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Beyond band : perspectives on the high school jam session Southworth, Patricia Joan


This mixed-method case study examined effects of high school musicians' participation in the jam session, a student-directed, extracurricular music activity. The single case study site was a rural British Columbia high school exceptional for its support of jamming. Forty-four subjects, including 21 who fully met stated criteria for jammers, and 13 non-jamming subjects, were studied over a period of four months. The general research question was: Does participation in a band room jam session benefit students cognitively and motivationally? Specific research questions were: Do students who informally jam on various forms of music enhance their music skills in the perception and meaningful manipulation of music elements, and if so, how? In what ways does Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory explain the continued participation of students in the jam session? Three quantitative instruments were administered to 13 jammers capable of playing a Bb Concert scale on a melody instrument as well as to a comparable group of 13 non-jammers. These instruments included Gordon's Advanced Measures of Music Audiation (AMMA), Froseth's Test of Melodic Ear-to-Hand Coordination (TMEHC), and a researcher-developed test of ear-to-hand coordination (SOR). An ANOVA test showed no significant difference between jammer and non-jammer groups on AMMA scores (p<0.05). ANOVA showed a notable but not significant difference (p<0.056) between groups on the TMEHC, while a Repeated Measures Analysis of pre/post test TMEHC scores showed no effect of jamming over a period of 10 weeks. ANOVA showed a very clear difference between groups on the SOR (p<0.001). Qualitative data collected via journaling, interviews, observation, and participant-observer tasks indicated that jammers were perceiving and manipulating music elements in meaningful ways, and also supported Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory as an explanation for jam session participation. In particular, flow characteristics including transformation of time, loss of self-consciousness, and challenge/skill balance were both observed and reported. The role of the teacher, the presence of a music subculture, and the pseudo-curricular nature of jamming were noted as possible topics for further research.

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