Rural Routes: Place–Based Music Education in Two Rural Canadian Communities

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Brook, Julia Elaine
Rural Education , Music Education
The purpose of this research study was to profile exemplary rural music programs, examining how their components and contexts contributed to a deep sense of place for students, teachers, and the community. Using case-study methodology, two rural communities were profiled: Bella Coola, British Columbia and Winkler, Manitoba. By examining these programs through interview, observational, and questionnaire data, the conditions that support these programs and the perceptions of stakeholders were garnered in order to create a rich view of music education programs that could inform the development of high-quality music programs in other rural communities. Analysis procedures consisted of coding the data for emergent themes as well as a priori themes combed from music education curricula and place-based education literature. The analysis was guided by complexity thinking literature. Closed-ended questions were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Through this analysis process, a descriptive framework of the contents and context of the music programs was created. The adaptive and iterative nature of the music programs and how they related to the communities were also examined. Findings from this study revealed rich place-based music education general music programs, choral programs, and band programs that were highly regarded by the communities. Features in each music program were reflective of the musical practices in the communities. Developing place-based music programs also included the celebration of diversity and the incorporation of activities that broadened students’ musical experiences and allowed students to be leaders. The extent to which diverse types of music could be incorporated into the music programs was dependent on the teachers’ background and available resources. Performances were an important aspect of these place-based programs as attending students’ performances served as one of the only times that community residents interacted with the school, and for many, these performances were the only source of live music. Performing at other local and provincial music events strengthened students’ musical understanding and also deepened their connections to the respective communities. Students were part of their communities, and they were actively able to participate in the present in a way that honoured the past and brightened the future.
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