A Person-Centred Practice
: Empowering musically disadvantaged adults through singing

  • William Leigh Knight

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This context statement is a narrative inquiry of practice. Through this methodology, the author explores the ways in which a conservatoire-trained singer drew upon his experience both as performer and teacher to adapt to the environment of adult education and specifically the teaching of so-called non-singers. Such people frequently describe themselves as ‘tone-deaf’ and feel excluded from music making. Using a person-centred approach, working with his own observations, sharing with other practitioners, and using input from voice research, the writer has found ways to enable such people to find their voices and take an active part in musical life. These pedagogical approaches challenged the paradigm of teaching, experienced by him as a student.

This statement is written in chapters, around a series of models, reflecting different teaching classes, seen as petals eventually making up a flower. It identifies the teaching and learning experiences involved, characterised by a metaphorical subtitle: The Teacher as... The statement seeks to highlight some issues in an area less studied than adult education as a whole. It highlights the personal achievements students make in ‘Learning for Life’ and the value such work has in the area of health and wellbeing.

Some ‘non-singers’ say that they are vulnerable due to that exclusion in childhood, while others question if they can learn singing techniques once they are adults. By means of making a ‘welcome space’, an atmosphere is created in which everyone is put at ease. The students are gently encouraged to sing, face their fears, and find ways of strengthening their voices and enjoying the whole experience. A particular point is made of the effectiveness of using a plurality and flexibility of teaching methods and encouraging the input of students themselves. This study coincided with an invitation to the author, as a specialist teacher, to be involved in a research project at the Guildhall School of Music, Finding a Voice, which explored enabling ‘non-singers’ to sing.

Through this study, the writer discovers himself too, as the ‘person’ of the person-centred approach, perceiving what inspired him to undertake this work and guides his educational approach.
Date of Award23 Sep 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorJune Boyce-Tillman (Supervisor), David Walters (Supervisor) & Jane Erricker (Supervisor)

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