Uniting the Work of Community Musicians and Music Therapists through the Health-Care Continuum: A Grounded Theory Analysis

Article excerpt


In some contexts, there is a strong relationship between music therapy and community music practices, especially as music therapy discourse focuses increasingly on notions of community, culture, and context. The aim of the present research was to investigate this relationship, as it manifested through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with music therapists and musicians who worked in community contexts in Victoria, Australia. The grounded theory research method informed the theoretical sampling technique used, as well as the analysis and presentation of results. The following article presents the main result of this study, which is a theory that is offered as one interpretation of the relationship between the community work of music therapists and musicians. The overarching framework for this theory is the construct of health-care as a continuum, involving stages of illness/crisis, rehabilitation, community and well-being. This construct is particularly useful for music therapists and community musicians to consider how they can best support the music participant in each of these stages. It also offers an explanation of the relationship between music therapy and community music, although limited by the self-report of the research participants and their collectively small geographic location. Future directions for research are discussed.

Key words: community music, community music therapy, grounded theory, health-continuum


Community, music and therapy are three words that have frequently accompanied each other along the labyrinthine paths of music therapy discourse, gaining considerable notoriety as a trio within the last three years. Some music therapists are so excited by the ensemble that they proudly punctuate each word with a capital letter (eg. Pavlicevic & Ansdell, 2004), others more demurely use the lower case (eg. Bruscia, 1998; Stige, 2002). This trio of words has caused discomfort for some and relief for others, while sparking heated debates within the international world of music therapy. Community Music Therapy has been called a phenomenon (Pavlicevic & Ansdell, 2004), a sub-area of practice (Bruscia, 1998), a paradigm shift (Ansdell, 2002), a discourse (Ruud, 2004) and even a professional suicide bid (Erkkila, 2002). Like Erikson's adolescent, the "young and unsettled" discourse on Community Music Therapy (Stige, 2004, p. 219) is still trying to forge and refine its identity.

One of the tasks undertaken by contributors to the emerging discourse on Community Music Therapy (CoMT) has been to define the relationship between community music and music therapy. As early as 1999, Australian music therapist Catherine Threlfall was openly considering this relationship. She noted that many Australian music therapists were working in community settings and not considering this work as therapy. Her article, published in a local AMTA newsletter, describes how her own community music work was aimed at "creating a healthy and supportive environment" (Threlfall, 1999, p. 12). Interestingly, her own definitions of music therapy and community music were the same: "the creative use of music to facilitate positive change for a person or community" (p. 10). This is despite her belief that community musicians and music therapists bring different skills to community work.

By 2002, British music therapist Ansdell had also published his explorations of the relationship between music therapy and community music. In a discussion paper entitled "Community Music Therapy and the Winds of Change" (2002) he remarked how music therapy's new status as a State Registered profession in the UK led to questions about how music therapists' practice differs from that of community musicians. He asked, "Do music therapists and community musicians have different practices, or just different theories?" (p. 111). In this article, Ansdell presented the relationship between music therapy and community music in the form of an individual-communal continuum, with music therapy and community music at opposing ends and CoMT as the underlying basis. …