The portfolio musician model encourages working and aspiring career musicians to foster versatile and transferable skills and to engage in work across multiple contexts and roles. Studies also suggest that career musicians also work across multiple styles of music across their practices. Beyond the existence of these multi-stylistic musicians, however, little is known about their engagements, their lived experiences, or how they have fostered their diverse competencies. 

This presentation reports on findings from project examining the life-histories of 12 Australian based mid-career musicians who worked in 2 or more styles of music. Participants engaged in a series of 3 life history interviews, discussing their lived experiences in music from their earliest experiences in music through to their present careers. This project sought to uncover:

1) What kinds of situated learning experiences support competence development in multiple styles of music;
2) What factors facilitate a multi-stylistic musical career, and;

3) How multi-stylistic musicians’ life-histories inform current understandings of portfolio careers in music.
This study the value of informal learning strategies in developing skills such as learning by ear and improvisation, which facilitated agency through which participants could engage

with their stylistically diverse musical interests. Their entrepreneurial competencies, related largely to organisational and administrative practices, provided a similar agency in the commodifying their stylistically diverse creative aspirations. Established professional networks were also highly valued by participants for their utility in attaining and sustaining professional relationships, with these relationships seemingly responsible for many of participants’ long-term career engagements. 

At the core of many participants’ multi-stylistic practices was an identity built on the explicit desire to engage with multiple musical styles of their own choosing. Multi-stylistic engagement was an integral aspect of their creative satisfaction, many seeking to engage in some styles for little to no remuneration.  Further examination of multi-stylistic developmental
practices will be required if deeper understanding of multi-stylism is to be achieved.

Mr Hayden Mitt is the student convener of the ISME Student Chapter and HDR candidate at The University of Queensland School of Music. As a performer across popular and jazz music in Melbourne, Australia, his current research interests and forthcoming projects examine the practices, identities, and development of professional musicians and other creative industry workers. His current projects examine the nature of ‘multi-stylistic’ musicianship and the role of informal learning in the facilitation of professional and creative agency in musicianship.


About 2022 Research Seminar Series

Research seminars are presented by current staff, higher degree by research candidates and visiting academics. 

The seminar series showcases the work of our higher degree by research candidates and provides valuable professional development opportunities for undergraduate and coursework students who are interested in research. Visiting scholars are regularly invited to address staff and students, and the seminars are open to the public. Please register by following the link in the session below that you wish to attend.


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The University of Queensland
St Lucia QLD 4072 Australia
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