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Title:The violin and the fiddle: Narratives of music and musician in a high school setting
Author(s):Thibeault, Matthew D.
Subject(s):informal music
music education
Abstract:That there is exists a gap between students’ musical lives and the commonly found curriculum in most schools in the USA is widely accepted, and the need for reconceptualization can be found from the National Standards to a recent special issue of Music Educators Journal. But what happens when students find much of the music they feel most passionate about, particularly when they make that music, excluded during their formal music education? This chapter presents two stories of Eva Kikuchi, a Bluegrass fiddle player and one of six students followed for the author’s dissertation research, a yearlong qualitative study of music students at an arts-focused high school in California. Based on over 500 hours of observations at school and off-site rehearsals, concerts, and private lessons, as well as interviews with students and teachers, a narrative approach is used to explore the lived experience of students, with particular attention paid to the different concepts of music and musician offered in the various settings experienced by the students. Eva’s case has two primary narratives. The first concerns navigating the fiddle and the violin: two different instruments within one physical one that Eva comes to understand through her musical training. Eva’s musical and cultural biography, as constructed through interviews and observations, starts with her grandmother, a classical violinist who gave Eva her instrument, to her father, whose rebellious turn towards Bluegrass is a primary source of inspiration for Eva. This narrative explores the vastly different experiences of playing and learning each instrument through her participation with the high school orchestra as well as Old Blind Clarence, a Bluegrass group of four students at her school. Beyond school, Eva’s values are shaped as her Bluegrass playing continues to make her an in-demand musician with a variety of professional groups in the local music scene. The first story also sets the stage for the exploration of what the author refers to as setting-centered music making. Briefly, setting-centered music making exists when music making is structured around the setting (the players available, their abilities, often improvised and co-composed). This is in contrast to what is more commonly found in music education: score-centered practices where the players work to realize a composed piece. Eva participates in a variety of score-centered and setting-centered music making, and this distinction is helpful in better understanding her conceptions of music and musican. The second narrative explores a unique situation that emerged during the research. Eva’s orchestra teacher invited her to fulfill her senior service learning through teaching Bluegrass to freshmen and sophomore string players. Each week, hour-long Bluegrass lessons were followed by a conversation with the researcher. Over time, a narrative emerged about tensions between the informal and social nature of Bluegrass learning, and the demands that are brought to the learning situation by the structure of schooling and the history of classically trained string players. Eva’s realization of the need to challenge the school structure by shifting to playful activities during her lessons occurs over the six months of teaching and talking, recalling her own education, and testing ideas with students. In addition, my own presence as a music teacher with a history of informal music participation as well as formal music teaching has an integral part of the narrative. Drawing on the tensions that exist between Lydia Goehr’s “work concept” and its tension with Christopher Small’s activity-based concept of musicking, this chapter presents a particular story where curriculum and physical space are structured to privilege the traditional Western canon, and the ways that students resist and adapt to these situations has broad implications for music education. This research participates in current attempts to address the presence of popular music in music education, with the assumption that programs can benefit from a nuanced understanding of these impediments.
Issue Date:2009
Publisher:Rowman & Littlefield Education and MENC
Citation Info:Thibeault, M. D. (2009). The violin and the fiddle: Narratives of music and musician in a high school setting. In C. Abril & J. L. Kerchner (Eds.), Musical experience in our lives: Things we learn and meanings we make (pp. 255–274). Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
Genre:Book Chapter
Publication Status:published or submitted for publication
Rights Information:Copyright Rowman & Littlefield, shared under the CIC Authors Addendum
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-03-05

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