Community bands of Kentucky: participation, engagement, and the fulfillment of basic psychological needs
Dale, DuWayne Clark
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Community bands in Kentucky, as with many other parts of the United States, represent one of a variety of opportunities adults have for continued musical engagement following involvement in formalized school music programs. However, little is known about who participates in community bands and why. Knowing about these participants could inform school music education practices to better facilitate the transition to adult musical participation. Therefore, the primary aim of this study was to profile and understand Kentucky community band participants, their motivations for continuing their musical engagement, the extent of their current musical activity, and their perceptions about current and past experiences in band. As a secondary objective, I investigated potential links between high school experiences and current participation. The survey instrument was designed to answer the following questions: 1. Who participates in Kentucky community bands? 2. What patterns may exist in the community band members’ music participation? 3. Why do band members participate and what do they gain? 4. In what ways do people feel their high school and community band experiences could have been/could be improved? 5. What insights or advice can community band members share with high school directors seeking to facilitate a transition to lifelong music-making for their students? I incorporated the serious leisure perspective (SLP) and self-determination theory (SDT) into the conceptual framework of this study. I used serious leisure typology found in SLP to investigate community band members’ participation patterns. I explored band member motivation and the fulfillment of the basic needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness through the lens of SDT. The methodology employed included a self-report survey that incorporated standardized measures as well as open-ended questions. Surveys were received from 218 Kentucky community band members. Results indicated that participants tended to be white, upper middle-income individuals with at least one college degree. Participants were nearly equally male and female up to age 65 after which point male participants outnumbered female participants almost four to one. Participants described themselves as dedicated to and serious about their musical activity, and many were also involved in musical activities outside of community band (e.g., church music, small ensembles). Members were primarily motivated to participate in intrinsic ways with personal enjoyment, having a musical or creative outlet, maintaining musical activity or skills, and social aspects factoring most prominently among participants’ perceptions of the value of community band participation. Participants reported a high degree of both basic needs fulfillment and subjective wellbeing as a function of their participation in community band. Several participants felt content with their high school experiences, but others indicated that their high school band experiences could have been improved by having access to more opportunities (e.g., private lessons, solo and ensemble, opportunities outside of school) or by having experienced different situations with regard to their director (e.g., personal issues, instruction approaches, turnover). Similarly, there were participants completely content with their community band experiences, while others suggested that changes to the repertoire, organization and operation, leadership, or the playing level and dedication of members would improve their experience. Participants shared many suggestions for ways band directors could better connect students with opportunities for musical activity after graduation. Among these, providing encouragement to participate, supplying information about college and community opportunities, modeling adult musical participation, and ensuring a quality high school experience factored prominently. Community band has a variety of stakeholders (e.g., music educators, adult participants, community band organizers and directors, music education organizations, music retailers, government, health care) and the present study has implications for each of them. Findings indicating a lack of racial diversity have potential implications for current music educators concerned with making music instruction appealing and accessible to all students as well as music retailers wishing to market their products to a broader demographic. Findings indicating that most band members received little information or encouragement from their high school directors about continuing in music past graduation suggests potential complicity on the part of music educators in the problem of attrition from musical engagement beyond graduation. Correlations between community band participation, psychological needs fulfillment, and participant wellbeing have implications for almost every community band stakeholder, but certainly for government and health care professionals seeking healthier, happier communities. For all stakeholders, the findings of this study provide an initial exploration of this population and have implications for future investigation. Future studies into the lack of participant sociodemographic diversity, for example, might begin to explain this phenomenon.