Community music is a term that has been interpreted in a variety of ways since its earliest documented usages, and it continues to be controversial. Notwithstanding historical disagreement or contested definitions, an inclusive and practical set of defining parameters is both possible and desirable for the purpose of this document. Indeed, to be useful, a contemporary definition of CM is necessarily more description of practice and activity than establishment of qualifying criteria.
Community music, as encountered in contemporary Australia, operates in three guises:
As an activity, community music in Australia functions and thrives as intervention, cohesive socio-cultural practice, and as an opportunity for, and connection point to, open-ended cross-demographic learning.
Community music infiltrates the categories of making music, creating music, learning and teaching music, and the support of participation in all of these. The inclusive nature of community music as an accessible social activity means that it encapsulates and promotes informal, nonformal and semiformal learning, in their own right as teaching and learning mechanisms, and also as conduits and access points to formal learning environments and opportunities.
The term formal music education refers here to an established and state-recognised curriculum; nonformal music education to a loose, outcome-orientated curriculum or learning program that is delivered outside of a formal (state-recognised) educational institution; informal to learning that results from self- or peer-facilitated activity without an identified curriculum, syllabus, or structured learning program; and semiformal to education sourced by formal environments (schools, universities etc.) from third-party organisations or individuals outside of the formal system, supporting established student curriculum at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and professional learning for non-music specialist school teachers etc. Semiformal best describes the educational model demonstrated by NSW regional conservatoriums, independent not-for-profit community music education organisations that operate as music education hubs across the greater portion of non-metropolitan New South Wales (Hanze University of Applied Sciences 2014; Sattler 2016).
The lens through which the following was compiled is that of professional educational and academic involvement in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan communities across NSW, and a practice that articulates with a range of semi-formal, non-formal, informal and formal music education environments.
The list below identifies some community music considerations that appear across more than one of the categories. While this is not a SWOT consideration that is unique to community music, it is important to note, as community music organisations, typically lithe and not weighed down by large administrative mechanisms, are able to be responsive in the face of challenge or change in community desires, developments, and other unexpected factors that can impact on their membership or operations. One example of this is the unconditional welcome (Higgins 2012); while presenting as a strength in enabling membership, social interaction and peer support, it is a weakness in that the potential acceptance of members at any time and standard could prove an impediment to group achievement.
Note: This SWOT analysis is based on a revision of one by John Hawkes previously appearing on this site.
Hanze University of Applied Sciences (2014). Lifelong Learning in Music. [Retrieved from Hanze University of Applied Sciences website]
Higgins, L. (2012). Community Music in theory and practice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Sattler, G. C. (2016). Community music: perceptions, expectations and conditions in non-metropolitan Australia<(Doctoral thesis, University of Sydney, Australia). Retrieved from https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/handle/2123/16043
Author of the initial entry (2008) was Jon Hawkes.
DATE October 6, 2017