Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Music Education

Major Professor

C. Victor Fung, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sheila Woodward, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janet Moore, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Constance Hines, Ph.D.


music performance, music education, mental rehearsal, singing performance, functional equivalence


The purpose of this study was to identify and describe the use of imagery in vocal professionals' efforts to achieve optimal performance based on research from sport psychology. The four Ws of imagery use: where, when, what, and why have been applied to this study from the fields of athletics (Munroe, Giacobbi, Hall, & Weinberg, 2000) and dance (Nordin & Cumming, 2005). These were adopted after many years of research in athletic performance excellence, with particular reference to the Analytic Framework of the Cognitive and Motivational Functions of Imagery (Paivio, 1985; Hall, Mack, Paivio, & Hausenblas, 1998). This theoretical framework was combined with those of previous interview studies investigating professional musical performers in their use of imagery (Bellon, 2006; Carter, 1993; Trusheim, 1987) and provided a foundation for this study. Theories from psychology explaining the effects of imagery were also integrated, including functional equivalence and neuroimaging. An exploratory design was chosen to investigate the comprehensive nature of this inquiry using a purposeful sample (N = 15). A semi-structured interview based on the four Ws was conducted with 15 solo classical vocal professionals, 10 females (sopranos and mezzos) and 5 males (tenors and a baritone) ranging in age from late twenties to late sixties, residing in several major cities of the United States. Vocalists used imagery during practice, before performance, at home, traveling, and a range of other times. Imagery content was divided into types and characteristics. Vocalists' use of imagery types encompassed execution, metaphorical, context, body-related, musical sound, and character/role images. Imagery was employed to perfect vocal production and quality, embody the character's qualities and emotional aspects for performance, visualize metaphorical and anatomical images to achieve proper vocal execution, achieve goals, and communicate with the audience. Imagery characteristics of vocalists involved visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses, using primarily internal and some external perspectives. These professionals' imagery abilities were deliberate, controllable, and positive. Similar to competitive athletes, solo vocal performers engaged in imagery for many cognitive and motivational functions. Vocalists replicated dancers in artistic, and healing functions of imagery use in preparing for and achieving optimal performance.