Crossing educational and cultural boundaries in improvisational expertise development

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    This study aims to reveal environmental factors that affect successful and less successful improvisational expertise development. It explicitly focusses on boundary crossing in multiple musical contexts. The study compared improvisational skill development of a group of six elite musical improvisers to a group of five semi-elite musical improvisers by means of a multiple site, structured case study design. A biographical research method was used to collect data for cross case analyses. Data were analyzed using a combination of a theory-based categorization system and open coding searching for actors and factors that affected vicious and virtuous cycles of learning. Findings on learning during pre-conservatory, conservatory, and post-conservatory phases revealed distinct differences in boundary crossing activities between the elite and semi-elite improvisers. In order to develop musically the elite improvisers started to cross educational boundaries early in their musical careers and intensified this during and after the conservatory period (e.g., attending jam sessions on a regular basis). Semi-elite hardly mentioned engagement in such self-directed boundary crossing practice. This pattern was even more visible for cultural boundary crossing. Only the elite improvisers explicitly cited activities such as the participation in pluralistic musical (i.e., multicultural) and artistic projects (e.g., those that aim to synergize music and dance). Based on these findings we hypothesize that self-directed educational and cultural boundary crossing positively effect improvisational expertise, especially the development of a personal musical ‘voice’, a feature of musical professionalism that is imperative to survive in contemporary musical practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2017
    Event17th Biennial EARLI Conference for Research on Learning and Instruction - Tampere, Finland
    Duration: 29 Aug 20172 Sept 2017


    Conference17th Biennial EARLI Conference for Research on Learning and Instruction


    • improvisational expertise
    • elite
    • semi-elite
    • boundary crossing
    • transition


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