Not playing any more: A qualitative investigation of why amateur musicians cease or continue membership of performing ensembles | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 8, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1752-6299
  • E-ISSN: 1752-6302



The benefits and pleasures of musical participation are reasonably well known, and yet the number of adults engaging in these activities is only a small proportion of those who learn instruments and participate during their school years. This article reports on three linked studies that investigated the experiences of ‘lapsed’ participants: those who had sought out opportunities for playing in adulthood, before deciding to withdraw for a range of reasons. These reasons are explored through the profiles of the ‘enthusiastic returner’, ‘reluctant retiree’, ‘stressed withdrawer’, ‘tired outsider’ and ‘contented reminiscer’, using qualitative data from participant observation, focus groups, questionnaires and interviews with two amateur ensembles in the North Midlands of England. Implications are considered for lifelong musical engagement, ensemble leadership, and future research into musical participation, identity and learning.


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