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Running Head: The University of Texas at El Paso Band Program

The University of Texas at El Paso Band Program

Discourse Community

Sebastian Barragan

The University of Texas at El Paso

RWS - 1301

Professor Ruby Pappoe


According to John Swales article The Concept of a Discourse Community, there is not

an exact definition of a Discourse Community. However, he believes it can be described as a

group of individuals that requires all six characteristics in order to be considered a discourse

community. Swales believes that the community must have a common set of goals and ideas,

mechanisms of intercommunication among its members, ways of providing information and

feedback to those in the community, a possession one or more genres for the members to follow

in order to reach the goals that are set, a specific lexis, and a few members with an appropriate

degree of expertise. (Swales, 1990) A perfect example of a discourse community would be The

University of Texas at El Paso Band program because it contains all six of the characteristics.

Although there are sub-communities within the program such as Concert, Symphonic, Jazz, and

the Marching band, all of them have the same values, beliefs and strive for prosperity as a whole.

The first characteristic that a discourse community must have are specific goals that can

be achieved, beliefs that only members of the group share and ideas that individuals have in

order to succeed in fulfilling the goals that have been set. This is absolutely essential because it

brings legitimacy to the group. For example, as a member of the band community, our main

goals are to rehearse, perfect and perform music that our leader, the band director, chooses. As

individual members, we also set goals within ourselves to practice long agonizing hours, fixing

the mistakes we make while playing, in order to become better musicians. Goals that the band

director sets for himself and the band is to teach musician how to be better and to encourage

others to join the UTEP Band.

When it comes to the second characteristic, which is the ways of communication within

the community is extremely important because it keeps them updated on present and future

events. For example, being a UTEP Band member requires lots of communication. Usually after
every rehearsal, the director of a certain ensemble personally announces all information to his

students. He also creates a page on Facebook which members of a specific ensemble are in. This

page is designed to provide any additional information to all of the members such as

performance dates and time, locations, which music pieces to practice, or other future news.

The third characteristic that involves providing a response to the community, or

individuals within, is vital because it assists the group in achieving the goals that they have set.

During rehearsals, the band director will call on a certain group of instruments to play certain

parts of a composition. Depending on how the section played, the director will provide positive

or negative feedback as well as instructions on how they can fix their mistakes in order to sound

well as an ensemble and as a musician. In a worst case scenario, the director will also call on

individual students to see if they know and are able to play their part.

The possession of genres, which are categories that the discourse community falls under,

help give the community its identity. The genres that coincide with the UTEP Band are

composed music, recordings, performances, band room, practice room, auditorium and a stage. A

genre for the UTEP Marching Band would be the football field because that is where most of our

practices occur.

Another characteristic that is very important to the discourse community is the presence

of Lexis, which is a specific language that only members will comprehend. Being involved in the

field of music there are lots of terms that all band members including myself need to learn

memorize. These terms are mostly written on composed music. For example, Adagio means to

play slow and expressive, Allegro means to play very fast, Pianissimo is to play very soft and

Fortissimo is to play very loud. Although no members are able to verbally communicate during a
performance, we use subtle movements while we are playing such as a loud breath before

playing a piece or the band director moving his left or right arm up and down to indicate when to

start. This movement is also used while we are playing to help the time and rhythm of the beat,

which is called the tempo, under control. It is absolutely necessary for all members of a music

ensemble the pay attention to the conductor, which is the band director, while performing

because he is the one that starts and ends the music piece.

In order for the discourse community to function, it must have a few members that are

experts in the fields that are relevant (Swales, 1990). Since all of these teachers working in the

UTEP Band either have a bachelors degree in Music or lots of experience in the program, this

gives a great amount of credibility to the program itself. These experts are there to teach, share

and pass on all knowledge and information to all other members. For example, there are two

band directors that teach ensembles. One of them teaches the Symphonic band while the other

teaches the Concert, Jazz and Marching band. There are also individual instructors that are

specialists in the instrument they play. Since I am a Saxophone player I am required to take

lessons once a week from an instructor that plays and teaches the saxophone.

In conclusion, a discourse community has the ability to unite many individuals who share

the same interests. As time goes on the group will continue to set new goals and have higher

standards among individual members. The University of Texas at El Paso Band Program is a

perfect representation of what a discourse community is because it fits all six of John Swales

standards. It is also a very large group of intelligent students and instructors. There is definitely a

relationship between the two because it takes the combination of communication, experts and

lexis to shape a discourse community and to achieve all of the goals that are set in it.
Swales, J.M. (1990). The concept of a discourse community. In E. Wardle & D. Downs (Eds.),
Writing about writing: A college read

Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Memo
1. A thesis statement has been added at the end of the first paragraph.
2. The first and most important part of the essay that has been fixed was citing all quotes
and phrases that were used to help explain the topic of a discourse community.
3. All six of Swales Characteristics have been separated and detailed into paragraphs.
4. The conclusion has been extended.