Basic psychological needs and the New Horizons musician: a cross-case analysis of six older adults participating in a New England New Horizons ensemble
Murray, Stephen Sanford
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For 25 years, the New Horizons International Music Association has grown to become a large network of organizations in service of older adults seeking a musical and social experience. According to Self-Determination Theory (SDT: Ryan and Deci, 2002), people seek out social environments that allow for the satisfaction of the three basic psychological needs, that of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. This study examines the choices of six older adults to participate in a New England New Horizons ensemble and the extent to which various facets of participation serve to satisfy or thwart their basic needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Field observations for this study were analyzed though dramaturgical coding as a means of providing a theatrical structure to the data. Six participants in the ensemble were selected as representative of the gender and experiential distribution of the musicians. Transcriptions of the interviews were adapted to become theatrical monologues as a means of telling the stories of these individuals. The monologues were analyzed with a focus on how participation in the New Horizons ensemble served to fulfill or thwart these musicians’ basic psychological needs. Findings indicate that fulfillment of relatedness though peers, conductors, community members, and family were mentioned most frequently. Fulfillment of the need for autonomy was not only evident in intrinsically motivated behaviors, but in autonomous forms of extrinsic motivation as well. The participants tended to define their sense of competence as New Horizons members and musicians in general, by their experiences of lacking competence. However, they willingly embraced the New Horizons motto of your best is good enough. It is hoped that this study will lead to further examination of basic psychological needs satisfaction in New Horizons members.