Event Title

The Funky Mamas: Sustained Music Making and Learning within a Community of Practice

Presenter Information

Ben Bolden, University of Victoria

Start Date

30-5-2011 2:30 PM

End Date

30-5-2011 3:00 PM

Description

A little over a decade ago five young new mothers began making music together. Informal playing and singing at play groups and play dates led to an invitation for the musicians to perform more formally at a local library. Now, with two critically acclaimed CDs and many more children, The Funky Mamas perform regularly at festivals, fairs, theatres, and a variety of community events across the country. For some time I have been fascinated and inspired by this collective of professional mother-musicians and the music they produce. From my observations, these individuals have—in many diverse ways—enriched their lives and the lives of those around them through music making. As a music educator, I was profoundly curious to learn more. The driving impetus for this learning is my desire to figure out how music educators might set students up to have this kind of rich and sustained relationship with music making throughout their lives—beyond the classrooms and studios. To this end I designed a qualitative case study research project to explore and examine the music learning and making of the musicians within this unique community. What skills, knowledge, and understandings have The Funky Mamas developed? How have they learned what is necessary to engage in the rich, meaningful, and life-enhancing music making that has become so central to their lives? What experiences have they lived? Data were collected through interviews, the elicitation of narrative accounts, and field observations that provided windows into these musicians’ formal and informal music learning experiences, musical biographies, lifespan musical development, and the nature of their relationships with immediate and extended music communities. In order to interpret and make sense of the gathered data, I employed a theoretical framework informed by Etienne Wenger’s Communities of Practice, Learning, Meaning and Identity (1998), in which learning is viewed as a result of social participation, and identities are defined in relation to communities of practice. I also considered findings in relation to Green’s (2002, 2008) conceptualizations of formal and informal music learning. Emergent themes examined here include community, identity, personal growth, and lifelong learning. The Funky Mamas provide an example of musicians who have taken music making far beyond classroom and studio experiences—they are lifelong music makers and learners. I draw from the research results to illuminate the learning experiences that enable these musicians to make and learn music in this context. I go on to suggest how music educators might support and empower similar learning through their own teaching. In direct response to the problem of students’ limited ongoing musical activity beyond formal music education experiences (Mantie & Tucker, 2008; Myers, 2008), findings from this study enable me to conclude the paper by offering implications and suggestions for music educators who strive to provide meaningful and pragmatic music learning experiences that will empower their students with the ability to engage in rich and personally fulfilling music making throughout their lives.

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May 30th, 2:30 PM May 30th, 3:00 PM

The Funky Mamas: Sustained Music Making and Learning within a Community of Practice

A little over a decade ago five young new mothers began making music together. Informal playing and singing at play groups and play dates led to an invitation for the musicians to perform more formally at a local library. Now, with two critically acclaimed CDs and many more children, The Funky Mamas perform regularly at festivals, fairs, theatres, and a variety of community events across the country. For some time I have been fascinated and inspired by this collective of professional mother-musicians and the music they produce. From my observations, these individuals have—in many diverse ways—enriched their lives and the lives of those around them through music making. As a music educator, I was profoundly curious to learn more. The driving impetus for this learning is my desire to figure out how music educators might set students up to have this kind of rich and sustained relationship with music making throughout their lives—beyond the classrooms and studios. To this end I designed a qualitative case study research project to explore and examine the music learning and making of the musicians within this unique community. What skills, knowledge, and understandings have The Funky Mamas developed? How have they learned what is necessary to engage in the rich, meaningful, and life-enhancing music making that has become so central to their lives? What experiences have they lived? Data were collected through interviews, the elicitation of narrative accounts, and field observations that provided windows into these musicians’ formal and informal music learning experiences, musical biographies, lifespan musical development, and the nature of their relationships with immediate and extended music communities. In order to interpret and make sense of the gathered data, I employed a theoretical framework informed by Etienne Wenger’s Communities of Practice, Learning, Meaning and Identity (1998), in which learning is viewed as a result of social participation, and identities are defined in relation to communities of practice. I also considered findings in relation to Green’s (2002, 2008) conceptualizations of formal and informal music learning. Emergent themes examined here include community, identity, personal growth, and lifelong learning. The Funky Mamas provide an example of musicians who have taken music making far beyond classroom and studio experiences—they are lifelong music makers and learners. I draw from the research results to illuminate the learning experiences that enable these musicians to make and learn music in this context. I go on to suggest how music educators might support and empower similar learning through their own teaching. In direct response to the problem of students’ limited ongoing musical activity beyond formal music education experiences (Mantie & Tucker, 2008; Myers, 2008), findings from this study enable me to conclude the paper by offering implications and suggestions for music educators who strive to provide meaningful and pragmatic music learning experiences that will empower their students with the ability to engage in rich and personally fulfilling music making throughout their lives.