Development and maintenance of identity in aging community music participants
Dyer, William Leonard
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This ethnographic study contextualized identity development and maintenance within the field of community music through case studies of four performing groups and interviews with seven current members. The underlying question guiding this research was how does participatory music making contribute to the development and maintenance of identity in older adult community musicians? This research was positioned in the milieu of four nonformal community music ensembles in the Pacific Northwestern United States: the Tacoma Concert Band, the South Puget Sound New Horizons Band, Samba OlyWA, and the Artesian Rumble Arkestra. While nuances were evident in the characteristics, ideals, instructional praxis, and values of each ensemble, regardless of the setting (traditional versus nontraditional), results indicate participants developed social, musical, and group identity through community music participation. Results showed that participants created social identities through social learning by modeling group behaviors and practices, and displayed role identities based on positions held within their ensembles. Meanings for these roles may have been altered by participants’ previous experiences—such as a hiatus from playing—or by the nature of their respective ensembles, the inclusiveness of the ensemble, or the perceived level or purpose of the ensemble. Participants cherished the social connections made through their ensembles. Group membership opened doors to allow them to interact with other people with the same passion, helped to build confidence through compliments, energize social justice and community matters and events, sustain a passion for rhythm and harmony, maintain and refresh knowledge of music, preserve the joy in playing an instrument, develop self-satisfaction in playing music, and build memory. Participants agreed they were music-makers; however, each held a different meaning for the role of musician. Most participants identified as a musician with a qualified response of but: …I’m not very good; …I’m only a beginner; et cetera. Limitations for self-identification as a musician included a lack of interest or time for practice, viewing participation as a hobby, or a greater focus on social activism, inclusion, or community over performance.
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