When I set out to become a community musician, what I had in mind was creating opportunities for more people to engage with music. It was mainly around access and removing barriers. Music for all. I embarked on a 1-year, MA in Community Music Degree at the University of Limerick to learn, practice and reflect on other peoples experiences as well as my own. I was eager to gather resources, activities, methods and approaches that I could take with me wherever I went. So, like any good scientist would, I created a database of of song titles with starting pitches and audio files, documenting how to teach and use each piece. Another excel spreadsheet contains a list of activities, identifying age-appropriateness, skills developed, purpose of activity. I’ve bookmarked websites and book resources which hold more ideas. What I’m realizing, however, is that these resources are only a fraction of the Community Music practice.
Transferable skills that I’ve developed through other work and volunteer experiences are crucial. Organization, planning and preparedness. Communication appropriate for different contexts and audiences and purposes. Group leadership and navigating group dynamics. Reflective practice to continually improve one’s work.
What I was surprised to discover along the way is how highly relational the work is of a Community Musician. Building relationships and trust with the community, and helping to establish it among the participants, allow everyone to take risks, to build confidence, to try new things, and to acknowledge what they do not know without fear of judgement.
Another new discovery for me was notion of the process being as or more important than the final musical product. I really did not understand this. In my own life, I have always been fixed on the end goal, wanting it to be the best possible, too often with an imbalance of concern for my wellbeing and progressive development. The community music process honours the speed of learning and creation of the participants. Forcing the process speed compromises participants’ self-confidence and ownership of the work.
Being a community musician also requires self-acceptance and willingness to be vulnerable. Most often in group-setting, participants come with an assortment of hangups, anxieties, and fears alongside their musical desires. My own connections are more easily drawn with certain groups, while others seem to be a world apart from my own life experience. However, we share in common our humanness. I’m not a perfect package of success, and my musical and life path has had their ups and downs. Let’s find a place where we can relate. With any diversity of participants, this process of acceptance takes time to establish.
And so its goes and I cultivate my practice through every workshop.
|Music is for everyone!||