Social Construction of Musical Experience in Two High School Chamber Music Ensembles
The purpose of this dissertation was to examine how students in two pre-collegiate, small chamber music ensembles reached conclusions about musical interpretation through social interaction. To understand more about the nature of peer collaboration in the chamber music setting, ethnographic research tools were used to explore two questions: (1) do identifiable patterns of musical thought and action exist within the ensembles? and (2) how do these patterns reveal ways that student interactions, tools, and social structures assist or constrain movement through the “zone of proximal development” (Vygotsky, 1978) toward increased musical awareness?
To answer these research questions, two high school chamber music ensembles from different sites were observed over a period of five months during student rehearsals and coaching sessions. Data were collected through video and audio tape and dialog was transcribed for analysis. Additional data consisted of formal and informal interviews with ensemble members and coaches, reviews of video taped rehearsals by the ensembles, researcher field notes, and a study of miscellaneous documents.
Four global patterns of musical thought and action were identified. These included: (1) musical topics covered in rehearsals; (2) amount and nature of the music rehearsed during each rehearsal; (3) types and frequency of verbal and non-verbal activity used by participants; and (4) sequence of student activity during rehearsals.
The analysis revealed several similarities between the two ensembles. Ensemble members challenged each other to work at a higher developmental level by requiring peers to clarify, elaborate on, or justify a problem solution, Also, the use of varied social participation structures as well as others’ rehearsal strategies and musical ideas facilitated learning.
Differences were noted between the two ensembles in ensemble member role exchange and use of unique rehearsal strategies. These findings demonstrated that collaborative learning in the musical context is multi-faceted, complex, and filled with the potential to both encourage and hinder the growth of musical understanding. Implications for future research and teaching were included.