Vernacular Musicianship: A Key Life-Long Engagement?

Robert Woody
Crown Center Sheraton Hotel - CHOUTEAU A/B

Recent research has suggested that incorporating vernacular musicianship into formal instruction can improve music learning altogether. Performers in vernacular music traditions—folk, jazz, bluegrass, and rock, among many others—tend to acquire skills that differ from those of their formally trained counterparts. There is mounting evidence that young musicians can have the “best of both worlds” and that the benefits of such musical breadth can last a lifetime. Vernacular music making shares much in common with the collaborative music initiative that is popular among some musicians. The peer-driven one-on-a-part experiences of small groups provide much opportunity to gain musical independence. This outcome may be especially critical for the many young people who, once removed from the structure of formal lessons, organized recitals, and teacher direction, might otherwise stop making music altogether. For them, music will likely occupy leisure time and informal settings when they become adults. They could readily make use of the skills of vernacular musicianship, such as playing by ear, improvising, songwriting, playing from lead sheets, and collaborative rehearsal. This session will survey research on vernacular musicianship and apply its findings to music performance and instruction. Attendees will learn how to broaden their approaches to make performance activities and practice assignments better representative of the musical world in which we live. An underlying message of this session is this: When music is done well, it encourages in people a certain level of life-long participation. Developing vernacular musicianship may be an important step in realizing this.

Friday, July 6
11:00 – 11:45am