Music is a cultural object that’s shared by people in every corner of the world. In the past, studies of the sociology of music have emphasized music as a commodity, focusing on producers and distributor and portraying the consumer as alienated and without agency. However, recent studies provide us with a sociological view of music that’s more focused on how humans themselves use music in their daily lives. This is a study of ‘musicking’, the definition for which is provided by Roy and Dowd as the use of music’s intersubjective meanings to interpret and enact the worlds we confront, as sustained through interaction. Using interview data gathered from students at Hamilton College, I’ve explored the ways in which students enact musicking in their daily lives, with a specific focus on small group life. The data suggests that among Hamilton students, music creates a hierarchical structure of preferred musical styles based on several contextual and demographic factors. This structure is upheld through students’ interactions with others as well as the various techniques they use to confer and detract social status from themselves and their peers. The way students use music to navigate this hierarchy also profoundly shapes their interpersonal and group relationships. I conclude that music plays an instrumental role in students’ personal and social lives, and its influence manifests itself in a plethora of ways both on and off Hamilton’s campus.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Stephen J. Ellingson

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.