Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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    Beyond barriers: Creating a space for deeper connection between individuals from diverse religious traditions through a dialogic group music therapy process
    Notarangelo, Astrid Danielle ( 2021)
    This project has emerged in response to a community need to create further platforms for interfaith dialogue in Bendigo, a regional city in Victoria, Australia. Community tensions about a new mosque highlighted a need to build stronger relationships amongst the interfaith and wider community. These tensions were at odds with my experiences of creating musical spaces for the expression and exploration of diverse spiritual and religious identity as a music therapist at the local hospital. In these spaces, listening and respect mattered. My close proximity to people with diverse religious perspectives helped me to be more aware of diverse others in the community and of the current tensions. I wanted to see how music could help. An ethnographic approach captured the journey from the institutional context out into the community to engage in a community-based research project, a collaboration with the interfaith community in Bendigo. A cyclic, emergent action research process evolved into a series of focus groups where individual lived experiences of religion and religious rituals were shared, using music as a focus and a support for communication. Eleven collaborators from six different religious traditions in Bendigo came together to take part in a dialogic group music therapy process – musical presentation (Amir, 2012). This process offers a model for listening and engaging in a group. From this process, music playlists, drawings, focus group dialogue and phone interview feedback were generated. This material revealed the strong sense of connection that collaborators felt with others in the group and their enjoyment of coming together to share diverse faith identities in this creative space. The process also highlighted that the vulnerability and challenges that come from engaging in creative processes were valuable and brought new perspectives and growth. The vitality of music as a mode of communication, through which identity, feelings, memory and culture can be explored was highlighted. Collaborators commented on the depth of the experience and the connection to others within a short space of time. Despite the different associations collaborators each had with music, they saw it as helpful in communicating religious identity. Music supported the group to remove some of the usual barriers that existed between them in this new creative space. One of the key statements developed through collaborator feedback was that “This process has the potential to increase understanding, knowledge, and connection in our community”. The project highlights the importance of creating spaces for the exploration and sharing of diverse religious identity. Possibilities for music therapists as advocates, negotiators and community-builders in these kinds of processes are also raised. Engaging in a dialogic group music process highlighted a form of ‘attunement’ between collaborators that related to musical concepts and processes. Music’s capacity to re-conceptualise broader processes and relationships was also highlighted through connecting this project to the concept of ‘community as a harmonic landscape’, as a way of sharing the project with the wider community. Collaborators felt that the process they experienced could act as a ‘stepping stone’ into further creative community action.