Spinning a Web of Sounds as One Culture

Culture, Identity, Self-Concept: these are my interests this evening as I prepare for a meeting with one of my colleagues.  We are looking at some data that seems to show a significant decrease in self-concept as students progress through ensembles.  This is a fascinating finding if it is truly accurate.  When he first brought up the issue that the data may point to a decrease in self-concept, I immediately thought of a few things: the massive amount of critique that occurs in a traditional rehearsal, the massive amount of work that the advanced students take on (in many schools, the music students are practically synonymous with the advanced kids), and an increase in self-imposed standards as the students grow intellectually, musically, and in any other way possible….

This evening, I read quite a few articles, searching for some answers and I must admit that I didn’t find much that reflected what we are thinking might be an issue… One article I did read, however, promoted a method for change, a very very slow change, using the society as a vehicle to gradually affect change in culture, identity, and self-concept.

As we are considering the topic of a society, I think it helpful to imagine the world in the way Geertz saw it, as an “animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun,” (1973, 5).  What a brilliant way to think about our lives within our little worlds.  That being said… I was thinking about my own orchestra program and how yesterday we were creating a legend (see my blog on A Secret Message) through what might have been an incredibly mundane task of putting up shelves.  And this is just another example of the kind of community I try to create within my classroom.  The kind of mutual benefit and work that we are spinning and spinning with each new activity, rehearsal, concert, and lesson.

This article constructed a definition of identity within his Model of Psychologoical Dimensions.  The model goes through the individual who is part of the collective, that over time produces a culture (also called a legacy), which comes from a society.  I found this fascinating as I thought about my orchestra program, and I must admit, I was exuding some serious pride beams as I luxuriated in my own successes as I have been working to create a familial society.  So, basically, the students and myself are all the individuals in the program.  The collective would the the program.  We as a program have been working for years to contribute to our culture, our legacy,  and all of that comes from the society or the community.

Now that my unabashed pride in my own program is put aside, I should get back to the change that is needed.  So first, one must consider the culture, the community, and all of the levels that are being spun.  Consider what role we as the educator have in this web of significance… Where do the students land in our own web, and how are we interacting with them as they create their own?

The recommendations within this article include that any change is made on a local basis within the small classroom or ensemble, that change is a product of imagination and theory with a commitment to hard work, and that change is the result of the actual web-spinners who impact the community.

Geertz, C. 1973. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.

Randles, C. (2013). A theory of change in music education. Music Education Research, 15(4), 471–485.

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