Bolanis, Susan

Children’s Responses to Live Musical Performance by an Ensemble Without, and then With, Pedagogical Training
The purpose of this study was to examine and describe the music listening experiences of children in grades one and six while attending live musical performances by a woodwind quintet, and to determine if a specific program of pedagogical training for the performers had discernible effect on those listening experiences. Seven research questions served to guide research focused on first and sixth grade children’s verbal responses to, and their observable behaviors during, a live concert. Data were explored according to grade level, gender, and the concert’s placement before or after the ensemble’s pedagogical training.

This study was undertaken using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The woodwind quintet presented a traditional 40-minute concert for one class each of first and sixth grade students. The author then conducted a 20-minute focus group discussion with eight or nine children from each audience. A formal assessment of the musical works on the program determined their suitability for elementary school children. Presenter scripts along with visual and kinesthetic activities designed to direct student listening were developed to further render the revised programs developmentally appropriate to the target audiences. The author conducted a pedagogical training session with quintet members, and a trial run of each concert took place before the final set of performances.

Sixth graders’ comments reflected a broader perspective than those of their first grade counterparts and indicated use of higher level thinking skills. While girls spoke slightly more than boys, analysis revealed no other differences between the verbal reports of male and female subjects. Comments by subjects participating in the concert prior to the ensemble’s pedagogical training were mostly cognitive in nature, addressing general non-musical topics. Subjects experiencing the concert following the training session made comments which were more affective, and focused on literal musical issues.

Conclusions indicate that the application of directed listening techniques to live concerts by means of the pedagogical training of an ensemble based on developmental theory leads to more intense intellectual and aesthetic musical experiences for children. Data analysis generated a set of 18 categories of response types.

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