Faculty of Education

Queen's University
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The Funky Mamas: Broadening the Boundaries of Music Education

Dr. Ben Bolden’s research focuses on initiatives that share the overarching goal of moving music education beyond traditional school music experiences.

Five women playing string instruments outdoors.

Dr. Bolden’s recent research includes an examination of how The Funky Mamas – a collective of professional mother-musicians – learn to create and perform music for young children within a community of practice.

The study focused on processes that enhance The Mamas’ music making, according to Communities of Practice theory (Wenger, 1998): evolving mutual engagement; understanding and tuning the practice; and developing repertoire, styles and resources.

Dr. Bolden found that the band’s mutual engagement evolved as members learned to respect feelings, developed common bonds beyond the music (such as motherhood), and defined roles. The members reconciled differences on topics such as technical perfection versus memorable audience experiences, and aligned their engagement and developed accountability to that shared vision. In addition to producing songs, the musicians developed their own style and way of doing things such as collaborative composing and starting rehearsals with tea. Dr. Bolden shows that The Funky Mamas renegotiated some processes as circumstances changed: an early focus on supporting each other as mothers shifted to a focus on musical and professional growth.

The Funky Mamas provide an example of sustained and life-enriching music making and learning that music educators should nurture. Educators can apply these findings by helping learners to conceptualize and create their own communities of practice in and beyond  formal learning environments, by facilitating the processes of practice described above and by passing along examples from other communities of practice like the Funky Mamas.

Key Findings

The processes that enhance The Funky Mamas’ music making:

  1. Evolving mutual engagement: members learn to respect feelings, develop relationships beyond the music, & define roles.
  2. Understanding & tuning the enterprise: they reconcile differences, align engagement, & develop accountability to a shared vision.
  3. Developing repertoire, styles and resources: they produce songs & performances that represent their shared vision and develop their own style &  way of doing things.

Further Information: Dr. Ben Bolden