Serious about leisure: a case study of a large midwest community band
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In this qualitative case study, I sought to examine the reasons for the extensive time, monetary, and personal commitment to performing advanced repertoire made by the membership of a local instrumental ensemble, for which I will use the pseudonym, Large Midwest Community Band (LMCB). Two research questions guided this study: 1) Which prior experiences in public school bands, if any, contributed to the participants’ desires to continue performing music at an advanced level, and 2) Why did they continue to commit to spending their leisure time by performing music at an advanced level of music? Members of the LMCB participated in interviews designed to investigate these two questions. All volunteers were regular members of the LMCB, who willingly and routinely contributed time, effort, and talent to the group. Participants answered questions regarding their various experiences with the LMCB, such as those about the rewards they gained from playing in the band, the influences that kept them returning to the group, and the time commitment necessary to be a productive member. The interview responses were transcribed and reviewed for errors and omissions, then coded. The affective method of value coding was used in order to code both the actual language of the participants and their personal attitudes and beliefs. Codes repeated by several interview subjects led to the development of themes around playing music and participating in the LMCB. The themes identified in the data were applicable to the theoretical framework of the Serious Leisure Perspective (SLP) proposed initially by Robert A. Stebbins (1977). Stebbins’s (1977) six professional amateur attributes provided the lens through which many of the qualities and traits of musical amateurism were identified in the LMCB participants. The majority of participants cited public school band experience as the launching point for future music participation. School bands provided the basic training and skills needed for successful participation in ensembles, the impetus for students to participate in college or community bands post-high school, an important social function, a family-like atmosphere, and a support system for many. The motivations behind the participants’ continued engagement at amateur levels in the LMCB emerged through the lens of SLP. Unstandardized performances, high levels of musicianship, social and musical identities, and community pride and outreach widely contributed to the continuance of advanced levels of music making within the ensemble. Based on the results of this particular study, music educators should view themselves as both the progenitors and the long-term caretakers of the art form of community instrumental music.