Arts mirror the identity of a culture. Members of a society who actively engage in expressions of art are more likely to develop a sense of identity within their culture than are those who do not. Music offers connections to help achieve a sense of identity. Beginning with an individual’s personal involvement with the music, these connections extend in contexts of family, community, cultural and multicultural dimensions. Music can connect us to the past; with ongoing contributions, it can also connect us to the future.
Many cultures contributed to the development of our nation. An early settlement may have consisted entirely of members of a specific culture. Their traditions, including music, were passed on in a context of social interdependence. Barn raisings, quilting bees, “kitchen sweats” and playparties were some activities to which music was integral. Songs and games were kept alive through oral tradition. As communities grew and integrated with other cultures, they became less interdependent for survival. As a result of changing patterns of living, technology, and other factors, people today may not feel connected with other members of their community.
Review of the literature confirmed that people in the United States do not sing in a social context as often as people did in the past. Although some populations of other nations currently seem to value informal social singing, our country appears to have declined seriously in that area.
The purpose of this study was to establish a climate where people could engage in structured family oriented music-making activities to determine if there would be perceived benefits. Families met for six consecutive Thursday evenings from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. at New Prague Elementary School. They sang, danced, played instruments, and engaged in other experiences using material from a variety of sources.
Session evaluations and a final survey were utilized to determine any benefits. The results of those tools appear in this paper. Although results did not measure increases in cultural identity, they did suggest that family-oriented music making was beneficial for the families who took part in the study. Participants agreed that time spent making music as a family was valuable and that others would benefit from such experiences. Eight final surveys were returned; all eight revealed interest in continuing the experience.