RTRL.72: Effects of Clothing on Performance Evaluation (Urbaniak & Mitchell, 2022)


Urbaniak, O., & Mitchell, H. F. (2022). How to dress to impress: The effect of concert dress type on perception of female classical pianists. Psychology of Music, 50(2), 422-438.

What did the researchers want to know?

Does clothing influence judges’ evaluations of female pianists’ performances?

What did the researchers do?

Urbaniak and Mitchell (2022) recorded four female undergraduate pianists, each of whom gave nine performances of three musical works. Each pianist wore three black outfits: a long dress, a short dress, and a suit. (Each pianist performed each of the three pieces in each of the three outfits.) A total of 45 excerpts were prepared—9 with only audio and 36 with audio and video.

Study participants were 30 graduate and undergraduate students, 20 of whom were pianists and 10 who were other classical instrumentalists. Each participant met with the researcher individually and was asked to evaluate the excerpts as if they were adjudicators in a piano competition. Participants rated each excerpt on technical proficiency, musicality, appropriateness of dress, and overall performance.

After this, each participant was informally interviewed about their spontaneous observations. At the end of the interview, the researchers revealed the true purpose of the study and asked participants to reflect on potential unconscious biases.

Urbaniak and Mitchell used statistical analyses (three-way repeated measures ANOVA with two-way interactions) to examine the effects of dress, performer, and musical tasks. They also thematically analyzed the interview transcripts.

What did the researchers find?

Results indicated significant differences in ratings for appropriateness of dress, with the long dress being rated highest and short dress being rated the lowest. The researchers also found a significant effect of dress on overall performance rating, with performers in the long dress receiving the highest average performance ratings and performers in the short dress receiving the lowest average performance ratings. Urbaniak and Mitchell also found the same result for technical proficiency and musicality; in both cases, performers in the long dress were rated highest while performers in the short dress were rated lowest.

Post-evaluation interview findings revealed that most participants “were ashamed to find out that they had been unconsciously judging on dress and there was an element of shock which prompted introspection” (p. 433). One participant reflected, “My eyes tricked me into thinking I’m hearing things,” and another said, “Some of them sounded really different to me. […] How we look actually influences how we hear stuff” (p. 433)!

What does this mean for my classroom?

One interpretation of these research findings is that music educators and students should be conscious of their visual appearance when performing, including their clothing, hairstyle, and mannerisms. However, another interpretation is that unconscious bias is real and problematic. Rather than simply expecting performers to conform to the biases of the raters/judges, it is the responsibility of those in a position to evaluate others to examine their own potential unconscious biases and work to deconstruct them. The findings of this research indicate that unconscious bias toward women exists, as does policing of their dress, and this needs to be uncovered and eradicated. Other researchers have found that performance evaluation can be influenced by a performer’s race, gender, body size, attire (formal vs. casual), and stage deportment (e.g., engaged vs. disengaged facial expression, proper vs. improper body alignment, focused vs. wandering eye contact, etc.) (Davidson & Edgar, 2003; Elliott, 1995; Howard, 2012; VanWeelden, 2002). Evaluation forms/processes should be made as objective as possible in order to reduce the influence of bias, and evaluators should reflect on their own potential biases in order to move toward as fair and equitable a process as possible.


  • Davidson, J. W., & Edgar, R. (2003). Gender and race bias in the judgement of Western art music performance. Music Education Research5(2), 169–181. https://doi.org/10 .1080/1461380032000085540
  • Elliott, C. A. (1995). Race and gender as factors in judgments of musical performance. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education127, 50–56. https://www.jstor.org/ stable/40318766
  • Howard, S. A. (2012). The effect of selected nonmusical factors on adjudicators’ ratings of high school solo vocal performances. Journal of Research in Music Education60(2), 166–185. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022429412444610
  • VanWeelden, K. (2002). Relationships between perceptions of conducting effectiveness and ensemble performance. Journal of Research in Music Education50(2), 165–176. https:// doi.org/10.2307/3345820

RTRL.47: Band Performance Ratings and Director Gender (Shouldice & Eastridge, 2020)


Shouldice, H. N., & Eastridge, J. L. (2020). A comparison of Virginia band performance assessments in relation to director gender. Journal of Research in Music Education, 68(2), 125-137.

What did the researchers want to know?

Given that existing research shows many women perceive gender-related discrimination in their jobs as secondary band teachers, is there a significant association between band festival ratings and director gender at the middle school or high school level?

What did the researchers do?

Shouldice and Eastridge accessed 6 years (2013-2018) of District Concert Assessment ratings sponsored by the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association (VBODA), which are publicly available on the VBODA website. Data included ensembles’ overall performance ratings and director names, which Shouldice and Eastridge used to code each ensemble performance according to the assumed gender (male/ female) of the director(s). If the first name of a director was ambiguous or gender-neutral (e.g., Robin, Jamie), they performed an internet search to ascertain gender (via pronouns, title, and/or photograph). Finally, Shouldice and Eastridge then conducted statistical analyses to ascertain the percentages of ensembles receiving each rating (by level and director gender) and whether there was a statistically significant relationship between director gender and overall performance rating.

What did the researchers find?

At both the middle school and high school levels, male-directed ensembles were more likely to receive a I rating while female-directed ensembles more likely to receive a II rating. The table below shows the percentages of ensembles receiving each rating by director gender, and the bar chart shows the comparison of I and II ratings by gender and level.

Table 1. Percentages of Ensembles Receiving Each Rating, by Director Gender.*
Figure 1. Number/Comparison of I and II Ratings Included in Chi-Square Analyses.*

*Due to required assumptions of the Chi-Square test, multiple ensemble performances from the same director were randomly removed so that only one listing was included for each director, which is why 3,229 performances are reflected in Table 1 but only 730 in Figure 1.

What does this mean for my classroom?

We cannot definitively infer the cause behind the association between ensemble ratings and director gender discovered by Shouldice and Eastridge. However, it is worth reflecting on possible explanations for this finding. One explanation might be that societal norms expect and permit men to display the behaviors and characteristics that are associated with being a successful band director (such as assertiveness and competitiveness) whereas these traits may be less expected and/or acceptable in women. Another potential explanation could be that women are more likely to be hired for band teaching jobs in smaller and/or rural schools/districts, which may be more likely to earn lower ratings than ensembles from larger school districts. Finally, female-directed bands may receive lower ratings than male-directed bands as a result of gender bias, either explicit or implicit.

One possibility is that gender bias might influence judges to rate female-directed groups differently than male-directed groups. Given that previous research findings suggest larger ensembles or those performing more difficult classifications of music may tend to receive higher ratings than smaller ensembles or those performing easier music, it is also possible that gender bias may be an influence in the hiring practices that lead to greater numbers of men than women securing jobs in larger, more prestigious programs that are likely to perform more advanced repertoire.

The results of this study indicate that although improving, a gender imbalance still exists in the secondary band teaching profession. Discrimination in the hiring process may be one possible explanation for this persistent gender imbalance, as suggested by findings of existing research. It is critical that those involved in the hiring process examine their own biases and actively work toward more equitable hiring of men and women. It is also crucial to strive for more equitable representation of women in the field of secondary band teaching. Rather than reinforcing the common image of conductor as male, music educators and music teacher educators might actively work to provide students with images of women in these teaching roles.

Related Research Summarized by “Research to Real Life”:

Career Intentions and Experiences of Pre- and In-service Female Band Teachers (Fischer-Croneis, 2016)

Male and Female Photographic Representation in 50 Years of Music Educators Journal (Kruse, Giebelhausen, Shouldice, & Ramsey, 2015)