Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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    Understanding and articulating the processa and meaning of collaboration in participatory music projects with marginalised young people and their supporting communities
    BOLGER, LUCY ( 2013)
    Participatory approaches are increasingly emphasised in music therapy, advocating collaboration with participants for empowerment and social change. Participatory philosophy underpins Community Music Therapy (CoMT) and is the theoretical framework for the study presented in this thesis. To date, CoMT theorists have advocated strongly for participatory approaches in music therapy to promote health and wellbeing in communities (Stige, Andsell, Elefant & Pavlicevic, 2010; Stige & Aaro, 2012), and a growing number of case study examples offer contextual examples of participatory practice in music therapy. Whilst collaboration is frequently referred to as an underlying principle and feature of participatory music therapy practice, there is a notable lack of literature that practically examines the process of collaboration with communities beyond single case examples, or the meaning of that collaboration for the community participants themselves. Rolvsjord (2010) has identified collaboration in music therapy as a shared, dialogic process of negotiation between music therapist and participants that is characterised by equality, mutuality and active participation in decision-making. In CoMT projects that are, by nature, outwards-facing and ecologically focussed, engaging in a genuinely shared and dialogic collaboration with community participants can be complex and challenging. This thesis describes a study that aimed to describe this challenge. In this thesis I present learnings from an action research project in Melbourne, Australia. Three communities supporting marginalised young people engaged in participatory music projects with a music therapist. In repeating cycles of action and reflection, community participants and I worked together to plan, develop and implement their music projects. Alongside this practical decision-making, we reflected periodically on the process of collaborating together and the meaning of the process for the participants involved. Throughout the process, these reflections with individual communities were combined and shared to develop an overall understanding of collaborative process between the three groups. Comparative analysis of the process of collaboration with the three participating communities focussed on two key areas: to understand and articulate the process of collaboration with communities supporting marginalised young people; and, to understand what aspects of the collaborative process were meaningful for the participants involved. Using these key areas as a frame, learnings were interpreted from the empirical material in this study using an emergent, iterative analysis process. The analysis of empirical material identified that collaboration in participatory music projects has the potential to promote positive growth for participants in the form of strengthened connections with peers, increased self-esteem and confidence and empowerment. Learnings further indicated that this potential for empowerment is mediated by the degree of alignment between the structure of the chosen music project and particular contextual and individual factors, supporting a need for active and engaged collaboration to maximise this alignment, and subsequently the positive growth potential of participatory music projects. Based on the interpretation of empirical material, I propose a structure of collaborative process that accounts for contextual variation between communities. This structure is based on three interpersonal interactions between music therapists and community collaborators, and highlights vital characteristics of collaboration. Critical aspects include the importance of a ‘hangout period’ prior to active collaboration, and the ongoing nature of negotiations within the collaborative process. Implications from these learnings are proposed in the form of a new understanding of collaboration in music therapy - as a positive growth practice. This understanding is based on underlying principles of shared power and mutual responsibility. Particular emphasis is given to the critical and under-explored role that participant investment plays in music therapy collaborations.