Imagining Possible Futures / Impacting Professional Visions: A Reflective Case Study of a Community-Centric, Ukulele-Based Participatory Musicking Project


Jesse C. Rathgeber, James Madison University

David A. Stringham, James Madison University


How might music teacher education curricula help music educators think broadly about music teaching and learning beyond P-12 school settings and related practices? In this paper, music education students and professors approach this question through discussion of a community-centric, ukulele-based participatory musicking project. We examined how engagement through this project may have impacted the “focus, range, and distance” (Hammerness, 2003, p. 45) of music teachers’ professional vision. This multi-faceted curricular project was aimed at engaging preservice music educators in community-based, informal, and participatory making and learning that included students: (1) planning and hosting multiple “learn and jam” events targeting different community populations (e.g., university students, faculty, and staff; families with children; persons not engaged by university music programs); (2) investigating and considering participatory musicking in relation to current and emergent musical learning settings and practices (e.g., Randles, Griffis, & Ruiz, 2015; Thibeault, 2013, 2015); and (3) building instruments and investigating maker-based practices (e.g., Thibeault & Evoy, 2011; Bledsoe & Stapleton, 2016). This project was embedded within two undergraduate music education courses in which small groups of students designed, promoted, facilitated, and reflected upon community-based events.


We situate this study as a “reflective case study” modeled after Maclellan’s (2007) adaptation of Stake’s (2003) instrumental case study design. Using Hammerness’ (2003) tripartite conception of professional vision as “focus, range, and distance” as a theoretical tool, we examine the impact of this project upon participants’ professional vision. Two questions guide our inquiry: What meanings do participants ascribe to their experiences in this project? and How might participation in this project impact one’s professional vision? Data for this study were generated via course documents stored in the university’s learning management system, a web-based team communication tool, and reflective dialogues among participating music teacher educators and pre-service music educators. Preliminary findings suggest that participants found the project meaningful: (1) as a chance to engage with people and practices outside of their comfort zones, (2) as a curricular planning exercise, and (3) as an opportunity to imagine new career roles and contexts. Related to focus in professional vision, participants noted experiences of having both clearer and plural career goals and options. Participants implied a sense of broadening the range of their professional vision through openness to engaging with different P-12 and community settings. Finally, some participants discussed feelings that the project brought them closer to types of music making and learning resonant with their own values as music makers, music learners, and music educators. Findings from this study have multiple implications for music teacher education, including opportunities to: (1) (re)consider how practicum experiences offer opportunities for students to apply both curricular learnings and extracurricular experiences, (2) (re)consider contexts through which curricular content (e.g., lesson planning, beginning instrumental pedagogy) is experienced and taught, and (3) provide spaces in which students can consider varied options for a/vocational music teaching and learning with varied populations.




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Hammerness, K. (2003). Learning to hope, or hoping to learn? The role of vision in the early professional lives of teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 54(1), 43–56.

Maclellan, E. (2008). The significance of motivation in student-centred learning: A reflective case study. Teaching in Higher Education, 13(4), 411–421.

Randles, C., Griffis, S. A., & Ruiz, J. V. (2015). ‘Are you in a band?!’: Participatory music-making in music teacher education. International Journal of Community Music, 8(1), 59–72.

Stake, R. E. (2003). Case studies. In N.K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of qualitative inquiry, 2nd ed. (pp. 86–109).

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Thibeault, M. D. (2015). Music education for all through participatory ensembles. Music Educators Journal, 102(2), 54–61.

Thibeault, M. D., & Evoy, J. (2011). Building your own musical community: How YouTube, Miley Cyrus, and the ukulele can create a new kind of ensemble. General Music Today, 24(3), 44–52.