Choral Confidence: Some Effects of Choir Configuration, Cohesion and Collaboration


  • Michael Bonshor University of Sheffield


An exploration of confidence issues amongst adult amateur choral singers is an in-depth, qualitative study based on a series of focus groups and semi-structured interviews with active participants in organized amateur singing activities. The aim of the research is to explore the lived-in experience of choral singers; to identify some of the main influences on their perceptions of their voices and performance ability; to highlight some of the factors affecting their confidence as singers. Three initial focus groups, involving eighteen singers in total, have been completed, followed by sixteen individual interviews. The one-to-one sessions involved semi-structured interviews with an equal number of singers of each gender. Each singer had experience of a range of different types of choral singing. The majority of participants also had extensive experience of performing with a number of different conductors. The emergent themes and significant issues identified so far will be used to inform the next stage of the study. Some of the main themes include situational and environmental factors; family background; the influence of significant others, including parents, teachers, spouses, adult offspring and fellow singers; the impact of musical education, including school, further education and private tuition; and a number of significant issues related to choral direction. For the purposes of triangulation, the next stage of the project will include interviews with conductors of adult, amateur choral ensembles. It is hoped that this research will result in a set of useful recommendations for singers, teachers and conductors with an interest in confidence issues.

Author Biography

Michael Bonshor, University of Sheffield

Michael Bonshor is a PhD candidate in the Department of Music at the University of Sheffield. He holds a Master’s degree in music psychology, specializing in the management of performance anxiety in adult singers. Michael’s doctoral research is an exploration of some of the factors relating to differing levels of confidence amongst adult amateur choral singers. This is a qualitative study, including focus groups and in-depth interviews with singers and conductors, and is based on a phenomenological approach. Michael’s research interests include vocal development; the aetiology of self-professed ‘non-singer’ status; musical development and education; choir building and choral training; collective self-efficacy and group dynamics within musical ensembles; musical leadership; concepts and attributions of musical ability; the benefits of participation in musical activities throughout the life span, and the facilitation of inclusiveness in adult amateur choral ensembles. These research interests are informed by Michael’s previous experience as a professional singer, as well as by his career as a vocal coach, accompanist and choral director. He is currently completing a collection of original choral arrangements designed for beginner and intermediate choirs, which includes arrangements suitable for mixed choirs and upper-voice or cambiata ensembles.