisations, with some of these to be implemented in Year 3 for evaluation by the completion of the project.

Year 3


Students now working towards completion and writeup, monitoring the effects of any intervention studies and consulting beyond the partner organisations to understand the wider relevance of their work.

Example: The student attached to MitR could have identified a need for greater online presence for the organisation, and be working on evaluating initiatives in this area, through comparisons with other organisations and theories of community and attachment.

Reporting &



Regular meetings in the university and MitR/CBSO

Six monthly reports to MitR/CBSO governance

Presentation at an international conference e.g.

International Conference on Music Perception and

Cognition (ICMPC).  Students to run a professional conference in Sheffield to report work to Arts Council and other organisations.


Successful completion of PhDs at end of Year 3.

Reports to professional networks.

Academic publications (beyond the end of the project) to include journal articles and jointly authored book.

Expected change to practice in partner organisations, meeting the remit to understand, articulate and promote the place of classical music in contemporary society.


Since the student working with CBSO will need to spend substantial periods of time in Birmingham for data collection, it may be appropriate for that person to be resident there and to travel to Sheffield for monthly supervision meetings. Both students will be required to participate in the five graduate study days run by the department during each academic year, and in the Doctoral Development Programme which supports all postgraduate research students in assessing and fulfilling their training needs.  Costs of travel between Birmingham and Sheffield as necessary will need to be met from within the AHRC grants, which include an additional annual payment of £550 towards the costs of travelling to and working with the external partners.


Financial information

In the 2013-14 academic year, full-time awards provide a maintenance grant payment of £13,726, plus payment of standard tuition fees. The studentship is available to support three years' full-time work, subject to satisfactory progress, and can be taken on either a full-time or a part-time basis. For further details, please see the AHRC Student Funding Guide:



Criteria and application process

Successful applicants will need to show evidence of a clear interest in this area of research, training and experience (preferably at Masters level) in data collection and analysis, excellent writing skills, and an exciting and realistic vision for the three years of the project.  Please apply by sending a covering letter addressing these points and a CV giving full details of relevant academic and practical experience; you should also arrange for two references to be submitted by the closing date of 1st July 2013.  Interviews will be held in Sheffield on Friday 12th July.


Address for applications:

Email (preferred) – s.e.pitts@sheffield.ac.uk

Post – Dr Stephanie Pitts, Department of Music, University of Sheffield, 34 Leavygreave Road, Sheffield, S3 7RD


Links and further information

SPARC - http://www.sparc.dept.shef.ac.uk/

MitR - http://www.musicintheround.co.uk/

CBSO - http://www.cbso.co.uk/

University of Sheffield, Department of Music – http://www.shef.ac.uk/music