Spirituality and Music Education

Perspectives from Three Continents

by June Boyce-Tillman (Volume editor)
Monographs XII, 324 Pages
Series: Music and Spirituality, Volume 5


This book is the product of a long journey by a company of academics and practitioners sharing a common interest, titled the Spirituality and Music Education Group (SAME). It started at the International Society for Music Education Conference in Bologna in 2008, with its first gathering in Birmingham in 2010. This book is a product of the various meetings of this group. Since the group formed, the notion of spirituality has been struggling to find a way through the dominant ideology of secularisation in the West to a place in a post-secularising world.
This book concentrates on examining this issue from the position of music educators on three continents. This process can be defined as both separate from as well as part of the dominant Christian and humanist traditions, whatever is appropriate in a particular culture. The book represents a fascinating array of lenses through which to examine the many and complex strands within the concept of spirituality.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Praise for Spirituality and Music Education
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Figures
  • 1 Shovelling Fog: Introducing Spirituality (June Boyce-Tillman)
  • The History of the Spirituality and Music Education Group
  • Spiritualities
  • Strands in Spirituality
  • The Relationship between Spirituality and Religion
  • Theory
  • Practice
  • Summary
  • Bibliography
  • Part I: Theory
  • 2 A Conceptual Model of Spirituality in Music Education (Liesl van der Merwe / John Habron)
  • Introduction
  • Research Methodology
  • Data collection
  • Data analysis
  • Explanation of the new model
  • Core Phenomena: Sacred and Holistic Experience
  • Corporeality
  • Relationality
  • Spatiality
  • Temporality
  • Implications
  • Bibliography
  • 3 Awakening to the Spiritual in Children’s Development: Contemplating Anew the Landscapes of Music Education (Marie McCarthy)
  • Turning to the Spiritual in Childhood
  • The Child as Spiritual Being, the Child as Music-Maker
  • Intrinsic and transcendent nature of the spiritual
  • Holistic nature of the spiritual
  • Spiritual capacities
  • Relationality
  • Quest for meaning and purpose
  • Awakening to the Spiritual in Music Education
  • The nature of music as spiritual
  • The learner as spiritual
  • The teacher as spiritual guide
  • The classroom as a spiritual space
  • Introducing the spiritual into research
  • The spiritual in the language of advocacy
  • Bibliography
  • 4 Under the Aspect of Eternity: A Perennialist Interpretation of Free Improvisational Aesthetics and Pedagogy (Matthew Sansom)
  • Introduction
  • Traditionalist Thought and Spirituality
  • Mirror of the Real: The Greater and the Lesser
  • Ways of Understanding
  • Relationality: Purpose and value beyond the self
  • Inner awareness
  • Inner work
  • Initiation
  • The goal
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 5 Seeking Oneness: Exploring a Relational Ontology of Spiritual Music (Susan Quindag)
  • Introduction
  • Relational Ontology Defined and Justified
  • Three Confluent Streams of Spiritual Music
  • Educational Application
  • Discussion
  • Bibliography
  • 6 Music Education and Spirituality: Ethical Concerns and Responsibilities from a US Perspective (Frank Heuser)
  • Introduction
  • Separation of the Secular and Spiritual
  • Music, Spirituality and Religion
  • Role of Spirituality within Education
  • Ethical Issues regarding the Spiritual Quest in Music Education
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • 7 Embodiment as Locus of Aesthetic and Spiritual Musical Experience (Anchen Froneman)
  • Introduction
  • Embodied Musical Performance
  • Aesthetic Experience
  • Spiritual Experience
  • Connecting Embodied, Aesthetic and Spiritual Musical Experiences
  • Studying the Experiences of Performing Musicians
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Part II: Practice
  • 8 Spirituality in Parent–Infant Musical Communication: An Integrative Literature Review (Gerda Pretorius)
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • A Systems-Based Approach to the Construction of Primary Consciousness
  • Baby-Talk as a Vehicle to Communicate Musically and Meaningfully
  • The Pathway towards Spirituality
  • The Prospective Occurrence of Flow Indicators in Parent–Infant Musical Communication
  • Challenge-Seeking Indicator, Self-Assignment
  • Challenge-Seeking Indicator, Self-Correction
  • Challenge-Seeking Indicator, Gesture
  • Challenge-Monitoring Indicator, Anticipation
  • Challenge-Monitoring Indicator, Expansion
  • Challenge-Monitoring Indicator, Extension
  • Social Context
  • Conclusion and Recommendations for Practice
  • Bibliography
  • 9 ‘The Cathedral without a Roof’: A Search for Metaphorical Meaning (Hetta Potgieter)
  • Introduction
  • Vignette: My South African Perspective
  • I
  • II
  • Poetry, lyrics and metaphors
  • Musical Meaning
  • III
  • Narratives of the respondents
  • Tradition, boundaries, openness and spaces
  • Nature and freedom
  • Imagination and mystery
  • Style and atmosphere
  • IV
  • New beginnings
  • Closing Vignette: Places and Spaces
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 10 The Melting Pot of Cultural and Religious Boundaries: Expressions of Spirituality and Musicality at a Malawian HIV/AIDS Support Group (Grant Nthala)
  • Introduction
  • Research Background and Methodology
  • Music, Religion, Spirituality and HIV/AIDS
  • The Namasalima HIV/AIDS Support Group
  • Structure of the Regular Meetings
  • The Music Structure, Style, Content and Contexts
  • The Music Learning and Acquisition Process
  • Category 1: Song compositions about HIV/AIDS
  • Category 2: Christian choruses and hymns
  • Category 3: Arranged secular songs
  • Reconstructing Group Identity
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 11 Arts Championships: Nurturing Spiritual Musical Experiences or Cultivating Heartless Performance? (Eurika Jansen van Vuuren)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Why Enter Vocal Competitions?
  • Who Enters Vocal Competitions?
  • Are Competitions Part of Our Nature?
  • Perspectives on Spirituality in Children, Spiritual Vocal Performances and Competition Support for Children
  • Methodology
  • Delivering a Spiritually Connected Performance: Findings and Discussion
  • Materials
  • Expression
  • Construction
  • Values
  • Hospitable Space
  • Spiritual Connectedness
  • Concluding Comments
  • Bibliography
  • 12 The Manifestation of the Philosophy of Ubuntu on Bhaca Music and Social Structure (Phiwe Ndodana Makaula)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Transcription and Discussion of the Interviews
  • Bhaca Song Transcriptions
  • Song 1
  • Song 2
  • Song 3
  • Song 4
  • Song 5
  • Song 6
  • Song 7
  • Song 8
  • Conclusion
  • Findings
  • Bibliography
  • 13 Different Signs of Spirituality Following Different Types of Music Education (Arvydas Girdzijauskas)
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Results of the Research
  • Influence of School Type
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • 14 Music in its Cultural Context: The Importance of Understanding the Spiritual Significance of the Music We Teach (Diana Harris)
  • Introduction
  • Context
  • What is Spirituality?
  • Identity
  • Data from Interviews
  • Hinduism
  • Sikhism
  • Buddhism
  • Islam
  • Gurdjieff
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

| ix →


This book is a collaborative venture, designed to throw some light upon the complex area of the interface (actual and potential) between music education and spirituality. Although I have taken overall responsibility for it, the other editors of this collection, some of whom have contributed to it, are John Habron, Liesl van der Merwe, Hetta Potgieter, Frank Heuser, Dirkie Nell and Giorgios Tsiris.

The book has roots and causes for gratitude in a variety of cultures. Acknowledgements here are only to those known to the editor. I would particularly like to thank those who hosted Spirituality and Music Education (SAME) gatherings (described in the Introduction). Some leading voices in the area who have contributed to conferences are also absent but deserve recognition for their contributions to the debate, notably Estelle Jorgensen, Iris Yob, Deanne Bogdan and David Carr.

I am also grateful for support from the University of Winchester, including, in particular, Professor Joy Carter, Professor Elizabeth Stuart, Professor Simon Jobson, Professor Inga Bryden and Dr David Walters. Some of these people are in two Research Centres in the University – the Centre for the Arts as Wellbeing, and the Tavener Centre for Music and Spirituality. I would also like to thank Charlotte Osman who has done much of the administrative and editorial work on the manuscript, and Hannah Curtain and Dr Vicky Feldwick of Foundation Music who have helped me develop my own work in this area. At the publishers, I would like to thank Lucy Melville, for initiating the series, and Jasmin Allousch. I would also like to thank my friends, Professor Michael Finnissy, Sue Lawes, the Revd Wilma Roest and the Revd David Page who have continually encouraged me in my work in this area.

The Revd Dr June Boyce-Tillman, MBE

| xi →


Liesl van der Merwe and John Habron – A Conceptual Model of Spirituality in Music Education

Figure 2.1 Awareness as a category of spatiality.

Figure 2.2 A hermeneutic phenomenological model for spirituality in music education.

Hetta Potgieter – ‘The Cathedral without a Roof’: A Search for Metaphorical Meaning

Figure 9.1 Villers Abbey in Belgium (personal photo).

Figure 9.2 Stanza 1.

Figure 9.3 Stanza 2.

Figure 9.4 Stanza 3.

Figure 9.5 Stanza 4.

Figure 9.6 Score of Katedraal.

Grant Nthala – The Melting Pot of Cultural and Religious Boundaries: Expressions of Spirituality and Musicality at a Malawian HIV/AIDS Support Group

Figure 10.1 Namasalima HIV/AIDS Education and Mentorship Project Centre.

Figure 10.2 A cross-section of members of Namasalima support group and NAPHAM officials outside the support group centre.

Figure 10.3 NAPHAM officials teaching during one of the workshops.

Figure 10.4 Support group members listening to a workshop presentation.

Figure 10.5 Workshop poster notes on advocacy and empowerment.

Figure 10.6 Workshop topics.

Figure 10.7 Participants preparing to sing and dance at the end of their special meeting. ← xi | xii →

Eurika Jansen van Vuuren – Arts Championships: Nurturing Spiritual Musical Experiences or Cultivating Heartless Performance?

Figure 11.1 Video recordings: Voice.

Figure 11.2 Video recordings: Expression.

Figure 11.3 Video recordings: Construction.

Figure 11.4 Video recordings: Values.

Figure 11.5 Video recordings: Hospitable space.

Phiwe Ndodana Makaula – The Manifestation of the Philosophy of Ubuntu on Bhaca Music and Social Structure

Figure 12.1 Bhaca traditional attire for males. Khotsani Cultural Group members in Mount Frere, 2006.

Figure 12.2 Song 1.

Figure 12.3 Song 2.

Figure 12.4 Song 3.

Figure 12.5 Song 4.

Figure 12.6 Song 5.

Figure 12.7 Song 6.

Figure 12.8: Song 7.

Figure 12.9: Song 8.

Arvydas Girdzijauskas – Different Signs of Spirituality Following Different Types of Music Education

Figure 13.1 Recognition of values by higher-grade pupils.

Figure 13.2 Level of substantiation of values’ recognition by higher-grade pupils.

Figure 13.3 Stability of behaviour of higher-grade pupils.

Figure 13.4 Stability of behaviour in different types of schools.

Figure 13.5 Creativity of behaviour in different types of schools.

Diana Harris – Music in its Cultural Context: The Importance of Understanding the Spiritual Significance of the Music We Teach

Figure 14.1 Spiritual identities. Adapted from Kirmani and Kirmani (2009 pp. 374–7). (In the figure, the examples given come from the book.)

| 1 →


1 Shovelling Fog: Introducing Spirituality

This book is the product of a long journey by a company of academics and practitioners sharing a common interest. In an International Society for Music Education (ISME) conference in Bologna in 2008, discussions about Spirituality and Music Education (SAME) were started. It was a conversation that was happening in many areas at that time – work, health, religion, culture and industry (Fuller 2001; De Quincy 2002; Zohar and Marshall 2004; Wuthnow 2005; Nelson 2005; Boyce-Tillman 2007a; Hyers 2007; McLaren 2010; Wigglesworth 2012; De Botton 2012; Williams 2012). In The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality (2005), Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead see the rising interest as an effort by Western culture to respond to Nietzsche’s assertion at the end of the nineteenth century that God is dead. There was a deep sense of loss, a sense that without God we are bereft of something.

The beginning of the twenty-first century was also marked by the events of 9/11. A New Age had certainly begun. The model of secularisation that had characterised the late twentieth century was challenged by an event that told the world that if religion was not part of the solution to war it would certainly be part of the problem. This produced confusion in the secular culture, which resulted in a rising interest in spirituality. Charles Taylor, in his significant text entitled The Secular Age (2007), charts the move towards secularisation as starting with the separation of the immanent from the transcendent. It became possible to relate certain realities as purely ‘natural’, and disintricate them from the transcendent whereby it eventually becomes possible to see the immediate surroundings of our lives as existing on this ‘natural’ plane, however much we might believe they indicate something beyond (Taylor 2007 p. 43).

However, the phenomenon of 9/11 empowered a number of theorists who were making efforts to identify limitations in the machine ← 1 | 2 → models – which at that time dominated most attempts to understand human nature – by gradually bringing elements of the spiritual into their conceptualisations of what it means to be human. Rowson (2013) identifies some of the problems, which our current systems are not tackling effectively, as spiritual:

It was this challenge that led to the rise of the term post-secular. This was invented by Charles Taylor (2007) and was taken up by Pope Benedict XVI. The term reflects a society that is having to come to terms with the peaceful co-existence of sacred and secular worldviews; it is a shift from seeing the religious simply as a remnant of an older world order. This is reinforced in the West by the upsurge in migratory communities with differing worldviews, which include a notion of the sacred. Habermas (2008) critiques the failure of the secularism that characterised modernity, and calls for a dialogue between differing worldviews, thus challenging secularisation.

This period is seeing spirituality moving from being a way of knowing subjugated to the dominant ideology of secularisation in the West (Boyce-Tillman 2007b) to one that is finding a variety of ways into the dominant culture of a post-secularising world. In this process, it can define itself as both separate from and also part of the dominant Christian and humanist traditions, whatever is appropriate in a particular culture. We see this in the contrast between the chapters by Grant Nthala and Arvydas Girdzijauskas.

The History of the Spirituality and Music Education Group

The first dedicated gathering of the group of academics was in Birmingham in 2010. Diana Harris led the group and there were keynotes from US and UK scholars. Further contributions to this area were made in the ISME ← 2 | 3 → World Conference in Thessaloniki in Greece in 2012. Here, a Special Interest Group in this area was set up; this kept the interest going in between conferences organised by SAME itself. Arvydas Girdzijauskas organised the next gathering of SAME in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 2013. The Special Interest Group convened at the ISME conference in Porto Alegro, Brazil, when Susan Quindag agreed to organise it. The 2015 SAME conference was in Potchefstroom, South Africa, in North West University, initiated by Hetta Potgieter and organised by Dirkie Nell. At these conferences, we have always welcomed delegates and presentations from a range of music-related fields, including music therapy and ethnomusicology, who bring with them different insights. Another exciting aspect of the movement of the conferences was the different perspectives we were encountering in the different continents. From this came the subtitle of this book – ‘Perspectives from Three Continents’. It is hoped that future books in the series will embrace projects and ideas from other continents. The Special Interest Group again contributed to the ISME conference in Glasgow in 2016. The 2017 conference will be at the Nordoff Robbins Centre in London, UK, led by Giorgos Tsiris. Diana Harris initiated the group and her energy set it on its way. Since then various people have shared leadership roles. This book is the product of all of these meetings.


The title of this chapter draws on Courtney Bender: ‘studying spirituality appears akin to shovelling fog’ (Bender 2010 p. 182). It is, indeed, a complex area with many currents and themes. In looking at the varied contributions to this book, I see hints at the strands I saw in 2016. These strands were taken from the increasing literature in this area, some of which is listed above. There are many spiritualities out there now; they are combinations of one, a few, or many of these strands. They operate rather like a smorgasbord; if someone says that they are spiritual, to understand what they mean, we need to identify which of the assorted strands they have put together. ← 3 | 4 →

These strands also appear in the research from the Titus Brandsma Institute based in Nijmegen University; it instituted the SPIRIN project (Spirituality International), ‘an academic forum, multi-disciplinary in structure and multicultural in approach’ (Huls 2011 p. 141). Other theorists concentrate on various combinations or spiritualities (King 2009). Douglas Pratt (2012) distinguishes between three interlocking elements in religion: narrative, metaphysical and ethical. Sternberg’s (2003) theory of wisdom concentrates on connectedness, as he lists three interests: within the person, between persons and outside the person (culturally).

In line with a crystallisation methodology (Richardson 2000), this book has embraced a knowledge that is situated, partial, constructed, multiple and embodied. Each chapter looks at spirituality through a different facet of the crystal. The book reveals the complex landscape as made up of pieces similar to those of a jigsaw without a completed image. Within this landscape, we can identify competing truth claims of various traditions and individuals. We need to cross disciplinary fields to examine the phenomenon of spirituality in music education. I have suggested the existence of a variety of ways of knowing encompassed within the concept of spirituality. The chapters in this book reveal the complexity of the field and a variety of approaches to methodology. Only one contributor, Arvydas Girdzijauskas, uses a quantitative methodology, coming from an academic culture wedded to these methodologies. Others carry out extensive literature reviews, such as Gerda Pretorius, and Liesl van der Merwe and John Habron. Others’ contributions are phenomenological in approach, such as those from Erika Jansen van Vuuren and Matthew Sansom. Others, such as the one from Phiwe Makaula, are ethnographic.

Strands in Spirituality

Through my own review of the literature, I arrived at the following strands. These are overlapping concepts (Boyce-Tillman 2016 pp. 24–79). Many of these themes are concerned with processes (particularly those of ← 4 | 5 → interrelationship), rather than the product-based dogmas or creeds of the established faiths.

Metaphysical: There is a sense of encounter with the beyond, which can be with mystery. This links with the experience of what Heidegger called ‘contemplative thinking’ (Lancaster 2004). This is sometimes seen as a sense of connection to a life-force, God, Higher Power or purpose (Tisdell 2007).

Intrapersonal: There is a sense of empowerment, bliss and realisation. Guy Claxton (2002) links it with being energised and a sense of great clarity like ‘a high-spirited child’. Gregory Bateson describes the union of being and doing (as in a musical performance) as aliveness (Bateson 1972 p. 522). This is sometimes called expanded discourse leading to such virtues as hope: ‘A sense of coming home to be at peace and at one with ourselves … the joy and reconciliation of better knowing ourselves … and the unity of being at peace with ourselves’ (Jorgensen 2008 p. 280).

This may include an element of surprise (Tisdell 2007 p. 533) and unpredictability. It may include experiences of flow: ‘It is not possible to make either flow experiences or transcendent religious experiences happen at a particular moment’ (Bernard 2009 p. 11).

The sense of freedom can feel like an opening-up in the experiencer, as boundaries start to dissolve; there can be an expansion in the sense of identity, as the intuitive faculties are opened up. Open-mindedness and curiosity replace fundamentalisms of all kinds, leading to creativity born from unusual associations (Koestler 1964). Paradox is tolerated or even celebrated (Clarke 2008). Transformation and change occurs (Boyce-Tillman 2007c, 2009; Mezirow et al. 2000).

Interpersonal: Empathy arises (Laurence 2008). A sense of belonging and being at ease in the world replaces competition with caring and attempts to bless.

Intergaian: There is an experience of a sense of oneness and deep relationship with the other-than-human world (Boyce-Tillman 2010).

Extrapersonal/Ethical: Communitas (Turner 2004) arises – a feeling of unity with other beings, people and the wider cosmos and a concern for just relationship.

Narrative: This strand ‘refers to the fund of “story” in which an individual “dwells” and that constitutes the primary reference for religious identity’ ← 5 | 6 → (Pratt 2012 p. 4). This is usually seen as relating the person to a particular faith tradition and enables them to define their religious identity in terms of Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and so on. However, it also seems that people are constructing hybrid narratives for themselves, such as the establishment of a separation between Jesus and Christ in such developments as ‘Christ-consciousness’. This contributes to the multiplicity of spiritualities.

Tradition: Attendance at and strengthening are gained from rituals associated with a particular religious tradition, such as the Eucharist or Zen meditation practices (Tavener 2005).

The Relationship between Spirituality and Religion

It is the presence or absence of the religious narrative or tradition strands in a person’s spirituality that determines whether a person will define themselves as spiritual and religious or spiritual and not religious. If they need a faith narrative and/or its traditions in their view of spirituality then they would self-define as religious; if these are not necessary then they will not use the descriptor religious.


XII, 324
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (November)
Spirituality Music Education
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2017. XII, 324 pp., 26 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

June Boyce-Tillman (Volume editor)

June Boyce-Tillman MBE read music at the University of Oxford and is Professor of Applied Music at the University of Winchester. She taught for twenty-five years in London schools and then in higher education. She has published widely on music, with several books on spirituality and music as well as music education. Her doctoral research into children’s musical development has been translated into five languages. She lectures internationally, recently in Nepal, the US and South Africa. She is concerned with dialogue through music and radical musical inclusion, composing large-scale works for cathedrals such as Winchester and Southwark involving professional musicians, community choirs, children with disabilities and school children. She founded the Centre for the Arts as Wellbeing and the Tavener Centre for Music and Spirituality. She is an Extra-ordinary Professor at North West University, South Africa. She is an Anglican priest and an honorary chaplain at Winchester Cathedral.


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