Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Who makes up your Community?

I have been struggling with this blog now that I have started it. I have not really known where I wanted to go with it, and what was the purpose of it.  So I have been thinking about what it is all about, and how I want this blog to look. 

I was excited by the prospect of having a blog to document my journey through this PhD, and I really wanted to continue but I also wanted to write something that would be interesting to read. Anyway, that's where I'm at for the moment.

I think a lot about community and what it means. I have been particularly thinking about it this week as it was my partner's birthday yesterday. We also paid a visit to my brother and sister in-law and their kids on the weekend. 

I was brought up to believe that the most important people in your life are your family. I have found out this is not always the case. It has been an interesting journey for me to finding out that family of choice - the people you choose to have in your life, such as good friends who are there no matter what - can be much more important than blood relatives. Don't get me wrong, I love my family, but they have different values to me on some things and sometimes they find it hard to understand the ways that I think and the things that I do. 

So the community of family that I grew up with, have evolved into a wonderful community of friends, some of who my partner and I call our family of choice. These are people who love us for who we are, who are always there when we need them, who we support when they need us, and who we love to spend time with. There are no expectations about how often this will happen, or how much money has been spent on something - in fact often the simpler the better. It is about the company, and being able to really enjoy each other. We have no expectations of each other except that we will always be there to hang out, and help out when needed. It is a truly beautiful relationship.

Some members of our family of choice live overseas. For obvious reasons we don't see each other very often, but we email, we send packages and when we get together (which is usually about every 3 or 4 years) we have lots of fun, enjoy each others company and we just hang out.

What I am saying is that communities can be something that we don't have as much choice over when we are younger, but as we grow into ourselves and understand where our values lie and in fact who we are as people, we change and can make choices about communities that are a good fit. 

This is the journey we are all on, and lends itself to my study of process. I want to gain a deeper understanding of what happens when people journey together either in a therapeutic sense, or in a community cultural development sense, and on the way, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of my own process within my communities. It is very exciting to link my sometimes seemingly nebulous ideas to real life.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Language and Context

A little reading this week has clarified a couple of areas needing further outlining.

The first is language. The language of Community Music Therapy, is very different to the language of Community Cultural Development. This reflects the origins of these different fields. Community Music Therapy has grown from allied health and medical influences, and Community Cultural Development from community arts and participation.

 The American sign language alphabet is different to the Australian sign language alphabet
Sourced from google images

The second is context. In reading about the development of Community Music Therapy, it has become apparent to me that context is very important. The development of this field as described in the literature is very much described from a European perspective. In short, Music Therapy is an allied health profession and as such has been allied with medical models.It has grown away from this influence to some degree, but still mostly relies on robust evidence based evaluation to prove its worth.

Community Cultural Development is influenced by political contexts which again differ according to country.  It has explored some different evaluation techniques such as practice based research and product as evidence. I am really keen to get into this as I hope to describe practice based research in a way that is understood to adhere to robust evidence based evaluation.

Sourced from google images

When I embarked on this journey, I thought it would be fairly easy to find and point out the similarities and differences in the two fields. I now think a little differently. Beginning to look at the journeys of development towards becoming a recognised field has been an interesting exercise, and as I continue to explore this, I expect to find that language and context are very important in the ways I describe my work. I will need to make sure that the language is inclusive of both fields and that the context is clear when I am describing what I have found.

Plenty of food for thought in moving ahead with my discoveries.

I attended the arts and community researchers network meeting on Monday. It was great to meet with others doing researching in this area, and have a chance to discuss some of these ideas. The next one is Thurs 17th June, and I will be presenting some of my work so far. I am excited by this opportunity.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Community - just what is it?

 sourced via google images.

I have been reading to get a more theoretical understanding of the term community.

What do you think of when I say community?

There are many different types of communities. I have personally been a member of a number of different communities in my life including sporting teams, orchestras, book clubs, school and university, Caucasian, Rotary just to name a few. Among these are the broader communities of musicians, students and race. they also cover the gamut of local, national and international communities. I am privileged in my life to have had these experiences, and am today privileged to be among a community of PhD students, not only at Uni of Melbourne, but also globally.

There is a basic definition of Community in the CCD reader from 2006 when I began my Masters, it states:

"A community can be any group of people who choose to identify with each other. Communities can be created through things people have in common, geographical location, interests, cultural heritage or simply a desire to strengthen relationships and share experiences."

Wikipedia tells us that "
In biological terms, a community is a group of interacting organisms (or different species) sharing an environment. In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness.

In sociology, the concept of community has led to significant debate, and sociologists are yet to reach agreement on a definition of the term. There were ninety-four discrete definitions of the term by the mid-1950s.[1] Traditionally a "community" has been defined as a group of interacting people living in a common location. The word is often used to refer to a group that is organized around common values and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household. The word can also refer to the national community or global community.

 Music Festivals create communities. Port Fairy Folk Festival sourced via google images.

This is  just to get me started. I am reading a number of things at the moment that look at community in different ways.

Richard Florida in The Rise of the Creative Class basically talks about creativity as driving economies and the development of communities around this.

Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community talks about civic engagement and participation as well as the development of social capital as an essential part of creating community.

From Community development literature (Susan Kenny and Jim Ife) there is the concept of common identity which can encompass those things mentioned earlier.

From Community Music Therapy literature, (Gary Ansdell, Mercedes Pavlicevic, Brynjulf Stige and Cochavit Elefant) the idea of community is also based on common identity or the creation of, or people who come together with common goals.

Maybe you're wondering where I stand on all this? Well I definitely define community as something defined by the people who are a part of it. (vague enough?) I am not someone to put labels on others, but as someone who has been part of many communities and for now, for the purposes of my research, community is something that is created by people who have common identity or wish to create one.

It is important for me to have a good theoretical knowledge of Community from the different bodies of literature I have mentioned in order to try and make some sense of the bigger question around this, and that is where are the similarities and differences in the fields of Community Cultural Development and Community Music Therapy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The End of the Back Story

 Self portrait done entirely from musical notation!

Now, let me see where was I?

I finished my Music Therapy degree and began work as a music therapist. Over the next 10 years, I worked with at risk adolescents, people who had experienced brain injury, children and adults living with disabilities and in aged care. I certainly did a lot of different things because I was self employed for a while and took on whatever came along.

There were 2 jobs that were significant in shaping where I was heading. The first of these was my work at a special school with children who had severe and multiple disabilities. This was the job where I really came into my own as a music therapist. I began to believe in myself and I did some great work. It was a great job for me, that I remember fondly, and some of my closest friends now, I met in the course of this time in my life.

I left this job to take up a full time management position - a rarity in the music therapy field! It was a music therapy program designed to address issues of attachment and bonding for vulnerable families. This program provided support groups for families as well as giving them an opportunity to have a positive experience through music. I implemented this program in 3 states, and did heaps of travel in the three years I was there. (It was also a job in which I made some fabulous friends that I number among my close friends now) It was again a massive learning curve in terms of managing staff - of which I had 20 across the 3 states - as well as budget management, staff training, etc etc, and evaluation.

Yes evaluation, this is the job where I decided that I would like to do some more study. (Here comes that 3rd degree!) I thought I needed to broaden my experience, and looked for a long time before I found the Masters in Community Cultural Development at the faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne (now VCAM - faculty of the Victorian college of the arts and music).

I loved the study and I was exposed to all sorts of amazingly talented people in many media including puppetry, visual arts, music and dance. I had the experience of some of the things i was exposed to through my study were not gelling well with what was happening in the program I was managing, in relation to evaluation. It was an uncomfortable place to be when I realised that I was not being true to my own values in delivering some aspects of the program. As a result, I decided my masters' study would concentrate on evaluation of vulnerable populations. This is what I did, and I successfully completed this, my third degree.

SO, the rest of the long story short, I decided at the beginning of this year to finally enrol in my PhD.
I have become really interested in the process of how things happen, particularly in my work, and I would like to design tools to measure this process. At least that's what I am thinking about this early in my study. Come along for the journey, I think it could get interesting.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Back Story - Part 1

I have worked in the community sector for 20 years in a number of different incarnations. The first of my 3 (yes 3) degrees, was a Bachelor of Science - majoring in psychology - at Australian National University in Canberra.

Shortly after finishing, I moved to Melbourne with plans to study music therapy. I got a job working with people living with disabilities and got stuck for 6 years - I loved it! I eventually got around to actually doing my Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy at University of Melbourne. I worked a number of jobs while I was studying, lived a crazy life and loved it. 

I am a classical guitarist, and while I needed to play at a high standard to get into Uni, there was little need to maintain those skills. It was at this time that I discovered Concordia. I joined so that I got to play my guitar on a regular basis and was quickly offered the position of principal guitar in the orchestra. A great honour, that I accepted and held for 10 years until I retired from Concordia for health reasons. 

So, I'm now going to say what you are all thinking - yes I am a nerd!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Becoming Dr Doc

My supervisor recently suggested that I think about starting a blog as a way to document ideas about my PhD study. The idea resonated with my own thinking, as I had been contemplating this for a while,
(My partner is an avid blogger on the craft scene, and so I am familiar with the vagaries of blogging) but I felt that I needed a theme or some purpose in order to begin.

So I let it rattle around in my brain and today, the title came to me, and I have dived into the big blogging pond. (I also thought it might be a good place to rant and rave to no one in particular about the trials and tribulations I am told will ensue from this undertaking.)

I am roughly 2 months into a part time PhD looking at the evaluation of PROCESS in community music therapy and community cultural development. It sounds complicated I know and part of what I will be discovering over the next 6 or 7 years is what is really important to me about this topic, and how to describe it in 25 words or less!

For now, I have begun by looking at the different and yet similar fields of Community Music therapy and Community Cultural Development. I am looking at areas of intersection and diversity in order to say whether my planned evaluation tools can be used in both fields.
Well that's it for now. Let's see how things progress towards me Becoming Dr Doc!