Different shades of Community Music in Portugal: interviews with five key players

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"Background: Community Music (CM) practices have seen a rise in the last decade. Investigating these types of practices carries steep time and financial investment. As such, holistic studies of the practice are rare (Anderson & Willingham, 2020), with most being focused on specific projects (case studies) or spaces of action (Faria, 2013). A study about the International Journal of Community Music attested to this higher frequency of case-studies in the CM field (Rohwer, 2018). At the time of writing, no in-depth study about CM in Portugal has been published. There is a need to understand what constitutes MC in Portugal.
Aims: The aim of this study is to understand the different manifestations of CM in Portugal, namely about key issues such as: i) its definition, identity and field of practice; ii) the career paths of those who study, teach and practice it, iii) examples of good practices.
Method: Five interviewees were selected considering their relevance as researchers, practitioners, and teachers of CM and Community Arts (CA) in Portugal. The interviews were semi-structured and followed a script, which is divided into 4 sections: biographical questions; experiences as practitioner; experiences as observer; examples of good practices and relevant agents of CM in Portugal. The interview ends by subjecting the interviewees to a thought experiment on the creation of an ideal call for funding. The interviews’ contents underwent a content and thematic analysis (Neuendorf, 2002) using MaxQDA. The transcripts were coded for references to funding, characterizations of practitioners, characterizations of projects, strengths and weaknesses of projects, terms for (and definitions of) CM/CA, descriptions of good practices, references to specific agents/projects.
Results: All interviewees assured the need for a more contextual definitions of CM, and the problems in designing one (e.g. the way adaptation to a term can homogenize a wide and varied field of practice). Most interviewees agreed that CM practices in Portugal show the signs of the lack of funding, being apparently more diverse (less constrained by expectations of funding bodies) and focalized (less ability to enlarge scope); contrasting (for example) with practices in the UK, where public funding is more common. Most of the interviewees reflected at length about the impact a badly designed project may have on the community it’s aimed at, specifically when the practitioner underrates how hard the process of “inclusion” can be. For the interviewees, these problems tend to compound when practitioners have neither experience nor “vocation” in CM.
Conclusion: The study suggests that CM in Portugal has characteristics that set it apart from other contexts, such as the heterogeneity of backgrounds of its practitioners, as well as the somewhat narrow scope of many of the projects due to a lack of funding. The relative newness of the practice and it not being constrained by funding-bodies expectations may lead to greater diversity of projects. These results can deepen the understanding of CM in Portugal, opening new paths of inquiry into its identity, and of those who interact with it.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Event International Conference of CIPEM/INET-md : Perspectives in Psychology of Music and Music Education - School of Education, Porto Polytechnic, Porto, Portugal
Duration: 16 Sept 202118 Sept 2021


Conference International Conference of CIPEM/INET-md
Abbreviated titleIC CIPEM 2021
Internet address


  • Community Music
  • Thematic Analysis


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