Bringing the Outside In: Blending Formal and Informal Through Acts of Hospitality

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Through the lens of hospitality, we explored the meanings that members constructed about their experiences within a blended formal/informal college music ensemble. The focus in this ensemble was not on competition and musical excellence but on independent musicianship and praxis. The bandleader had his roots in tradition but his heart in socially relevant pedagogy and favored a less autocratic teaching and learning style. The makeup of the ensemble also included students from both formal and informal backgrounds. Conducting gesture was casual, bandstand formation was loose and free, outfits were expressive of the individual, and tone and balance were more a reflection and celebration of individuals and less of a whole or single sound. Much of the music was performed from standard notation but was chosen collectively, often related to popular contexts, and the overall emphasis was not on uniformity but on individuality and student creativity. Musical decisions often were made democratically, and opinions from within the ensemble were affirmed in the process. The ensemble consisted of a group of approximately 13 members whose experience ranged from beginner to over 30 years and who played everything from violin to iPad. Themes that emerged were inclusivity, autonomy, and affirmation.

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Journal of Research in Music Education

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