A Socially Constructed Individualist: An Interactionist Study of Role-Making among Orchestral Conductors





Sociology of Music, Conductor, Orchestra, Grounded Theory Methodology, Role-Making, Social Role


The paper analyzes the role-making of an orchestral conductor. It is framed by the symbolic interactionist perspective and focuses on Ralph Turner’s role-making theory and the works of Alfred Schütz and Howard S. Becker and associates. The research project is based on grounded theory methodology. The applied techniques include semi-structured interviews, video-elicited interviews, observations of teaching conducting and opera rehearsals, video analysis, and secondary data analysis. The results reveal how the process of role-making is shaped during secondary socialization and indicate the social features of the role, such as high social prestige, awareness of the body, an exclusive social group, and teamwork. The role-making process is based on permanent interactions and negotiations with social actors: the composer and the musical score, the orchestra, soloists, ballet, and the audience. Additionally, it is influenced by cultural factors, such as the conductor’s gender, age, nationality and international experience, competencies, as well as the type of professional contract. At the same time, conductors need to actively maintain the image of determined and resolute individualists, as expected by the social actors they interact with.


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Author Biography

Dominika Byczkowska-Owczarek, University of Lodz, Poland

Dominika Byczkowska-Owczarek, a sociologist, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology of Culture, Faculty of Economics and Sociology at the University of Lodz, Poland. Her book, Ciało w tańcu. Analiza socjologiczna [Body in Dance. Sociological Analysis], presents the outcomes of a study on ballroom dancing as a social activity. She has participated in research projects concerning communication on hospital wards, lobbying, revitalization of cities, and HR procedures. She is a book review editor in the Qualitative Sociology Review. Her main scientific interests are: symbolic interactionism, grounded theory methodology, qualitative methods, autoethnography, sociology of the body, sociology of medicine, and ethnographic research.


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How to Cite

Byczkowska-Owczarek, D. (2022). A Socially Constructed Individualist: An Interactionist Study of Role-Making among Orchestral Conductors. Qualitative Sociology Review, 18(4), 132–152. https://doi.org/10.18778/1733-8077.18.4.07