Choral conducting education: The lifelong entanglement of competence, identity and meaning
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonJansson D, Balsnes AH. Choral conducting education: The lifelong entanglement of competence, identity and meaning. Research Studies in Music Education. 2019 https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1321103X19863184
Choral singing is one of the most widespread musical activities, and choral conductors work in a variety of social settings that involve every imaginable type of choir and musical genre. The conductor role draws on a number of skills and competences that are partly acquired through education but, equally importantly, through experience. Choral conductors shape their practice in highly individual fashions as amalgamations of background, formal education, career development and working situation. The present qualitative study seeks to uncover how choral conductor practices arise and unfold, by using Etienne Wenger’s theory of communities of practice and situated learning as the key analytical framework. The study elucidates the choral conducting practice as an ongoing educational project and theorises the dimensions of variety in choral conductors’ trajectories. The study situates the conducting practice in a Western choral tradition, based on interviews with a diverse sample of 20 conductors in Norway. The theoretical framework proved to be highly appropriate; however, applying it to the choral conducting practice requires the explicit positioning with regard to the academic debates on the theory’s development following Wenger’s original conceptualisation. The study therefore contributes to knowledge development in three ways – (1) by shedding new light on the theory, (2) by proposing a sub-structure to the main theory for its application to choral conducting and (3) by tracing some initial implications for choral conducting education. One of the key findings is that a conductor’s background continues to impact competence and identity throughout a conductor’s work-life, while practice seems to be predominant over formal education.