Music education for all through participatory ensembles

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This article explores how the participatory field can complement and enhance even successful music education programs. The participatory field, part of Thomas Turino’s four-field framework, conceptualizes the musical values and practices of societies where musical participation is nearly universal. The participatory field contrasts with the specialist-oriented presentational field found in most music programs in U.S. schools. Three examples, a samba academy and two ukulele groups, show how the participatory field has been implemented in public schools in the United States. These examples highlight the participatory field’s ability to allow simultaneous participation across the age and ability spectrum, with all participants’ contributions equally valued. The values and practices of the participatory field also make clear the tension in music education between specialization (that causes fewer students to participate) and the broad participation that flows naturally from participatory music. Copyright © 2015 National Association for Music Education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-61
JournalMusic Educators Journal
Issue number2
Early online dateNov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Thibeault, M. D. (2015). Music education for all through participatory ensembles. Music Educators Journal, 102(2), 54-61. doi: 10.1177/0027432115610170


  • Ensemble
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Participatory music
  • Samba
  • Ukulele


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