John Pippen surveyed markers of class and race among musicians and employees of Chicago new music ensembles. Based on previous fieldwork with these groups and on research on the profession, he anticipated finding that a majority of these people come from overwhelmingly white and middle to upper class backgrounds.
The project sought to nuance understandings of labor among professional musicians working in innovative ensembles in Chicago. Much arts entrepreneurship research on the American new music scene focused on professional success stories, thus promoting a merit-based view of labor. Furthermore, public narratives from within the field emphasized the acumen and inventiveness of individuals and small groups.
However, Pippen’s project interrogated the extent to which class and race-based identities inform the professional new music scene, potentially complicating assessments of professional success. A focused quantitative study of the racial and socioeconomic markers in the Chicago scene added much needed specificity to understanding how individuals and ensembles create, sustain, and negotiation labor networks.
Pippen worked with the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRISS) at
Colorado State University to design a project and budget. With expertise in qualitative methods, Pippen solicited IRISS to help design an online survey that blended qualitative and quantitative methods. IRISS worked with faculty and community members to design research projects like the survey, but required external funding. He had anticipated about sixty respondents from individuals who held positions in well-respected new music ensembles. Using a web-based Qualtrics survey, he asked participants about their professed race, income levels, source(s) of income, and levels of education, as well as similar queries for their parents and partners. This approach sought to quantify the presence of “portfolio careers” among workers and ensembles in Chicago. He also drew on research that treats social markers as a “bundle of sticks,” in other words, as a composite of several characteristics which can inform presentations of identity. Working with IRISS, he analyzed the results for any trends or commonalities, and compare the findings with other research on the creative industries. In publications, he combined the findings with additional research on workplace values and their correlation with social class, job status, labor in classical music, and broader shifts in the global economy.