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The (un)settled space of healthcare musicians

Hybrid music professionalism in the Finnish healthcare system

Taru Koivisto

Music professionalism is undergoing a period of turbulent change. Musicians are not only performing in traditional concert audiences, but also increasingly work in unconventional spaces and novel sites for and with different groups of people in a wide array of life situations. Hybrid music professionalism refers to a highly reflexive expanding professional approach. This article-based doctoral dissertation addresses the emergence of this expanding music professionalism by exploring the work of musicians in the Finnish public healthcare system. The guiding research question is: How does healthcare musicians’ relational work inform a new understanding of expanding, hybrid music professionalism in a changing society?

The findings present healthcare musicians as socially responsible practitioners who co-construct their professionalism through reciprocal, relational practices, not only in but with the healthcare community, including patients, their families, and healthcare personnel. These relational practices are manifested in healthcare musicians’ work; for instance, through creating metaphorical thinking and language, engaging in musico-emotional interaction, and supporting gerotranscendence. Such hybrid professionalism requires interprofessional reflection and collaboration that can guide musicians towards acknowledging the limits and boundaries of their work, their own transforming expertise, and—most importantly—the necessary expertise and knowledge of others.

The findings imply that hybrid professionalism, realized through boundary work, incorporates emotionally sensitive, situational ethics that integrate the practice with the everyday life of healthcare communities to support the agency and integrity of potentially vulnerable patients. It is proposed that although music may serve as a clinical intervention, or maintain a performative value as entertainment, its inherent value for the participants should be better and more deeply considered in higher music education. Healthcare musicians’ socially engaged work unfolds aesthetic and existential dimensions of the whole spectrum of human interaction, and raises critical questions about what constitutes a good life for patients, their families, healthcare personnel, and the musicians themselves.

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