Exploring the relationship between music and communities

Music and communities explores how music both reflects and shapes the lives of individuals and communities across the globe. It examines the changing nature, contexts and roles for music in our contemporary world.

Projects in this area reflect a wide range of approaches to music research, from uncovering 'local histories' through to investigating global shifts, challenges and opportunities in music as a result of social, political, environmental and technological change. This focus area also involves ongoing collaboration with Australian First Peoples and their rich cultures.

World-class research

Several major projects fall into our Music and communities research area, including six successive Australian Research Council Linkage Grants: Sound Links (on community music in Australia), Redefining Places for Art (on the shifting relationship between performance experience and location), Sustainable Futures for Music Cultures (on supporting communities to keep their musical practices strong), Captive Audiences (on performing arts programs in Australian prisons), Creative Barkly (on the arts and cultural sector in the remote Northern Territory) and Making Music Work (on successful portfolio careers for musicians).

Focus area convenor

Dr Catherine Grant is a music researcher at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, whose research focus is endangered music of Indigenous and minority communities. Her work is important to the revitalisation of traditional music, which assists in social cohesion, and a sense of individual and collective identity; in turn, this has benefits for the health and wellbeing of community members.

Music and Communities

Music and Communities at QCRC

Meet Dr Catherine Grant, research area convenor of the Music and Communities focus area at Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre. Catherine discusses her research projects as well as other key collaborations in this exciting area of music research. To learn more about the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre, Google "QCRC Griffith".

Project highlights

Our projects embrace a wide range of contexts for music-making and sonic awareness. These include post-conflict societies, prisons, Indigenous communities, minority communities, and natural marine and terrestrial settings, as well as more traditional contexts such as concert halls, alternative music venues and festivals.

Creative Barkly

It is increasingly recognised that the arts and cultural sector plays a crucial role in regional development. However, very little is known about how this operates in Australia's remotest regions, where demographics of communities are vastly different from other regional centres. This Australian Research Council Linkage Project, Creative Barkly,  examines how the arts and cultural sector is functioning in one of Australia’s most remote regions in the Northern Territory. It aims to deliver resources and recommendations that will inform current policies, strategies and initiatives in Barkly and beyond.

Team members: Brydie-Leigh Bartleet, Naomi Sunderland, Sandy O'Sullivan, Philip Hayward (SCU), Sarah Woodland (Research Fellow).

Partners: Barkly Regional Arts and Regional Development Australia NT.

Image: Barkly Artist Lindy Brodie at work on the Creative Barkly project logo. Image credit - Dr Sarah Woodland.

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Making Music Work

To sustain successful musical lives, most musicians have portfolio careers which combine aspects of performance, recording, creation, music direction, teaching, community activities and a presence in online environments. This phenomenon is widespread, but not well understood. This Australian Research Council Linkage Project explores the conditions and strategies needed for Australian musicians to sustain successful portfolio careers. Involving five key industry partners, it will comprise surveys as well as twelve case studies of individual musicians or ensembles. In this way, it aims to identify key success factors and obstacles that will inform opportunities for training, development and support.


Team members: Brydie-Leigh Barleet, Scott Harrison, Paul Draper, Vanessa Tomlinson, Dawn Bennett (Curtin University), Ruth Bridgstock (University of South Australia), Christina Ballico (Research Fellow).

Partners: Australia Council for the Arts, Culture and Arts (WA) - a division of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, Create NSW, Creative Victoria, Music Trust.

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Captive Audiences

Across the world, performing arts programs are increasingly recognised for their potential to enhance prisoner wellbeing and post-release outcomes. This Australian Research Council Linkage project aimed to provide a detailed picture of these programs in Australian prisons, and evaluated their impact on reducing conduct violations, acquiring positive life skills, addressing recidivism and reducing the costs of imprisonment to society

Team members: Huib Schippers, Michael Balfour, Brydie-Leigh Bartleet, John Rynne, Linda Davey (Research Fellow).

Partners: Serco Asia Pacific.

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