The purpose of this multiple case study was to explore the experiences of informal music learners at a community college. In this study, the views and understandings of participants provided diverse perspectives into individual lifeworlds, which are informed by social, economic, and cultural conditions. Purposeful sampling was used to provide information rich cases. Specifically, maximum variation and criterion sampling guided the researcher in selecting eight distinct participants with divergent perspectives, attitudes, and positions.
This investigation was directed by three research questions. First, how do informal music learners at a community college pursue musical studies and describe their experiences? Second, based on participant experiences, how do these beliefs and ideas influence their musical understanding? Third, what aspects of how music is learned do participants perceive as being beneficial to other musicians?
To gather rich and descriptive information, data collection included formal interviews, group interviews, and observations. An interpretive approach to data analysis was utilized to explore, understand, and give meaning to responses. As a constructivist, the author aimed to analyze data with respect to the idiosyncratic understandings and beliefs of each participant. Further, in this multiple case study a cross-case analysis was implemented to emphasize findings and maintain the singularity of each case. Research revealed that members used similar and varied approaches to pursue musical studies, utilize resources, and convey learning processes, which included reliance on listening, observation, repetition, collaboration, seeking guidance, and trial-and-error. Findings uncovered how self-taught musicians illustrated prolonged musical engagement, varied learning approaches, emphasized aural skills, and perseverance in completing musical tasks, which are critical to music education.
Keywords: Informal learning, music, self-taught musicians, music education, case study, community college students, lifelong learning, aural skills, listening, watching, trial-and-error, YouTube, repetition, personal interest