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Expanding the core of conservatoire training: Exploring the transformative potential of community engagement activities within conservatoire training

Carpio, R (2022). Expanding the core of conservatoire training: Exploring the transformative potential of community engagement activities within conservatoire training. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, Guildhall School of Music and Drama)


There is an ongoing debate within music education regarding how best to train classical musicians and prepare graduates for a career in an unpredictably changing field. The orchestral profession has faced monumental challenges, including declining audiences, financial struggles, and finding relevance within their communities. In response, orchestras are adapting by incorporating innovative ways to engage audiences, most often through education and community programmes. However, even in the face of such challenges within the field, conservatoire training (with some exceptions) has remained largely static, focusing mainly on performance skills and personal practice. Winning an orchestral job is extremely competitive and music programmes have acknowledged that a broader skill set is necessary if musicians are to forge viable careers for themselves and promote a sustainable future for the classical music field. Yet, it is not always clear how many conservatoires are addressing this need. All these factors have critical implications for aspiring orchestral players and the conservatoires which train them.

My research asks how conservatoire students on a performance pathway and as emerging practitioners encounter and experience education and community activities, exploring how such wider contexts can have a transformative effect on students as nascent professional musicians. I open the thesis with an account of my own experiences as a musician in the community and conservatoire, which gives me the opportunity to be reflexive about my position as a practitioner researcher, and identify some preliminary themes. The analysis of participant data is first presented as a series of narratives, with the aim of showing how individual students experienced the education and community projects they took part in and their stories of personal transformation.

I, then, offer a thematic analysis of the data, the findings of my research showing different trends and emerging patterns, and identifying six critical catalysts: 1) replacing old assumptions and removing stigmas; 2) overcoming fears and self-doubts; 3) navigating uncharted territory; 4) establishing interactive connections; 5) witnessing transformation in others; and 6) critical reflection. These catalysts can activate a chain of events which can break through barriers that confront students and spark transformative change in their goals, focus and perspectives. My findings suggest that education and community projects provide an ideal ground where potential transformations can occur.

A discussion follows, contextualizing my research by relating my analysis and findings with relevant learning theories and processes of transformation, after which I make final conclusions and sum up the main contributions of my thesis. I, then, offer a number of recommendations for incorporating education and community work into conservatoire training. My thesis ends by considering the limitations of my study and possible directions for future research.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > MT Musical instruction and study
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Text - Accepted Version
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