Prisms and Polyphony: The lived experiences of high school band students and their director as the prepare for an adjudicated performance.
Miles, Stephen Wayne
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This hermeneutic phenomenological inquiry is called by the question: What are the lived experiences of high school band students and their director as they prepare for an adjudicated performance? While there are many lenses through which the phenomenon of music preparation and music making has been explored, a relatively untapped aspect of this phenomenon is the experience as lived by the students themselves. The experiences and behaviors of the band director are so inexorably intertwined with the student experience that this essential contextual element is also explored as a means to understand the phenomenon more fully. Two metaphorical constructs - one visual, one musical - provide a framework upon which this exploration is built. As a prism refracts a single color of light into a wide spectrum of hues, views from within illumine a variety of unique perspectives and uncover both divergent and convergent aspects of this experience. Polyphony (multiple contrasting voices working independently, yet harmoniously, toward a unified musical product) enables understandings of the multiplicity of experiences inherent in ensemble performance. Conversations with student participants and their director, notes from my observations, and journal offerings provide the text for phenomenological reflection and interpretation. The methodology underpinning this human science inquiry is identified by Max van Manen (2003) as one that "involves description, interpretation, and self-reflective or critical analysis" (p. 4). I have reflected on the counterpoint of the student experience, and both purposefully and inadvertently, viewed this counterpoint through the various windows O'Donohue (2004) suggests await our gaze in the inner tower of the mind (p. 127). The student experience showed itself through the ensemble culture, the repertoire studied, the rehearsal process, and the adjudicated performance itself. Student conversations and reflections indicate that they experienced both discovery and transformation as they interacted with the music, each other, and their director throughout this process. The fresh prismatic and polyphonic understandings that emerged may offer the possibility for others to consider more deeply the context of how students experience who they are within an ensemble and how that experience shapes their musical understandings and personal growth.