Samba: the sense of community in participatory music
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This ethnographic study examined the relationship between the sense of community and music education within the community of Santa Marta in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and a public high school in New York City. Guided by Turino’s (2008) framework for participatory music making and McMillan and Chavis’s (1986) framework for the sense of community, the pedagogical and musical practices of Santa Marta were observed and analyzed to form a definition of a participatory music community. This definition was used to examine the impact of participatory practices on a samba ensemble within a New York City high school. The findings describe how participatory music education both influences and is influenced by the participants’ senses of community in both settings and explores applications of participatory music methods to school-based music, particularly within urban settings. Participatory characteristics were found to be imbedded in samba’s musical structure, including the repetition of rhythms, the simultaneous use of advanced and simplified patterns, and the flexibility of the size of the ensemble. Music events in Santa Marta often lacked artist-audience distinctions with situations of performance and learning occurring simultaneously. Decentralized group learning was found to be a pedagogical tool with information stored in the community’s memory. Inclusive pedagogies, which allowed players of various skill levels to perform together in the same ensembles, maximized participation in both sites. These characteristics created a pedagogical structure that addressed many of the identified challenges of urban school music and provided opportunities for active student engagement. This study presents a possible way forward for music education in urban settings, a path based on creating an inclusive educational environment. In schools where sequenced music programs, funding, and stabile student populations don’t exist, participatory music has the potential to create ways for students of varying skill levels to find a place in school music communities.