Communities of practice : learning in progressive ensembles
This study examines the learning of ensemble skills by young musicians in progressive ensembles. Data collection took place in three music centres which form part of an LEA music service's ensemble provision. This study uniquely approaches ensembles as'socio-musical' phenomena. It finds description and explanation in the constantly changing and developing socio-musical interactions that form ensembles. Using an ethnographic approach it examines the practice of ensembles that are part of musical learning pyramids, through the eyes and actions of the ensemble members. There is an examination of ensemble membership and the social structures and interactions that form ensembles. This study explores, and for the first time identifies, a set of ensemble specific skills. These are the skills that a musician uses to negotiate, integrate and cooperate with other participants in the production of ensemble performance. It goes on to examine how ensemble specific skills are acquired and suggests that the learning process is one of serial performative responsibility transfer created within stratified centripetal progression. New, or novice, members of an ensemble start by participating at a peripheral level leaving it to others to take performative responsibility for the production of a negotiated collaborative realization of the musical intentions of the composer. This study has been influenced by the work of Lave and Wenger and social theories of learning. However, it departs from these theories by suggesting that the learning process within an ensemble is responsibility led and stratified.