The concept of authenticity and its meaning and applicability within music therapy, music teaching, and music performance in a family-oriented context

Project Details



Associate Professor, Stine Lindahl Jacobsen, Department of Music Therapy, Aalborg University, Denmark.

Associate Professor, Charlotte Lindvang, Department of Music Therapy, Aalborg University, Denmark.



The purpose of the PhD is to investigate musictherapists’, music teachers’, and music performers’ experiences of the phenomenon authenticity // inauthenticity when practicing within their profession, and how these experiences could be of use for the development of empirically based theorizations about our professional, creative, and reflexive practices.


The study serves as follow-up research within the MUFASA-research project (Musik-Familier-Samspil // Music-Families-Interaction) lead by PhD, associate professor and head of studies Stine Lindahl Jacobsen in cooperation with PhD, associate professor Ulla Holck and PhD and associate professor Gustavo Gattino, and is therefore primarily investigating into the experiences of music therapists, music teachers and musicians working with families.

The aim of the study is to search for a deeper understanding of this sensorial and nonverbal phenomenon, and search for patterns and similarities within and across disciplines.


The research project is placed within a constructionist perspective holding both phenomenological, hermeneutical, and existential worldviews. The relationship with others is considered equally as important to how we construct knowledge as the subjective experience. Therefore, the knowledge obtained through this research is epistemologically related to the constructivist view of knowledge, where knowledge is considered intersubjective, relational, and interactive and research data is to be considered as a “collaborative product of interactions between the researcher and the participant”. (Carter & Bolden 2014, p.10)


Research questions

·      How can the concept of authenticity be defined and understood across the three different professions of music therapists, music teachers, and music performers in a family-oriented context? Including: What could be the benefits and challenges for the professionals working with families in relation to the concept of authenticity?

·      How is an experience of being authentic as a music therapist, music teacher, or music performer connected to the experience of the interaction and the relationship with the participating families and vice versa?

·      How can the experiences and reflections from professionals within the three musical professions broaden and inform disciplines, on a practical and theoretical level, based on the concept of authenticity?


On authenticity

Authenticity as a term is applied quite differently in scholarly literature and across various disciplines and fields. In this study it is primarily understood in the sense of “self-authenticity” (Newman & Smith,2016), or ‘subjective authenticity’ (Fleeson & Wilt, 2010) and in relation to ‘the music therapist’s authentic use of self’ (Lawes, 2020). Authenticity – from a philosophical stand – is in general considered a concept within a dynamic process of ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ in a world that changes rapidly (Yacobi,2012). This study therefore also leans on Dammann et al.’s “4C-view” in which they describe ‘Authenticity as continuity’ – referring to “(….) the developmental character of authenticity, the ever-changing relationships between an individual and himself/herself, others, and the social norms his/her life is embedded in.” (Damman et al., 2021, p.1-2)



Writing of epoché in order to clarify own experiences with authenticity, and then further investigating the narratives from the epoché through the repertory grid interview software.

Conducting preliminary semi-structured interviews with three music professionals (music therapists, musicians and music teachers). The purpose of these interviews being to practice interviewing skills and to investigate how it is possible to reflect and talk about the phenomenon of authenticity before conducting the MUFASA-interviews. Transcription in verbatim and thematic coding analysis.

Conducting semi-structured interviews with the music professionals participating in the MUFASA-research project, that is; semi-structured group interviews before the pilot study and semi-structured solo interviews after the pilot study including viewing of video excerpts from the MUFASA-project. Transcription in verbatim and thematic coding analysis.

Literature review.


The goal of the analysis is not to develop a manual on how to be authentic, as it would seem somewhat contradictory, but rather to deepen and enrichen the understanding of the phenomenon across music disciplines from a practical and empirical point of view. The study could hopefully account for some of the stepping stones that other professionals have trodden on their way towards authenticity. In that regard a thematic coding analysis (Robson & McCartan, 2014) will be applied to the data in order to “(...) provide a rich and detailed, yet complex, account of data” (Braun & Clarke, 2006, p.78).

The overall data analysis is abductive based on a phenomenological-hermeneutic approach to the material. As Pierce states: “Abductions makes its start from the facts, without, at the outset, having any particular theory in view, though it is motivated by the feeling that a theory is needed to explain the surprising facts ... abduction seeks a theory” (Pierce in; Reichertz, 2014,p.5) Even though the aim of the research is not constructing a specific theory– but rather ‘theorizing’ on the concept – abduction is still what describes the movement in the data analysis in the most precise manner: a combination of initially inductive, bottom-up, data based coding, “What is in the data?” and then later on a more focused prioritizing of the themes of relevance to the research topic: “What parts of the data should be highlighted to approach and understanding of the research theme?”.

Timmermans & Tavory clarify it when writing: “The theories developed in abductive analysis denote an attempt to generalize causal links and descriptions of the world out of particular empirical instances “ (Timmermans & Tavory, 2012,p.174).




Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology. 3(2), 77- 101. Doi:10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Carter, S. K. & Bolden, C. L. (2014). Culture work in the research interview. In J. F. Gubrium, J. A. Holstein, A. B. Marvasti & K. D.McKinney (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of interview research: The complexity of the craft. SAGE Publications, Inc. Doi: 10.4135/9781452218403

Dammann, O., Friederichs, K. M., Lebedinski, S. & Liesenfeld, K. M.(2021). The essence of authenticity. Frontiers in Psychology. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.629654

Fleeson, W. & Wilt, J. (2010). The relevance of big five trait content in behavior to subjective authenticity: Do high levels of within-person behavioral variability undermine or enable authenticity achievement? Journal of Personality 78(4):1353–1382. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2010.00653.x

Lawes, M. (2020). On improvisation as dreaming and the therapist’s authentic use of self in music therapy. British Journal of Music Therapy, 34(1), 6-18. Doi: 10.1177/1359457519884047

Newman, G.E. & Smith, R.K. (2016). Kinds of Authenticity. Philosophy Compass, 11(10), 609–618. Doi: 10.1111/phc3.12343

Robson, C. & McCartan, K. (2016). Real World Research: a resource for users of social research methods in applied settings. (4th ed.) John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Timmermans, S. & Tavory, I. (2012). Theory Construction in Qualitative Research: From Grounded Theory to Abductive Analysis. Sociological Theory,30(3), 167-187. Doi: 10.1177/0735275112457914

Yacobi, B. G. (2012). The limits of authenticity. Philosophy Now, 92.

Short titleAuthenticity across music disciplines
Effective start/end date01/02/202001/08/2023