Developing a Participatory Music Making Pedagogy for the Education of All


Cara Faith Bernard, University of Connecticut

Christopher Cayari, Purdue University


Music educators seek to provide students opportunities to learn through successful music making experiences. Large ensemble participation is a prevalent form of music making in K-12 US schools, supplemented by highly structured solo/ensemble preparation. In contrast, many Canadian, European, and Australian schools embrace informal music pedagogies (Folkestad, 2006; Green, 2008; Väkevä, 2006; Wright & Kanellopoulos, 2010). Participatory music making (PMM; Turino, 2008) acknowledges and welcomes all participants to make music together, regardless of their prior knowledge, musical skill, and background. Thibeault (2015) suggests that this type of experience may foster music learning for all, as it is low-pressure with an easy entry point for people of various skill levels to experience, make, and learn music through social interaction.


Informal music pedagogy (Green, 2008) incorporates the practices of popular musicians into the classroom. This approach fosters autonomy and student-driven creativity (Abramo, 2009; Allsup, 2003, 2008; Cayari, 2015; Green, 2008) through student directed projects, conceiving the teacher as facilitator instead of instructor. While informal music pedagogies are vetted and present in school classrooms, there is little research on PMM as a pedagogical model. Additionally, there is no known literature on the use of participatory music making practices in music teacher education. This session describes how the presenters adapted PMM as a pedagogy through ukulele instruction, which served as a connection between informal music learning and director-led, notation-based instruction.


PMM encourages students to feel comfortable and allows them to experience successful music making quickly, learning from one another and from veteran musicians within their group. In traditional ensembles, the teacher often serves as expert; however, in the other modes, the teacher serves as experienced veteran, guiding students who bring their own experiences to enhance the learning and music making of all. We share how a PMM model of learning through group-ukulele and singing was used as a vehicle for undergraduate students in music education and elementary education programs to engage in community music making, supplemented by informal music learning, and more structured forms of instruction. PMM bridges the two prominent practices, encouraging learners to come as they are and meaningfully contribute their musical skills.


In this session, we share the experiences of students and teacher educators in both a music education methods course and a music for classroom elementary educators course, using three of the four domains of Turino’s (2008) PMM: participatory, presentational, and an adaption of studio audio art. Data was gathered using surveys, reflections of instructors and students, and analyses of student projects. By reconceptualizing music education methods courses and how we view music making beyond a strictly performance-based level, we can help students experience music making from multiple domains, including participatory, performative, and virtual. An invitation will be extended to other instructors to plan for future projects on the practice of PMM pedagogy for pre-service educators.




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