Becoming a Music Learner: Toward a Theory of Transformative Music Engagement

Susan A. O’Neill

in The Oxford Handbook of Music Education, Volume 1

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199730810
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Becoming a Music Learner: Toward a Theory of Transformative Music Engagement

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  • Music Education and Pedagogy



This article argues for shifts in our thinking about music learners to emphasize the dynamic potential of each individual and the social affiliations that promote music learning, as well as the need for music learning to be conceptualized as positive and purposeful transformative music engagement. It suggests that we might begin with a conscious effort to scrutinize the origins of our expectations of music learners, how music learners make sense of their own experiences, and our understanding of those experiences. The article also discusses the need to expand our awareness of the multifaceted ways that music learning is taking place in today's digital age, and to examine more deeply what it means to prepare and engage music learners in multimodal and participatory forms of music-making. The transition to a new paradigm for music learning will be complete when transformations have occurred in how we view music learners in relation to their own musical worlds; the methods we use to study them so that they take into account particular contexts and cultural ecologies; and the goals we pursue to empower learners as active agents in their own musical development.

Keywords: music learners; music education; music educators; paradigm shift; music learning

Article.  11217 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Music Education and Pedagogy

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