Home > Community Music > The road not taken

The road not taken

As a community musician, I have always prided myself on taking ‘the road less traveled’, and it making all the difference. As the great poet Robert Frost reminds me, it is those fallen trees and undergrowth impeding my view of the next gig that helps the practice stand out, it encourages natural growth. Perhaps to those looking in from the outside, it may appear; wild, un-trodden upon, dangerous and lonesome! They might be right, but it also creates intrigue, excitement and ventures new, pathways that have not been stepped on time and time again. Community music, true community music is challenging on so many levels, but the results are exciting, they are exciting because we take risks and because it is always new. In responding the needs of the people and communities that we encounter, if we truly respond to their expressive needs musically then it should forever be new. I recall as a young community musician having a box of tricks, knowing the outcome of a session, knowing what would work, then I read Lee Higgins’ freshly published papers. The philosophical underpinnings, echoing Derrida and Freire awakened something in that young community musician that I knew was there but was too frightened to touch. It made me brave, and beckoned me to stride down that road less traveled everyday in my work as a community musician, and I am forever grateful for it. It remains a very challenging and often times a lonesome road, and of late I am surrounded by others working in the field but that does not quell the feeling of isolation. For me, it is a matter of work ethic that has been with me since those early days, and it is a feeling and an intent that draws me to others who understand. Whilst philosophical underpinnings help in grounding feelings and intentions,for me, it is not always the case with the ‘true’ community musicians I have worked with and from time to time encounter. Recently, 2 such community musicians and I caught up over tea, cake, baby gifts, tears and hugs. What brought us together 15 years ago was community music, but more than that it was those unspoken but resonating ‘feelings and intentions’ that kept us connected and eventually saw me moving to Belfast to be closer to like minded people. 15 years later none of that has changed, our now common ground as mothering community musicians has added to the challenges of practice and has seen us ‘taking the soup’, in our own individual ways but, we long to return to road less traveled and away from the path with ‘better claim’. At my very core I am a community musician, using music as a vehicle of communication, expression, intervention as well as so many other things…whatever is needed on the day for those involved, including myself. Although my practice has been compromised in so many ways by those who hold the purse strings, what can never be changed is that intent and pedagogical approach that makes everything OK! ISME 2016, lets be having ya!



Frost, R (1946). Robert Frost’s Poems. 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 219.

Higgins, L. (2012). One-to-One Encounters: Facilitators, Participants, and Friendship.Theory into Practice, 51(3), 159-166.


Categories: Community Music
  1. February 19, 2016 at 10:23

    Julie you really must let us all know when you have a new post up here! Ive really enjoyed catching up on your wonderful reflections on the intersection of you, your family, your practice and your performance. I’m not a community musician but I see commonalities in our disciplines’ humanistic perspective on the world. It’s very exciting! Chat soon, Bríd

    • March 14, 2017 at 11:00

      Hi Brid, I am just seeing your comment! Reminding me how long it has been since I have written. I intend on writing some posts this morning.
      Tell me more about the intersections you identify in our practices you see.
      Thanks for stopping by,

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