Dr Elizabeth Preece

University Of Bristol
Future Leader, Cathedral Music Trust

Presenter Profile

Elizabeth is a social researcher with a PhD in Sociology from the University of Bristol. Her research applies Bourdieu’s theories of field and social class reproduction in the context of choir schools and the Church of England more widely. She also explores the lives of choristers and their experiences within these institutions and how these institutions confer social and cultural capital which choristers use in their subsequent university and career endeavours. Elizabeth is also a Cathedral Music Trust Future Leader, an RSCM Diocesan Representative for the Diocese of Llandaff, and works as a choral conductor, organist and singer in Cardiff.

Cultural Capital and the Choir

Understanding Social Class Reproduction within Choir Schools

This paper will demonstrate how Bourdieu’s theory of social class reproduction can be exemplified within the choir school, with particular attention paid to his concepts of field, habitus and capital. It will focus on the findings of qualitative interviews with staff members of cathedrals and choir schools which shed light on the recruitment processes and subsequent education of choristers.

Educational institutions have been widely recognised as sites of social reproduction, yet the choir school offers unique insight due to both its links with music and religious institutions. This paper therefore outlines some of the structural changes in choir schools and cathedrals, and consequent tensions between the institutions. It also illustrates the ways in which leaders of choir schools and cathedrals view the aims and challenges of recruitment, with specific reference to socio-economic backgrounds of choristers. It will demonstrate how pre-existing familiarisation with the Anglican Choral Tradition and levels of cultural capital seemed to be crucial to the recruitment of choristers within this research and will draw this together with a discussion on Bourdieu’s work surrounding elite education and field which help to understand the processes at play here.

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