'Letting good happen' sustaining community music in regional Australia: a study of the Green Triangle cross-border region

2017-02-27T02:31:14Z (GMT) by Hardcastle, Adam Christopher
A vibrant community music sector can strengthen broader community resilience. It is an acknowledged creator of social capital. It can help to define and leverage a community’s cultural character. Its sustainability is therefore an important issue. This thesis explores the sustainability of community music within the Green Triangle region. This region, encompassing contiguous areas of south-western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia, centres on the cities of Portland, Hamilton and Mount Gambier. The thesis also draws insights and lessons that may be applicable to community music in other Australian non-metropolitan regions. There are sound reasons for an initial pessimism about the sustainability of community music in such regions. A durable community music domain depends on the maintenance of a sufficient scale of musical engagement and a sufficient level of musical proficiency. Many non-metropolitan regions face economic, social, demographic and technological challenges to their overall sustainability. As a consequence, their capacity for an enduring community music engagement can be questioned. The thesis breaks new ground in documenting in detail the state of community music in the Green Triangle. It produces a comprehensive analysis of the region’s music-engaged festivals and events, and compiles a comprehensive listing of its community music groups. Ten specific groups, selected purposively to allow a range of insights across different music genres, localities and lifespans, are presented as detailed case studies. These ten groups encompass two choirs, two orchestras, two concert-style bands, a brass band, a pipe band, a Salvation Army band and an Irish group. Adopting a participant-centric phenomenological approach and applying a new typology which classifies the groups according to their musical and social character, the thesis explores the sustainability profile of these ten groups. Six interpretive themes emerge from the exploration. Three of the themes – the key role of group leadership, the need for careful management of membership continuity and recruitment, and the interdependency between the groups and the music-related festivals and events – are consistent with expectations derived from the prior analysis of the relevant academic literature. The other three themes, however, were less anticipated. They include the prevalence of a canny pragmatism guiding group activity and management; the presence of strong networking across groups, within the region and beyond; and the association of particular localities within the region with community music of a particular and distinctive style. The thesis concludes optimistically, albeit a cautious optimism. It acknowledges, drawing on ecological and evolutionary analogies, that there will always be volatility, including instances of group discontinuation, across a community music sector. Nonetheless, a range of community music events and groups in the Green Triangle are shown to be admirably adaptable and hearteningly durable, adding up to a community music sector with substance and sustainable momentum. By implication, there may also be grounds for optimism about community music elsewhere in non-metropolitan Australia.