An investigation into gender dynamics in saxophone teaching methodology in South Africa

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This dissertation investigates the physiological differences between men and women with regards to the breathing process, and how this may impact women saxophonists' learning experience in jazz pedagogy in South Africa. Breath control and techniques are fundamental for woodwind instrument musicians. Universally, although there are woodwind publications that address breathing techniques and breath control, there is little mention of these physiological differences and what adjustments can be made in teaching to aid these differences. This research is rooted in the critical pedagogy framework, which seeks to conscientize both the student and the teacher through transformation in conversation and education. Quantative comprehensive literature review of medical research and a comprehensive review of woodwind pedagogical publications were conducted. Qualitative methodology was used to ensure the learning experience of women saxophonists remained the focal topic. Interviews were conducted with both male and female saxophone jazz educators and performers in the music industry in South Africa. These semi-structured interviews allow for all interviewees to narrate their own teaching philosophies and learning experiences in saxophone. The interviews were then analysed, and common themes were identified and explored. The physiological differences and their impacts for women saxophonists generate a gendered bias in the music industry, where it is assumed that these performers are not able to perform to the same standard as their male counterparts as they are women – the biological predisposition for difficulty in breathing is not taken into consideration for women performers. Accounts given by interviewees revealed a lack of awareness of the physiological differences between males and females, and consequently a lack of adjustment of teaching techniques to adjust for these differences. The failure to account for the difference in needs for female saxophone students was revealed to have contributed to gendered bias, and exacerbated anxiety-related medical developments. This dissertation argues the impact of these physiological differences, and suggests what adjustments can be made in the saxophone curriculum in South Africa to help aid women players who are predisposed to breathing difficulties. This study further argues that despite these differences, women performers are fully capable of performing with the same skill as their male counterparts, and covert bias within the saxophone curriculum should be addressed - thus the conscientization of jazz saxophone education in South Africa. This dissertation extends the critical education and sociology of music framework and suggests that implementing a solid framework for breathing techniques in saxophone that incorporates physiological differences deserves further research.