Professor Stephanie E. Pitts BA, MEd, PhD, PGCE, FHEA

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Department of Music
The University of Sheffield
Jessop Building
34 Leavygreave Road
S3 7RD

Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 0481

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As Head of Music, I’m passionate about our department and its rich diversity of perspectives on music, which all inform our teaching, research and musical activity. My own research and teaching interests are in musical participation, concert audiences and music education, and in the qualitative research methods used to understand people’s uses of music in their everyday lives. I have previously spent three years as Assistant Director of Learning and Teaching for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and have been involved in many departmental roles relating to student learning and experience, including Director of Undergraduate Studies, Admissions Tutor and Director of Student Experience.

I first came to Sheffield as a PhD student (1995-98), researching the historical development of music education in secondary schools. I had completed my undergraduate music degree at the University of York, where I was inspired by Professor John Paynter to be interested in the practice, research and aims of musical education. Alongside my PhD studies I trained as a secondary school music teacher, and then spent a couple of years teaching part-time in a secondary school in Derbyshire, and also working as a freelance researcher and writer for the National Foundation for Educational Research. I became a lecturer in the music department in 1999, so joining the many people who come to Sheffield as students and decide to make their home in this welcoming, hilly city.

I enjoy teaching and research equally, and benefit from the connections between them too. I contribute to MA teaching in psychology of music, and was awarded a HEFCE grant to redesign the department´s distance learning MA in Psychology for Musicians and to introduce the MA in Music Psychology in Education. At undergraduate level, my modules include Music in Education and Music in the Community, both of which give students opportunities to undertake research placements in local schools and arts organisations, providing experiences that often shape their future careers. My commitment to teaching is demonstrated in my Senate Award for Teaching Excellence (2006), a Student Union award for contributions to student employability (2010), and the leading of Faculty projects on student feedback, employability and undergraduate research.

I have around eight postgraduate research students working on projects within music education and social psychology – and a similar number have completed their doctoral research with me in recent years. Current and completed students include the following: Sarah Price and Lucy Dearn, working on ‘Music, place and people’ with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Music in the Round, respectively; Jo Miller, Teresa Rombo, and Michael Bonshor, all considering aspects of musical performance, from the performance practices of Scotland and Portugal to the development of adult singers’ confidence; Tim Robinson and Miranda Cournane, looking at informal learning; and Chris Brammeld, Daphne Bryan and Mary Hawkes, researching instrumental learning in various ways, including the application of attentional focus techniques from sports psychology.

With two other PhD graduates of mine, Melissa Dobson and Kate Gee, and Professor Chris Spencer (Dept of Psychology), I founded the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre (SPARC) in 2010, and this initial research team undertook a study of performer and audience loyalty with a regional orchestra. The SPARC team has now been joined by two doctoral students, working on AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Award projects with Music in the Round and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. In 2014-15, we also hosted Jonathan Gross as a post-doctoral researcher on a project with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, looking at audiences for contemporary arts – a project that we hope to extend to national networks of arts organisations in the near future. With Karen Burland (University of Leeds), I recently edited Coughing and Clapping (Ashgate, 2014), which brings together audience research from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and across a range of art forms.

My other current research explores various aspects of lifelong engagement in music, using a life history approach to understanding the long term impact of music education in the book Chances and Choices: Exploring the Impact of Music Education (OUP, 2012). With support from an AHRC Cultural Value grant, I have recently worked on a study of lapsed musical participation, building on my case studies of amateur performing groups and audiences, published as Valuing Musical Participation (Ashgate, 2005). Other books include A Century of Change in Music Education (Ashgate, 2000), Music and Mind in Everyday Life (OUP, 2010, co-authored with Eric Clarke and Nicola Dibben), and Becoming a Successful Early Career Researcher (Routledge, 2012, co-authored with Adrian Eley, Jerry Wellington and Catherine Biggs). My research on music in higher education and on audience experiences of live musical events has been funded by PALATINE and the British Academy, respectively.

From 2002-7, I was joint editor of the British Journal of Music Education, and continued as review editor until 2011. I am external examiner for Masters programmes in Music Education at Kingston University and Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, and have previously served in that role for the BA in Primary Education with Music at the University of Reading (2011-14), the MA in Community Music, University of York (2008-11), and the BEd and PGCE Music courses at Bishop Grosseteste College, Lincoln (2004-7). For the last two years I have enjoyed being the international advisor on the ‘Music Generation’ project, providing research guidance on a new model for the funding and provision of performance education in Ireland. Outside the department, I enjoy hill-walking and gardening, as well as music-making on piano and cello: I particularly enjoy piano accompaniment, and have given recitals with friends in Sheffield and Wakefield cathedrals in the last couple of years.

Outside the department, I enjoy hill-walking and gardening, as well as music-making on piano and cello: I particularly enjoy piano accompaniment, and have given recitals with friends in Sheffield and Wakefield cathedrals in the last couple of years.

Research Interests

  • Musical participation
  • Audience experience
  • Extra-curricular school music
  • Music in secondary education
  • Music in higher education
  • School-university transition
  • Lifelong engagement in music

View Stephanie Pitts' research page

Current Projects

  • Audiences for contemporary arts: investigating routes into arts engagement and their connections with other cultural pursuits.
  • Young children’s musical and social worlds, including the impact of music intervention projects for language development
  • The impact of music education: investigations of the long-term impact of music learning in school and beyond, with cross-cultural comparisons of education systems and their effects.
  • Audience experience of live listening: the effects of venue, audience expectations and social factors on concert-going experience.

Recent Grants

  • 2014 University of Sheffield Impact, Innovation and Knowledge Exchange Fund (IIKE) (£20,542) – Understanding audiences for the contemporary arts
  • 2013 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) (£37,532) Cultural Value project: ‘Dropping in and dropping out – exploring experiences of lapsed and partial arts engagement’
  • 2013 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) (£109,056) Collaborative Doctoral Awards: two funded studentships on ‘Music, place and people’
  • 2012 University of Sheffield Arts Enterprise Fund (£8050) – Investigating the impact of Music in the Community
  • 2011 PALATINE Development Award (£6400) – Engaging music students in non-assessed activities

Recent Publications

  • Pitts, S. E., Robinson, K. & Goh, K. (2015) Not playing any more: a qualitative investigation of why amateur musicians cease or continue membership of performing ensembles. International Journal of Community Music, 8 (2), 129-147.
  • Pitts, S. E. (2014) Musical, social and moral dilemmas: investigating audience motivations to attend concerts. In K. Burland & S. E. Pitts (Eds) Coughing and Clapping: Understanding Audience Experience (pp. 21-33). Farnham: Ashgate.
  • Pitts, S. E. (2014) Exploring musical expectations: Understanding the impact of a year-long primary school music project in the context of school, home and prior learning. Research Studies in Music Education, 36 (2): 129-146.
  • Pitts, S. E., Dobson, M. C., Gee, K. A. & Spencer, C. P. (2014) Views of an audience: understanding the orchestral concert experience from player and listener perspectives. Participations. 10: 65-95.
  • Pitts, S. E. (2013) Amateurs as audiences: reciprocal relationships between playing and listening to music. In Radbourne, J. Glow, H. & Johanson, K. (Eds) The Audience Experience: A Critical Analysis of Audiences in the Performing Arts. Chicago: Intellect.
  • Pitts, S. E. & Burland, K. (2013) Listening to live jazz: an individual or social act? Arts Marketing. 3 (1): 7-20.

Full list of Publications