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


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

Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 0481

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My 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 am currently leading a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council on Understanding Audiences for the Contemporary Arts, working with arts organisations to understand the place of arts engagement and attendance for audiences across four UK cities.

I first came to Sheffield as a PhD student, researching the historical development of music education in secondary schools. Alongside my PhD studies I trained as a secondary school music teacher, and became interested in student experience and educational transitions, which has been the subject of some of my later research. I was appointed as lecturer in the music department in 1999, so joining the many people who come to Sheffield as students and decide to make their home here. Since 2014 I have been a Professor of Music Education, and I was Head of Department from 2015-18.

I enjoy teaching and research equally, and benefit from the connections between them too. At undergraduate level, my modules include Music, Community and Education, which gives students opportunities to undertake research placements in local schools and arts organisations, providing experiences that often shape their future careers. 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. My commitment to teaching is demonstrated in my Senate Award for Teaching Excellence (2006), and the projects on feedback and employability that I led during my time as Assistant Faculty Director of Learning and Teaching (2009-11).

I have supervised twelve doctoral students to successful completion and have five current students, working on projects within music education, social psychology and audience studies. 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, Susan Monks 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, Miranda Cournane and Simone Kruger, looking at aspects of informal learning; Claudia Braz Nunes, studying the life histories of music educators in Portugal; and Daphne Bryan and Mary Hawkes, researching instrumental learning, including the application of attentional focus techniques from sports psychology. I am also external supervisor to Gina Emerson, studying at the University of Hamburg as part of the EU Ulysses Network, and to Cassie White at the University of Queensland, where I am an Honorary Professor.

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. SPARC has since hosted AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award projects with Music in the Round and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, as well as a collaboration with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, which led to the nationwide project currently underway in Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and London, with research associate Sarah Price.

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 (see Chances and Choices: Exploring the Impact of Music Education, OUP, 2012). With support from an AHRC Cultural Value grant, I 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). I am currently working in collaboration with Making Music, the national organisation that supports leisure-time musical groups, and have completed the first phase of a project investigating the effects of amateur musical organisations on their localities.
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). With Karen Burland (University of Leeds), I edited Coughing and Clapping (Ashgate, 2014), which brings together audience research from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and across a range of art forms. A book from the ‘Understanding audiences’ project is currently in preparation, due for publication in 2020.

I am an experienced journal editor, having been joint editor of the British Journal of Music Education for five years (2002-7) and edited invited special issues of Participations and Journal of New Music Research. I have been external examiner for a range of Masters programmes and teacher training courses at Kingston University, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, University of Reading, University of York and Bishop Grosseteste College, Lincoln. I also served as 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.

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

Current Projects

  • Audiences for contemporary arts: investigating routes into arts engagement and their connections with other cultural pursuits.
  • Leisure-time music making and the effects of amateur musical groups on their localities
  • Audience experience of live listening: the effects of venue, audience expectations and social factors on concert-going experience.
  • 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.

Recent Grants

  •  2017 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) (£342,832) Understanding audiences for the contemporary arts
  • 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’

Selected Recent Publications

  • Pitts, S. E., & Gross, J. (2017). “Audience exchange”: cultivating peer-to-peer dialogue at unfamiliar arts events. Arts and the Market, 7(1), 65. doi:10.1108/AAM-04-2016-0002
  • Pitts, S. E. (2017). What is music education for? Understanding and fostering routes into lifelong musical engagement. Music Education Research, 19(2), 160-168. doi:10.1080/14613808.2016.1166196
  • Dearn, L. K., & Pitts, S. E. (2017). (Un)popular music and young audiences: Exploring the classical chamber music concert from the perspective of young adult listeners. Journal of Popular Music Education, 1(1), 43-62. doi:10.1386/jpme.1.1.43_1
  • Pitts, S. E., & Robinson, K. (2016). Dropping in and dropping out: experiences of sustaining and ceasing amateur participation in classical music. British Journal of Music Education, 33(3), 327-346. doi:10.1017/S0265051716000152
  • Pitts, S. E. (2016). Music, Language and Learning: Investigating the Impact of a Music Workshop Project in Four English Early Years Settings. International Journal of Education and the Arts, 17(20), 1-26. Retrieved from