Navigating the wilderness of becoming professional

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Workplace Learning, 2008, 20 (7-8), pp. 526 - 536
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Purpose - This paper aims to examine the nature of learning discovered by recent graduates participating in a symphony orchestra-initiated development program that is designed to nurture them through the transition to becoming professional orchestral musicians. Design/methodology/approach - Using a qualitative case study approach, the authors interviewed developing musicians and professional musician mentors individually and in small groups using a semi-structured protocol. Interviews were audio-taped and transcribed. The authors also observed musicians working together in rehearsal and in concert performance and reviewed documents on the development program, the organisation and the Australian performing arts industry. Findings - The findings suggest that learning is better conceptualised as an embodied constructed experience with others in context. What the authors call "guided contextualising" differs from conventional discussions of skill-based novice learning and mentorship. For musicians, the competency that is being developed is one of learning how to become, forming a sense of identity as broader musical citizens as well as becoming members of more instrumental communities. Practicalimplications - The design and structure of the program (and alternatives emerging overseas) suggest possibilities for new collaborations towards "a living curriculum" between higher education and industry. Originality/value - Rather than "employability", the concept of "graduateness" for young adults is formative and transformative, a process that involves the seeking of various forms of identity and contextualised learning that transcends self. "Becoming" practitioners together in generative ways enhances fitness for professional practice and develops a commitment to lifelong learning.
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