Oct. 7, 2020

What is Community?

What is Community?

In this episode, Ciyadh talks about community, what that word means for her, how communities are served, and what is currently happening in the music community. 

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[00:00:00] Hello. And welcome to this episode of musically cogitating, a podcast about the relevance and importance of living and contemporary music of all kinds and how that music impacts our everyday lives. I am your host. Ciyadh Wells. Thank you so much for joining me here today. And today I wanted to cogitate about community specifically about communities within the musical community. What a community is broadly, who they are for, how to be a part of them, the good, the bad, [00:01:00] the ugly, and just some random musings. And cogitations on humanity. The idea came from my day job and at my day job, the board of directors recently decided that they were going to form a DEI community committee or a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee.

[00:01:25] And they got stuck on trying to define community. And I really have no idea as to why they got stuck on this. Like they've had several meetings and they're still trying to define community. So again, I don't know why they got stuck on this. And I want to do an episode on this show and on another show that I'm working on which is not musically cogitating, but with another person, [00:02:00] about board of directors and their effectiveness and all of that jazz. But today we're going to just really focus on community. And so they asked us, some of the staff members, how we defined community. And after they asked me, I realized that I didn't really have a good personal definition of community or a definition that was suitable for this context or really any context. So now I think I'm going to define community really broadly and quite briefly, and then move on to talk about the music community, if there is such a thing and all that stuff. And, of course I do believe that there is a music community, but more on that just a little bit later.

[00:02:50] So I'll share two of the about 10 or so definitions that you'll find when you do a Google search to attempt to [00:03:00] define community, but it is defined as one, a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common, or it is a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

[00:03:18] And I think that these definitions are fine. They're broad. And sure, I'm not really expecting too much from the dictionary there because I'm just not. So before looking this up, my personal definition of community was pretty much just, yes, people have shared goals, values, common interests, themes. Pretty much,  if a group of people were into a certain thing or lived in a certain place, I considered that community and I still kind of do, but after thinking about this a little bit more, I think that my definition and my [00:04:00] understanding of community  is a little bit more personal, but in a good way, I think everyone should have personal definitions and understanding of different words and themes.

[00:04:13] Why community though? Why, not network or some other really broadly defined word that can describe a group of people with shared interests or who have a common goal. And in the future, I'm going to do an episode on networks. But according to several places on the internet, a network is more transactional.

[00:04:39] You're in a network of someone's or someone is in your network because you have something to offer them and they have something to offer you while community is about people. It's about belief, it's about belonging and understanding. And that's what I really love about community. I think community is about people who [00:05:00] can come together to understand each other and to believe and in each other and to support each other.

[00:05:08] And I think that's really important for me. I do like the word community because it is broad and broad isn't always bad. Although sometimes it is in this particular case, I really think that we can use the idea of, and definition of community, broadly to be a positive thing. You know, the mission of the Margins Guitar Collective of which I'm the artistic and executive director is to support and create a diverse guitar community.

[00:05:42] So by definition, our work and our mission is to serve the guitar community, not the electric guitar community, not the classical guitar community or the seven string guitar community. Although we could, our mission is the guitar [00:06:00] community. It's broad, and it's not as defined on purpose because we want this space to be for everybody.

[00:06:08] And that community is for you. It's for your parents. It's for your family. It's for your sixth-grade guitar teacher, it's for your D and D group that you meet on Friday nights, like that is who that community is for. And I'm trying to make sure that space is, is for everyone when you come to a margin's guitar, collective concert , I want it to feel as though the people are welcomed into that community and that space, and that's important for me and that's everything. So sure, not every community is for everyone and it shouldn't be that way, but in some ways it should, everyone won't want to come to a MGC concert. Right? They won't want to play in your D and D group [00:07:00] on Friday night.

[00:07:01] They won't want to run a marathon with you. And that's okay because people have different interests, but when it comes to being a part of that community, if they want to be, I think they should be able to be. And that gets a little bit towards, you know, topics around inclusion. Again, something I'll talk about later in a different episode, but it’s there and it should be mentioned.

[00:07:29] What happens when things are too broad or too undefined, what happens when you open up a community to almost anyone like I've said that you should do? Is that a good thing or is that a bad thing? And what do we really have to gain from that? How communities are formed is important too, right? I find that a lot of communities that I belong to have come you [00:08:00] exist out of otherness.

[00:08:02] Our shared, ideas, identities, thoughts, beliefs, and understandings were so different of that from the dominant power structure or norm that our otherness helped us to find a community in each other. And this otherness in some communities I think helps them thrive. Like we have said, yes, we, the others are now here. We're beautiful. We're going to thrive or watch us parade around and show you why we're beautiful. Like that's how I think a lot of communities, good or bad have come to be created. And I believe that communities also ultimately exist to be spaces for creativity for again, understanding belonging, [00:09:00] belief, imagination, and for meeting, they should be free to join.

[00:09:05] And even more importantly, I think they should be free to exit. I think about the song writing community, for instance, of which, I don't really consider myself a part. And that's probably a good thing because my angst probably wouldn't go over too well on the top 40 charts, but that community exists around songwriting song writers, people who enjoy songs, people who write them and probably have some haters in that group too, but they're all there because of their vested interest in songs and how they're written. And that, that's kind of fascinating to me in the same way as a song writing community or the guitar community of which I am apart.

[00:09:52] We exist in a lot of ways to serve our selves. Which brings up [00:10:00] another point, right?  I'm bringing up so many points y'all today. I think I'm on like point fire, but anyway, who do communities serve and do communities exist to serve each other and themselves, or are they served primarily by others and by outside forces?


[00:10:23] All of these questions that I've tried to answer but are really rhetorical. The answer is probably yes, and right?  Like communities serve themselves, but they serve each other, and some aren't served by other ones. It's all really complicated, but I think complicated is okay. Communities exist to serve themselves, but can, and are often served by additional outside forces. When you work in community organizing or in a public service organization or in a [00:11:00] nonprofit, the existence of your work, of you being there is that you work to provide a service and a need to a community that is not being served in most cases, by some form of government. So that organization intercedes on behalf of that population or community to serve it, to make it better and to give it whatever else it needs.

[00:11:32] But through this idea of self-service and outside service, who decides who gets to be part of that community, who gets to be a part of the guitar community or the music community?  I'm basically asking who are the gatekeepers because they exist in, in every community. Trust me, I've met some of them in all of the different communities that I've been in and [00:12:00] we have work to do. They often really negatively impact the growth and expansion of a community. Some of these gatekeepers are inside of those communities. Again, like I said, which is a bit strange to think about, but I think a lot of the gatekeeping ultimately does come from outside of the community in an attempt to continue to oppress people because oppression is a thing.

[00:12:30] And it's very real going back to service though. I learned probably, three four or five years ago that the best way as an outsider to serve a community is to go to that community and ask them what it is that they need ask what it is that they feel like would make their community better, and then provide that service after they've told you if you're not a part of a [00:13:00] particular community.  Unless you've done a lot of research, I'm not sure that you, as an outsider can adequately determine that community's needs. Like, is that really possible? I'm not sure. Yes, some people would say yes, and some people will say no, and that’s fine. I don't think there has to be always a yes or no answer, but just always remember that when you decide that you want to serve a community music related or not, it is up to that community to decide what they need and what's in their best interests. Again, going back to some of the communities that exist. It's interesting how people on the internet have, especially began to create communities around a thing and by a thing. I mean, literally any end, everything has a community on the internet, which is actually especially, in a time where [00:14:00] so many of us are experiencing deep social isolation, alright. The internet gives us the chance, the opportunity to be connected to people who have similar interests. It's our community, various types of social media, and there are different platforms, really help to foster and create that community.

[00:14:23] I think the types of community for instance, even the one around the musically cogitating podcast that we have here, are really self-serving and self-giving in the best possible ways. And it's beautiful to see people coming together over one thing for one purpose or one movement. And of course, I'm hoping that people are coming together over good and positive things.

[00:14:52] I think that kind of goes without saying. This isn't perfect though, because what is, and the [00:15:00] article, which will be linked in the show notes titled, "What does community mean? A definition and attempt, and a conversation starter", the writer of the article says that most communities aren't real communities and that the word has been hijacked by marketing and media.

[00:15:18] And that the definition is also too broad, a point which I've already stated for me is important. The broadness of what community is and how it's formed, I believe is a strength because that flexibility and understanding of communities and how they are formed, allows for their growth and for their continued existence. And it allows for them to thrive. 

[00:15:47] So bringing it back to musical communities, because after all this podcast is about music in some way, all the time, I think that the classical music [00:16:00] community is having a bit of an identity crisis though because we could not decide on anything. We can't decide if Beethoven is canceled or even what to call our music.

[00:16:13] Is it a new music community? Is it a living music community? Is it an academic music community? No one really knows. All we know is that we do music and I think sometimes we cannot even decide. What music is, like is it organized sound? Is it, this is that I don't know? And I'm not sure that we have to know, but I do think that our collective inability to decide even what to call ourselves is, is hindering our ability to be this diverse and open and accepting creative community that we all think we are.

[00:16:58] I think that communities, while they [00:17:00] don't always require a name, the name helps for people inside of, and outside of the community to understand what that community is about and what it stands for. So, the music community needs to kind of figure that out.

[00:17:19] Really though. So, I come out of this, I come to the end of this episode, probably with more questions than when I began. And I think that that is okay. These are, these are cogitations right.? These are ruminations. These are thoughts on community and what it means to be in the community music or not.

[00:17:46] Although a lot of things in my life personally are centered around music, and I love that I designed my life in a way, if you will, for it to be that way, because that's what I wanted,  [00:18:00] and that's what I love. So yes, this is about community, but it's also about music and all of that. So I just wanted to take some time to think about communities, especially in a time where we're all thinking about the communities that we belong to, what communities we're going to join, when it's safe to be in a space with more than 10 people, you know, all of that stuff, who they are for, why do they exist? What it means and all that jazz, because music y'all. So, I cannot wait to hear your thoughts on community.

[00:18:41] Don't forget to follow the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the website. We also have a newsletter which you can subscribe to where you will receive some additional and bonus content from the show. And if you're listening to this on Apple [00:19:00] podcasts, please give the show a rating and review as it helps me to make the show better.

[00:19:10] And that's all for today. Folks. I hope that you had a good one. Have a good one. I had a great time talking to you about community and I will be back in two weeks with the next episode until then. Bye bye.