This case study sought to explore the practices of a music therapy rock band, the Smooth Criminals. The band was comprised of young adults with development disabilities and adult assistants. The group operated within a “community music therapy” (Ruud, 2004; Stige, Andsell, Elefant, & Pavlicevi, 2010) clinical setting. Research questions included: (Q1) What are the musical practices of the young adult members of the band and how do the adult members facilitate these practices, (Q2) What are the affordances of the band’s practices for young adult members, and (Q3) What are the constraints of the band’s practices for young adult members? Data generation occurred over 13 months and included: video recordings of rehearsals, video recordings of two performances, informal and semi-structured interviews with participants and family members, field notes, reflective journaling, and selective transcription of video-recorded data.
Related to each research question, findings include: (Q1) Young adult members selected the music they learned/performed, chose or rejected adult-created approaches, and were empowered to self-adapt situations to fit their abilities and needs. Adult members offered young adult members scaffolded and accommodative approaches for learning/performing music. (Q2) Participation in the band may afford young adult members chances to engage in musical community, to develop a sense of mutual care, to construct their own identities, and to develop their abilities to communicate verbally and musically. (Q3) Findings suggest that the practices of the band may have constrained the young adult members due to: limited focus on musical skills/technique acquisition, limited interactions with peers without similar diagnoses, limited genres to explore due to instrument availability and adult instrumental proficiency, and adult members’ assumptions about the abilities and tastes of young adult members. The findings may inform music educators who seek to develop ways to facilitate music making and learning among individuals with diverse abilities.