Community Music

David Fonda

 

            What is community music?  When doing research for this paper I found many answers to that question.  A couple of months ago I believed that to be an easily answered question.  This paper is not meant to exhaust a list of possible answers to that question but yet share my observations, lessons learned and an overview of others thoughts and feelings on their experiences being involved with community music.

            One of the most comprehensive answers I have found to answer the question of what is community music was found in a book called, Community Music Today.  One of the editors, Kari K. Veblen, said this of community music; “CM consists of, but is not limited to informal music making, which includes teaching and learning dimensions. These activities weave their way through amateur and professional, formal and informal, institutional and non-institutional contexts.  Projects may be occasional, one-time, or on-going.  Thus, the CM tapestry is local, personal, political, multifaceted, and above all, fluid. (Veblen, 2013, pg.1)

            The term Community Music has many different connotations.  Many universities use the term community music to describe their private lesson programs offered through their Department of Music.  Two such examples that I found were at West Virginia University and University of Missouri.  According to their website, “The Community Music Program provides a comprehensive program of musical training for the amateur performer, enlightened listener, and professional musician. Music education enhances creativity, discipline, communication and self-esteem for all ages. Classes in music start as young as babies.” (West Virginia University, 2013)  However, as I perused their website, I found that out of the 16 classes they are offering this summer, only two were open to learners over the age of 18. Even though this has a community element because it will combine students from various neighborhoods, it is somewhat limiting to the rest of the community over the age of 18.

            As I studied the University of Missouri’s website I found their mission statement to be a little misleading:

            Our mission is to become a State leader in the practice, delivery, and development of community music education. We offer a number of           opportunities to study music on-campus through private and group music lessons, and summer intensives for piano, band, choir, and string students. These are complemented by active outreach partnerships.

 The University of Missouri does offer many different classes this summer, but falls into the same slot as WVU in which there are very few opportunities for students over the age of 18. 

            I believe that this highlights a flaw in our society’s perspective on Community Music.  It seems as though music is meant to be created and experienced by students who are school-aged, while students who are beyond the age of 18 are meant to appreciate or enjoy music as a spectator.  Another example of this flawed perspective is the elimination of General Music in many schools, beyond 8th grade, many beyond 5th grade. In middle school, students are given the opportunity to join a musical ensemble which narrows the scope of their musical experiences.  Those who do not choose to participate in a school ensemble such as band, choir or orchestra, are left with a deficit in musical experiences.  While I think it is great for these Universities and many others to provide these opportunities for students aged 3-18, I have to say that I believe that true Community Music is open to the entire community.

            Universities are not the only place you can find community music offerings. There are non-profit organizations, public, and government subsidized organizations providing opportunities as well.  An example I found that is closer to my idea of “true” community music was found in an organization called, Community Musicworks.  Their idea of Community Music is progressive and transformative. “Our idea – Based on the conviction that musicians can play an important public service role, Community Musicworks has created an opportunity for professional musicians to build and transform their own urban community.” 

            According to their website, this is what they do, “Through a permanent residency of its core group of professional musicians, Community Musicworks provides free after-school education and performance programs that build meaningful long-term relationships between professional musicians, children, and families in urban neighborhoods of Providence, Rhode Island.” Not only are these musicians giving back to their communities but they are so by working with families, not just a private student who wants to improve their skills on their instrument.  And they are doing it all for free.  They have been heralded for their progressive approach to Community Music.  The September 4, 2006 edition of The New Yorker had an article about the Community Musicworks program in which this was said of their efforts, “"Community MusicWorks...is a revolutionary organization in which the distinction between performing and teaching disappears." (Ross, 2006)

            Another example I found of non-University associated Community Music was at the Community Music Center in Portland, OR.  I was honestly flabbergasted as I researched their offerings via their website.  They have a 30 page booklet that includes all of their offerings as well as a couple of pages for advertising of their sponsors.  They offer classes in anything you could think of, music-related. Not only do they offer private lessons, but there are lots of group/ensemble classes for them to get involved in.  They even had a section of senior classes, piano instruction and Music Theory classes for students 55 and over.  They offered recorder classes for all ages at three different levels as well as several choral opportunities for all ages. 

            Taken from their website, the “CMC enhances the greater Portland community by providing opportunities for all ages to learn about, make and enjoy music. We do this through affordable music classes and lessons, free and low-cost concerts and workshops, low-cost instrument rentals, and other resources for the public, all subsidized by the City and the non-profit. About 1,000 participants of all ages currently enjoy regular music activities at the Center, instructed by a faculty of over 55 professional performing artist teachers.”  This is true Community Music.  The scope of their offerings is broad to accommodate various interests.  Their classes are offered to every age group from pre-school through senior citizen and they are thriving because music is meant to be a full community experience.

            A term that has come up several times in my research is the term intergenerational music.  One of the editors of Community Music Today (2013), Kari K. Veblen, defined intergenerational music as “music that is made when people of different ages and generations come together.”  One of the class offerings at the Community Music Center was listed under intergenerational music; it was a drum circle class.  I cannot think of a better example of community music than a drum circle. In various African cultures, during the history of mankind, drumming has been used to communicate important information to fellow tribesmen about the hunt, and threats to the people’s safety.  Furthermore these tribes also used drumming, along with dance, to celebrate every milestone in the life of the tribe.  This included births, deaths, marriages, illness, weather and other various tribe milestones.   In 1991, during testimony before the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart (1991) stated:

            Typically, people gather to drum in drum "circles" with others from the surrounding community. The drum circle offers equality because there is no head or tail. It includes people of all ages. The main objective is to share rhythm and get in tune with each other and themselves. To form a group consciousness. To entrain and resonate. By entrainment, I mean that a new voice, a collective voice, emerges from the group as they drum together.”        (Wikipedia, 2013)

            The use of Community Music goes far beyond the United States.  It can be found all over the world.  The International Society for Music Education (ISME) has a committee that focuses on Community Music across the globe.  It has members from five different countries ranging from the United States to Australia.  The vision of the Community Music Activity Commission is

            We believe that everyone has the right and ability to make, create, and enjoy their own music. We believe that active music-making should be encouraged and supported at all ages and at all levels of society. Community Music activities do more than involve participants in music-making: they provide opportunities to construct personal and communal      expressions of artistic, social, political, and cultural concerns. (ISME, 2013)

            This part of their vision is very similar to many of the other groups that promote Community Music. It is in the second half of their vision statement that I believe we find the most valuable ideals.

            Community Music activities do more than pursue musical excellence and innovation: they can contribute to the development of economic regeneration and can enhance the quality of life for communities. Community Music activities encourage and empower participants to become agents for extending and developing music in their communities. In all these ways, Community Music activities can complement, interface with, and extend formal music education structures. (ISME, 2013)

Simply stated, the importance of Community Music isn’t solely found in the music-making but yet it is found in the positive impact Community Music making can have on a community.

           

            In Community Music Today (2013), I found lots of information and wonderful examples of Community Music all over the globe.   Several chapters of the book are dedicated to presenting the state of Community Music in various parts of the world.  The chapters include studies of North America, United Kingdom, Nordic Countries, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and East Asia.  What I think is notable about this arrangement is that is not by country but rather it is organized by geographical community.  Which only strengthens the statement that music has a very strong component of community.  

            In Community Music Today (2013), “CM activities from Australia and New Zealand Aotearoa are chronicled by Brydie-Leigh Bartleet, Shelley Brunt, Anja Tait, and Catherine Threlfall. They identify the place of CM in these neighboring Pacific nations as a “group activity where people join together to actively participate in the music-making process. Musical interactions include playing, listening, watching, moving, creating, and recording.” Furthermore, community music activities in Australia and New Zealand “are reflective of a geographical community, a community of interest, or an imagined community and involve complex webs, networks, or pathways through which music making happens in-person or on-line.” (Veblen, 2013, pg.2) 

            In the Nordic Countries chapter of the book, the contributors describe “A Nordic definition of the term” Community Music “emphasizes that community music activities encompass a wide range of musics and music-related activities and imply a focus on lifelong learning and open-access attitude” (Veblen, 2013, pg.3) Even though these countries are thousands of miles from the United States, we seem to have similar ideas about the importance and positive correlation between Music and Community.   

            Another book I found that focuses on Community Music is titled, Community Music: In Theory and In Practice (2012) by Lee Higgins.  It offers a different approach with a more narrow scope than the aforementioned Community Music Today.  In Higgins’ book, he discusses, much like I did, the challenge that we have of defining exactly what Community Music is.  He offers an answer in “three broad perspectives: (1) music of a community, (2) communal music making, and (3) an active intervention between a music leader or facilitator and participants.” (Higgins, 2012, pg.3) He then elaborates upon each of the three perspectives and then provides us with a different perspective in comparison to those previously stated in this paper.  He provides us with the perspective of the facilitator or teacher. He says, “Community music is an expression of cultural democracy, and musicians who work within it are focused on the concerns of making and creating musical opportunities for a wide range of people from many cultural groups.” (Higgins, 2012, pg.7)

            Another interesting source I found on Community Music at the global level was the website of an organization called Sound Sense.  This organization is centered in the United Kingdom but has much to offer the global community in regards to Community Music.  They offer a hub for people interested in participating in Community Music, as well as those facilitating Community Music.  They offer professional development for facilitators at their “area gatherings”.  This is what they have to say about their “area gatherings”:

            Sound Sense provides at least six networking and professional development events around the UK each year. Area gatherings cover a variety of topics and provide plenty of opportunities to network with others in your area, or others doing the same kind of work as you. The events also provide participants with a chance to meet Sound Sense staff, and talk about any issues or queries you have. (Sound Sense, 2013)

            No other organization I found that deals with Community Music is offering this kind of support to its facilitators.  They continue this support by offering a search tab on their website to aid facilitators in finding jobs in Community Music.  I’m sure much of this is because of their broad, inclusive philosophy of Community Music.  They describe Community Music as a three part idea that includes the following:

            Community music involves musicians from any musical discipline working     with groups of people to enable them to develop active and creative       participation in music. Community music is concerned with putting equal opportunities into practice. Community music can happen in all types of community, whether based on place, institution, interest, age or gender group, and reflects the context in which it takes place. (Sound Sense, 2013) 

            I believe it is the third part of their idea that makes them stand out to me.  The term community is very broad.  This is the first organization I have found that truly speaks to its broadness by listing different types of communities.  In another part of their website they discuss the importance of including populations that are usually unable to participate in Community Music.  They cite social, physical or technical reasons for participants to be excluded from Community Music. They list many examples such as; working with older people, sessions in prisons and with ex-offenders, amateur conducting and arranging workshops, work with special or specific-needs groups and work with music from specific cultures or traditions, to name a few.  “Communities need music, music can bring communities together, and it also acknowledges differences.  Community music enables people to enjoy and learn from making music with each other and it enriches their lives.” (Sound Sense, 2013)

            Finally I will conclude this section of the paper with the organization that has renewed my interest in Community Music, the New Horizon International Music Association.  According to their website, “New Horizons music programs provide entry points to music making for adults, including those with no musical experience at all and those who were active in school music programs but have been inactive for a long time.” (NHIMA, 2013) I came to my experience with the New Horizons local organization through an independent study class while working towards a Masters degree in Music Education.  This experience with the local New Horizons band only worked to strengthen my belief in the importance of music in our society and its undeniable place in our lives.  Even though the New Horizons International Music Association was created in 1991 to provide opportunities to adults over the age of 50 to experience music, it has since then opened its doors to adults of any age.  I was very glad that I finally found an organization that focuses on adult learners.  Since I had such an amazing experience with this organization, I started to wonder about others experiences with Community Music.

            I generated a survey to find out what draws people to Community Music, why they continue to participate and what type of people are drawn to such an opportunity.  The results of the survey were varied yet similar, as I expected. The sample was somewhat random due to how participants were selected.  I sent out an email to all participants in the Lexington New Horizons Band as well as posting an open invitation to anyone on my Facebook who had participated in Community Music.  The survey was available from June 15, 2013 until July 1, 2013.  At the time of the deadline, I had received 16 completed surveys.  The following is an overview of the results as well as a detailed account as to the individual responses.  

            Of the 16 participants surveyed, 62.5% (10) of them identified as male and 37.5% (6) identified as female.  The participants surveyed were from many different age groups.  12.5% (2) indicated that they were between the ages of 20-29, 25% (4) indicated that they were between the ages of 30-39, 0% (0) indicated that they were between the ages of 40-49, 12.5% (2) indicated that they were between the ages of 50-59, 25% (4) indicated that they were between the ages of 60-69, 18.75% (3) indicated that they were between the ages of 70-79, and finally 6.25% (1) indicated that they were between the ages of 80-89.  62.5% (10) identified as being over the age of 50 and 37.5% (6) identified as being under the age of 50. 

            100% (16) of the participants stated that they could read music before their participation in Community Music.  This result was not surprising considering that 100% (16) of the participants indicated that they participated in music during their time in the public school system.  50% (8) of the participants indicated that they were playing a secondary instrument during their experience in Community Music.  37.5% (6) of the participants indicated that they hold a degree in Music.  I can’t help but think that maybe this result was skewed because of the limited sampling of participants. 

            The number of years that the participants had been involved in Community Music varied greatly, the minimum was 1, and the maximum was 20.  Further analysis of the numbers found the median to be 4, the mode was 4 and the mean was 6.25.  There were four options of types of ensembles for the participants to choose from.  100% (16) of the participants indicated that they were involved in a band, 18.75% (3) of the participants indicated that they were involved in a choir, 25% (4) of the participants indicated that they were involved in a string ensemble, and 12.5% (2) indicated other.  37.5% (6) of the participants surveyed indicated that they have participated in more than one type of ensemble in regards to Community Music.

Community Music Survey Results

 

#

Gender

Age

 

Read

Music

School # years

Secondary Instrument

Degree

Years

Type

What brought you to Community Music

Favorite Part

of Experience

1

Female

50-59

Yes

Yes,

8 years

No

No

2.5

Band

String

Invited by NH member

Keeps me playing

 

2

Male

60-69

Yes

Yes,

8 years

Yes,

Violin

Bassoon

No

4

Band

String

Friend told me about NHB. I enjoy music and needed an outlet.

Getting to play with others who don’t have a chance to get out and play.

3

Male

80-89

Yes

Yes,

5 years

No

No

2.5

Band

Nice lady named Joy that I met at the Great American Brass Band Festival in 2011 invited me to join.

The experience and camaraderie with other members in the band.

4

Male

30-39

Yes

Yes,

6 years

Yes

Yes

2

Band

String

Other

It was suggested to me by a professional player. He was right! Jerry Amend gives brass players wonderful insight on brass performance as he conducts.

I am getting better. Every rehearsal means I learn more.

5

Female

60-69

Yes

Yes,

12 years

No

No

4

Band

The desire to return to playing in a band and being part of a group.

Playing in band!! Rehearsing with a group! Learning new music. Performing at concerts. Sharing experience with others. Stress relief!! Meeting new people.

6

Male

30-39

Yes

Yes,

7 years

No

Yes

20

Band

Choir

String

Other

I do not currently participate in community ensemble but when I did it was in the past. It was by church affiliation and/or friendship with the ensemble directors and members.

I teach and perform for a living so it is nice to sing and play solely for the love of music and community. Some of my closest friends are those from community ensembles in which I have participated.

7

Male

70-79

Yes

Yes,

4 years

Yes,

Sax

No

6

Band

Choir

Introductory notice by Christine Carucci.

Everything!

8

Female

50-59

Yes

Yes,

6 years

Yes

No

6

Band

Enjoyment of music, community and keeping up skills.

Friends I have made.

9

Female

30-39

Yes

Yes,

7 years

Yes

Yes

2

Band

After being a band director for a few years, I realized how much I missed being on the other side of the baton and playing. I played the flute (my instrument in grade and high school), but joined as an Assistant Conductor when the position opened up. I haven’t found a group in St. Louis yet, but I would like to find one so that I can learn another new instrument.

As a band director, music became a source of stress instead of fun. Performing with this group, gave me a chance to enjoy playing again.

10

Male

20-29

Yes

Yes,

6 years

No

Yes

11

Band

A recommendation from my former high school band director.

Performing music that is simple to sight read and reuniting with friends from high school and college for a few days.

11

Male

30-39

Yes

Yes,

7 years

No

Yes

3

Band

Choir

Looking for a way to continue performing.

Getting a chance to not only perform but give back to the community. We play several concerts a year, including two or three free concerts for retirement communities.

12

Female

70-79

Yes

Yes,

8 years

Yes,

Oboe

No

7

Band

I had wanted to play in band, but had not found an opportunity for “returnees” who might be rusty before learning about the NH music program.

Making/playing music with like-minded people.

13

Female

70-79

Yes

Yes,

7 years

No

No

5

Band

I was new to the community, so trying to make new friends. This seemed to be the perfect fit since I enjoy music.

The chance to play with others is very important to me. I like being a part of something bigger than myself.

14

Male

60-69

Yes

Yes,

7 years

Yes

No

20

Band

To re-experience the enjoyment of making music that I had previously experience in high school and college. As well as the challenge of mastering an instrument.

Being part of the music making process.

15

Male

20-29

Yes

Yes,

7 years

Yes,

Saxophone

Yes

1

Band

Networking

Getting to participate in a large concert band again.

16

Male

60-69

Yes

Yes,

9 years

No

No

4

Band

A brass band concert in the winter of 2009 motivated me to return to playing trumpet.

Seeing what has been accomplished in four years. Playing in four bands (two of which I was able to start). And playing beside some of the best trumpets players in the world.

 

As you can see above, the reasons for the initial participation in Community Music are varied.  They range from a personal invitation to being inspired by a concert, from wanting to make new friends to missing participating in a music ensemble.  However, when the participants indicated their favorite part of their Community Music experience, over and over they mention the importance of being part of a group, and the friendships they have made, community. When they weren’t mentioning those community aspects they were chalking it up to musical growth and fulfillment.  Yet again, music and the idea of community working in tandem to create a wonderful life experience for everyone involved.

            I thought since I surveyed participants in Community Music that it would also be beneficial to interview people who have been on the other side of the baton.  I was able to interview 2 individuals who have been directors of Community Music ensembles and get there input on what Community Music means to them.  The two directors interviewed led two very different ensembles.  The largest difference between the two groups was in the age of the membership.  In the New Horizons Band (NHB), the membership was mostly adults over the age of 50.  In the Bluegrass Wind Ensemble (BWE), the membership was in their twenties and early thirties.  Another big difference between these two ensembles was the experience from member to member.  In the NHB there was a wide range of level of experience from member to member ranging from adult beginner to seasoned amateur with an occasional degreed musician.  In the BWE, the majority of participants were either working toward a degree in Music or have already received a degree in music. 

            Although the two ensembles had these major differences, both directors cited finances as a challenge in the early stages of the ensemble.  When asked to share her most valuable lesson from the experience, Christine Carucci (2013) said, “It is never too late in life to do/learn/try something new”.

The following is an account of the interviews that were conducted between the two ensemble directors and me.

 

Director Interview: Christine Carucci                         Date: July 12, 2013

 

1. What is/was the name of your ensemble?

            Lexington New Horizons Band

 

2. Describe the makeup of the ensemble?  Beginners-Amateurs-Trained Musicians, Age range, Instrumentation

All of the above, mostly 50+ years of age, standard concert band instrumentation

 

3. When was the ensemble formed?

            Fall 2007

 

4. What was the purpose in forming the ensemble?

            To provide the opportunities and joys of music making for adults in central KY

 

5. What were the biggest challenges you remember from the early stages of the ensemble?

            No budget, no resources, no rehearsal space, no external support

 

6. What was the performance expectation of the ensemble? How often did they perform?

            One performance per semester - for members to have a goal and be able to share their

            progress with family and friends

 

7. Is the ensemble still active? If yes, what obstacles have you faced in sustaining it?

            Yes. Many of the same obstacles as when it was started, though more members has

            allowed for tuition to pay for needed resources

 

8. As the director, what did you value about the ensemble?

            I value working with people that love to make and learn music as well as the

            friendships I have made.  I also find the life experience of many of the members

            admirable.

 

9. What were your most valuable lessons learned?

            It is never too late in life to do/learn/try something new

 

10. How did the experience you gained in directing this ensemble affect your current teaching?

            It has influenced my philosophy of music education

 

 

Director Interview:     John Johnson               Date:   July 14, 2013

 

1. What is/was the name of your ensemble?

Bluegrass Wind Ensemble - BWE

 

2. Describe the makeup of the ensemble?

The ensemble was usually made up of college age folks, we would occasionally have high school aged players as well.  

Beginners-Amateurs-Trained Musicians, Age range, Instrumentation

I always tried to get as close as I could to full concert band instrumentation…We were usually lacking in the double reed section.

 

3. When was the ensemble formed? Jan. 2005

 

4. What was the purpose in forming the ensemble?

To provide an outlet for the performers and great music for the audience.

 

5. What were the biggest challenges you remember from the early stages of the ensemble? Working with no money… We relied very heavily on the kindness of local churches.

 

6. What was the performance expectation of the ensemble?

The performance expectation was high as most of the players were very talented.

How often did they perform? Once a year in January.

 

7. Is the ensemble still active? No

If no, when did it cease?  I suppose we last performed a couple of years ago.

What was the reason for it ceasing? With my increased responsibilities at home (kids) and work it became too difficult to give the group the appropriate attention it needed.

 

8. As the director, what did you value about the ensemble?

I valued making wonderful music with my friends and having a wonderful weekend once a year.

 

9. What were your most valuable lessons learned?

Dealing with people… Both musicians and non-musicians. Both have different wants and expectations and fulfilling both of those expectations can be very challenging at times. 

 

10. How did the experience you gained in directing this ensemble affect your current teaching? Well… directing the BWE is nothing like directing a high school band. Most of what I learned was how to logistically manage a large group of people and get a large task accomplished in a short amount of time.

 

            In doing this research I have developed a new appreciation for the role we play as both musicians and music educators.  We are both charged with not only educating the youth of America about the joys of Music but yet we should be ambassadors of Music to the world around us. Ever since I have been teaching in the public schools, I have included an audience participation segment in our music programs.  I felt that it was important because I teach in a school located in a rural, impoverished area.  I now believe that offering those kinds of experiences to the community is important regardless of where I teach.   

            Throughout the process of writing this paper I have also had time to reflect on my experiences in Community Music.  At first, I only thought of my recent experience with the New Horizons band and the six years I participated in the Bluegrass Wind Ensemble.  However, I have been participating in Community Music all of my life, whether it be through my fraternity in college, playing in the Monday night band at Marshall while in high school, many years of church music, playing in the pit for theatrical productions, playing in the local union band while in high school, even back to my youth when I was involved with the Campfire Boys and Girls of America and helped lead fireside/event singing or the singing portions of our weekly meetings.

            No wonder it is so difficult for us to define the term Community Music, it comes in many different forms and is all around us. Although we as a people have evolved far beyond the time of living in tribes in which music was used to communicate and celebrate every occasion, the idea of community will forever be linked with music and music-making.  If music, music-making and idea of community are forever linked then it could be said that, to some degree, ALL music is Community Music.

 

 

 

Resources

Books

Higgins, Lee, Community Music: In Theory and in Practice, Oxford University Press, 2012

 

Veblen, Kari K., Messenger, Stephen J., Silverman, Marissa, Elliot, David J., Community Music Today, published in partnership with NAfME: National Association for Music Education, 2013

 

Websites

Community Music Center

http://www.communitymusiccenter.org

 

Community Music Works

http://www.communitymusicworks.org

 

West Virginia University – School of Music – Community Music Program

http://www.wvu.edu/music

 

University of Missouri – School of Music – Community Music Program

http://www.missouri.edu/music

 

International Society for Music Education – Community Music Activity Commission

http://www.isme.org/cma

 

The New Yorker, September 4, 2006 issue

http://www.newyorker.com

 

Wikipedia listing for Drum Circle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drum_circle

 

Sound Sense

http://www.soundsense.org

 

New Horizons International Music Association (NHIMA)

http://www.newhorizonsmusic.org

 

Research Tools

Community Music Participant Survey created by David Fonda, administered between June 15, 2013 & June 30, 2013

 

Community Music Director Interview created by David Fonda, administered between July 12, 2013 and July 14, 2013