Making Sense of ‘Classical’ Musical Performance at University: An Ethnographically-Informed Case Study of a Community of Practice

Krivenski, Maria. 2018. Making Sense of ‘Classical’ Musical Performance at University: An Ethnographically-Informed Case Study of a Community of Practice. Doctoral thesis, University of Sheffield [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis investigates how ‘classical’ musical performance (performance of Western art music) is understood in a university context from the perspective of the members of a performance community to which the researcher also belonged. Previous research on musical performance in higher education (HE) has tended to focus on the exploration and/or evaluation of aspects of the educational process of musical performance without necessarily investigating the value systems implicit in these aspects. Using the conceptual lens of ‘communities of practice’, this thesis goes beyond a focus on the educational process and teases out the values and beliefs surrounding musical performance at a UK university. Furthermore, it explores how these values and beliefs are constructed and/or enacted by students and tutors through participation in the practices of a performance community.

A rationale is provided for the adoption of a qualitative, single-case study approach within a social constructionist theoretical framework. The data construction methods used in this study – participant-observation, interviews, focus groups and document analysis – are discussed. The researcher’s role as an ‘insider’ to the community investigated in this study is also considered.

Thematic Analysis of the data brings into focus three different emic understandings of performance: (1) ‘Classical’ musical performance as display of abilities and/or knowledge; (2) ‘Classical’ musical performance as source of insider’s knowledge; and (3) ‘Classical’ musical performance as a shared musical experience. The analysis indicates that these three understandings are unequally distributed, with ‘performance as display’ being dominant, followed by ‘performance as source of insider’s knowledge’. ‘Performance as a shared musical experience’ is the least common understanding among community members.

Understanding the values and beliefs constructed and/or enacted through the community practices identified here sheds new light onto how and what musicians teach and learn at university and how this might be changed for the better.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


December 2018

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Date Deposited:

10 Jun 2024 10:49

Last Modified:

10 Jun 2024 10:49


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