University of Illinois at Chicago
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Superman in the Smallest Space: Exploring a Music Studio for Young People Experiencing Homelessness

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posted on 2013-10-24, 00:00 authored by Brian L. Kelly
Youth homelessness research is primarily focused on the risks that contribute to young people experiencing homelessness and the consequences they experience as a result of being homeless. Little research explores their strengths. In addition there is little research regarding the effectiveness of youth homelessness services. Some research shows that transitional living programs incorporate recreational activities in their programming, but little is known regarding their effectiveness. Research indicates that social work and related fields use recreational, art, and music-based activities to engage young people’s strengths, yet little is known about how music-based activities are used with young people experiencing homelessness and whether or not these activities would engage their strengths. This study responds to these gaps in the literature by exploring whether and the extent to which involvement in a music studio in a transitional living program engages and promotes young people experiencing homelessness strengths. Using an ethnographic approach, data were collected to: (1) explore the processes involved in promoting and developing a music studio in a transitional living program for young people experiencing homelessness, (2) young people and staff experiences while engaging in the music studio, and (3) the meanings young people and staff attach to their experiences in the music studio. In addition, I worked with a team of young people to develop a co-constructed audio documentary that explores their experiences in the music studio and the meaning they attach to their experiences. Findings demonstrate that the agency’s organizational commitment to a strengths-based, positive youth development informed approach to working with young people, the development of in-house holistic supportive services, the inclusion of young people’s voice in recreational program development, and the role of a studio advocate play a vital role in the development of the studio and its ongoing maintenance. In addition, young people experience the music studio as space to engage in music production, education, and appreciation. Young people describe their experiences in the studio as opportunities for connection, engagement, and expression. They also describe experiencing challenges and frustrations in the studio, but ultimately frame their challenges and frustrations as additional opportunities for growth and development.



Mattaini, Mark A.


Social Work

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

McKay-Jackson, Cassandra Watson, Amy C. Birman, Dina Makagon, Daniel

Submitted date



  • en

Issue date


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