Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Organizational Communication

Department or School/College

Department of Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Betsy Wackernagel Bach

Commitee Members

Joel Iverson, David Edmonds


belonging, communities of practice, choral arts, organizational communication, community choir


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Organizational Communication | Other Arts and Humanities


A qualitative analysis was conducted with a community choir as an exemplar of a community of practice. Semi-structured, collaborative interviews with eighteen of the choir’s members and eleven hours of field observation were conducted. The socialization process was briefly examined and discussed as it informed membership experiences in the choir. Four research questions were proposed to examine the ways in which the defining characteristics of communities of practice were communicatively enacted within the choral context. The construct of belonging was examined as an addition to Wenger’s (1998) communities of practice framework. Data analysis followed the grounded theory methodology of Strauss and Corbin (1990).

The choral context was chosen for its particular intersections of art form characteristics with Wenger’s (1998) theoretical framework. The communal nature of choral singing required the mutual engagement of a variety of members. Singers negotiated their joint enterprise over the years as membership stabilized and the technical expertise of the group increased. The community’s shared repertoire was evident in the musical repertoire, sense of a cohesive group, and the informal discourses which indicated membership. As choir members engaged in the process of choral singing, negotiated its meaning for their particular group, and enacted belonging while drawing from a shared repertoire, they were communicatively constructing a community. Belonging was enacted by members through their mutual recognition of membership and strong emotional connection through artistic expression.

This research is a test of Wenger’s (1998) communities of practice theory in a unique organizational setting. Belonging reflected importance as a motivator for new membership and an essential component for sustained membership. Strategic disengagement and select socialization emerged as theoretical implications for socialization and participation in communities of practice. These elements warrant further examination. Implementation of the theoretical characteristics of communities of practice and belonging as it is communicatively enacted can foster healthier organizational environments and membership retention.



© Copyright 2016 Aubrielle J. Holly