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Finding Freedom: Lessons Learned From the Lived Experiences of Popular Musicians in the Midwest United States

Polly Yukevich, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The 2002 release of How Popular Musicians Learn by Lucy Green brought popular music to the forefront of music education research. In subsequent years, a significant amount of discourse and research has been paid to popular music pedagogy. However, the majority of the research has focused on the value and validity of popular or vernacular musics and their practices, most notably in the rock/pop paradigm. With the research discourse focused on the music and practice of these types of music, little attention has been paid to the stories of the musicians’ lived experiences. This qualitative phenomenological study used a semi-structured interview protocol to explore and describe the lived experiences of adult popular musicians in the Midwest United States. The central research question that guided the study asked simply: What are the lived-experiences of adult popular musicians? Semi-structured interviews were conducted that lasted from 30 to 60 minutes, using six questions that were adapted from those in How Popular Musicians Learn (Green, 2002). Interviews, analysis, and writing were reflective and dialogic, and employed phenomenology as a method and as a philosophy. Through reflection, analysis, and dialogue, self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) was used to add further depth of understanding to lived experiences of participants and the recurring themes that emerged from them. Self-determination theory outlines three innate psychological needs that foster human growth and well-being through their satisfaction. Emergent themes from the analysis of participant interviews were separated into these three psychological needs: 1. Autonomy 2. Relatedness 3. Competence Ideas, conceptions, and feelings of autonomy or freedom were the most dominant themes in the lived-experiences of participants. For many, music provided unique catharsis and fulfillment. Competence and relatedness were also key areas participants described that fostered their participation and growth. Implications for music education practice and research include further study and application of self-determination theory as well as the acceptance of popular music and its pedagogy as valid for study in the classroom.

Subject Area

Music education

Recommended Citation

Yukevich, Polly, "Finding Freedom: Lessons Learned From the Lived Experiences of Popular Musicians in the Midwest United States" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10792254.