Tension in the band repertoire selection process: issues of compatibility between training, belief, and practice
Mertz, Justin Jay
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Performance of repertoire is a defining curricular aspect in the band area of music education, upon which students will spend significant time. The act of repertoire selection is a potentially complicated one, carrying the norms, values, and beliefs of the overall band area and band directors themselves. A band director’s personal ensemble experience is steeped in aesthetic traditions and canonical notions of repertoire’s quality and its use in band settings, and these notions may be incompatible with highly varied teaching situations. In this study, I examine these issues using Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and field. The research questions were: is there a tension between the established norms (habitus) regarding the repertoire used in public schools, and practicing band directors’ professional contextual realities? If so, what is the cause of the tension, what do band directors do in response to it, and is the experience or non-experience of tension manifested differently in distinct professional contextual realities? I used a multi-method design to answer the research questions, collecting survey and interview data. Survey participants were randomly sampled from across New York State. The interview participants were purposefully sampled for variation in teaching situations. The data revealed that a tension exists and is manifested in elemental/structural issues and differences in expressed musical/educational goals. Consistent themes were the influence of collegiate ensemble experiences as main drivers of the tension and a resulting expressed reverence for core repertoire, even though it might not be what participants program. These phenomena did not appear to manifest differently across varied contexts. In addressing the tension, participants expand their habitus to include other repertoire that is more suitable or appropriate for their own situations, regardless of normative notions of quality or core repertoire. Music educators may benefit from a reorientation in teacher education programs that acknowledges the potential for this tension and that prepare them to enter their professional contextual realities and evaluate and choose repertoire in a tension-free process. Such a process would be free from a “one size fits all” conceptualization of repertoire’s quality and its role in a band program. Keywords: band, repertoire selection, tension, Bourdieu, habitus, field, hermeneutic phenomenology.