Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Research Publications

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    The development of a decision matrix to guide and support the provision of effective arts programs in schools
    McFerran, KS ; Crooke, AHD ; Steele, M ; McPherson, G ; Hattie, J (Elsevier BV, 2022-01-01)
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    Effects of Passion, Experience, and Cultural Politics on Classical Musicians' Practice During the COVID-19 Pandemic
    Lopez-iniguez, G ; McPherson, GE ; Zarza Alzugaray, FJ ; Angel-Alvarado, R (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2022-05-02)
    The widespread cancelation of cultural events during the early 2020 stages of the COVID-19 pandemic led professional performing musicians across the world to experience an increasing economic fragility that threatened their health and wellbeing. Within this "new normal," developing countries have been at a higher risk due to their vulnerable health systems and cultural policies. Even in such difficult times, the music profession requires musicians to keep up their practicing routines, even if they have no professional commitments. This is because high level technical and expressive skills are crucial to sustaining a music career at a high performance level. However, it could be expected that not all musicians might have had the same engagement with music practice during lockdowns. In this study, we studied the experiences of 309 professional classical musicians based in European and Latin American countries with different levels of performing experience to examine their passionate (or lack thereof) engagement with music practice. Through the mixed methods combination of multigroup invariance and narrative analyses, we identified distinct profiles of musicians who displayed more harmonious or more obsessive passion orientations before and at the peak of the pandemic. We observed that musicians with higher levels of harmonious passion in particular were more capable of sustaining their practice at the peak of the pandemic and that these musicians were mostly located in Latin America-a paradox, considering that cultural politics supporting the careers of professional performing musicians and entrepreneurial education in Latin America are lacking to a great extent, especially in comparison with the European context. We explain this in terms of the "forced" self-management embraced by musicians in Latin American countries who want to engage with music practice both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic even if the music profession does not generate enough revenue for them.
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    Genetic factors and shared environment contribute equally to objective singing ability
    Yeom, D ; Tan, YT ; Haslam, N ; Mosing, MA ; Yap, VMZ ; Fraser, T ; Hildebrand, MS ; Berkovic, SF ; McPherson, GE ; Peretz, I ; Wilson, SJ (CELL PRESS, 2022-06-17)
    Singing ability is a complex human skill influenced by genetic and environmental factors, the relative contributions of which remain unknown. Currently, genetically informative studies using objective measures of singing ability across a range of tasks are limited. We administered a validated online singing tool to measure performance across three everyday singing tasks in Australian twins (n = 1189) to explore the relative genetic and environmental influences on singing ability. We derived a reproducible phenotypic index for singing ability across five performance measures of pitch and interval accuracy. Using this index we found moderate heritability of singing ability (h 2 = 40.7%) with a striking, similar contribution from shared environmental factors (c 2 = 37.1%). Childhood singing in the family home and being surrounded by music early in life both significantly predicted the phenotypic index. Taken together, these findings show that singing ability is equally influenced by genetic and shared environmental factors.
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    Effects of Threat and Motivation on Classical Musicians' Professional Performance Practice During the COVID-19 Pandemic
    Lopez-Iniguez, G ; McPherson, GE ; Zarza Alzugaray, FJ (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2022-02-04)
    In the past 2 years our world has experienced huge disruptions because of COVID-19. The performing arts has not been insulated from these tumultuous events with the entire music industry being thrown into a state of instability due to the paralyzing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this study, we examined how classical professional musicians' ability to cope with uncertainty, economic struggles, and work-life interplay during COVID-19 was influenced by various factors that affect a crucial part of the development and sustainment of music careers: musicians' practice. We analyzed responses to an online survey of 309 classical performing musicians from 41 countries in Europe and Latin America across three pandemic stages: immediately before the pandemic, during the pandemic, and when vaccines were being made available and lockdowns were being reduced or lifted. Structural equation modeling indicates relationships between perceptions of threat at the peak of the pandemic and the musicians Self- or External-Based Motivation for the three periods in which respondents were asked to reflect. Findings suggest that musicians who are more internally self-motivated seemed to be more resilient to the pandemic threats and more capable of managing their practicing routines, whereas more externally motivated musicians experienced a reduction in their dedicated time to practice during lockdown. We suggest pedagogical and policy implications, as well as future lines of research that are oriented toward supporting professional musicians in assessing and understanding their motivational drives so that they can cope with situations that disrupt their professional lives.
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    Playing an Instrument
    MCPHERSON, G ; Davidson, J ; Evans, P ; McPherson, G (Oxford University Press, 2016)
    Learning to play a musical instrument is one of the most widespread musical activities for children. While much research in the past century has focused on the assessment of musical abilities and the content of their lessons, more recent research has focused on children’s interactions with their social environments and how these interactions impact their ongoing ability and motivation to learn and play music. This chapter explores these social and cognitive developments starting with how children and their parents select an instrument and negotiate the commencement of formal music learning, through to the task related cognitive strategies children use to overcome the difficulties associated with learning and practice, and the ways they may eventually become able to integrate an identity as a musician with their own sense of self. Aspects of self-regulation and self-determination theory are discussed.
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    Musical achievement during a lockdown: The parental support miracle
    Oliveira, A ; McPherson, G ; Ribeiro, LM ; Oliveira-Silva, P (SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD, 2021-09-23)
    The quality of parental support is recognized as a crucial factor in the early stages of a student’s development, and particularly in instrumental music education. At the start of 2020, the outbreak of a global pandemic crisis posed new and unprecedented challenges to education, forcing families to stay at home to prevent contagion. This investigation was conducted during the period of a COVID pandemic lockdown in Portugal. We explored whether parental support, provided during the lockdown period, was associated with their child’s achievement as reported by their instrumental music teacher. For this study, 39 parent–teacher dyads of first-grade students of an instrument music course were recruited from two public music conservatories. Parents supplied information on the frequency in which they provided student-support-related attitudes and actions in the home context. Simultaneously, teachers provided information about the student’s achievement during the lockdown compared with the previous in-person performance period. Results indicate a strong relationship between parental support and musical achievement, with students who received higher levels of supportive parental involvement performing better than before the pandemic crisis. The findings are discussed in relation to the importance of parental involvement in a child’s instrumental music education.
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    The importance of passionate individuals for navigating school arts provision in 19 Australian schools
    McFerran, KS ; Crooke, AHD ; Steele, M ; Hattie, J ; McPherson, GE (SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD, 2021-10-31)
    Arts programs are increasingly recognized for their role in promoting student development and cohesive school communities. Yet, most Australian schools are left to navigate a landscape characterized by shifting policy goals and external providers of diverse quality and intent. Drawing on interviews with 27 stakeholders from 19 Catholic primary schools in Melbourne, Australia, we explored key approaches to arts provision in this context, and conditions that hinder and support it. Approaches varied markedly, from school-wide programs embedded across the curriculum, to one-off incursions. Conditions consistently affecting provision ranged from leadership support to a community’s view of the arts. Programs regularly relied on individuals passionate about arts to go beyond their paid roles, yet this frequently jeopardized sustainability. Overall, the approaches identified, and conditions affecting their sustainability, reveal a lack of value for school arts at policy and administration levels. This lack of value is not demonstrated in the provision of other traditional school activities like math or literacy, which begs consideration by policymakers and school administrators.
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    Social Support as a Facilitator of Musical Self-Efficacy
    Orejudo, S ; Zarza-Alzugaray, FJ ; Casanova, O ; McPherson, GE (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2021-10-08)
    Previous research has shown that musical self-efficacy is one of the predictors of academic achievement, but few studies have analyzed the function of social support in the construction of musical self-efficacy. In this study we analyze the relationship between three sources of support perceived by music students - parents, teachers, and peers - and their influence on levels of self-efficacy for learning and for public performance. We analyze three groups of students under the hypothesis that relationships among those variables can vary with age and the level of education. A total of 444 students enrolled in six Spanish music schools, two music universities, and four advanced music schools, completed the Social Support Scale for Music Students, as well as the General Musical Self-Efficacy Scale. Results reveal significant relationships among the aforementioned variables, with considerable variation according to academic level. For the youngest students enrolled in advanced music schools (conservatorios profesionales), the role of parents and teachers was crucial, especially for predicting self-efficacy for learning, which, in turn, is the best predictor of self-efficacy for public performance. For the 16-18-year-olds enrolled in the same advanced music schools, their peers play a particularly relevant role in reinforcing their self-efficacy for learning. Social support had a negligible influence on the self-efficacy of university-level students, but they did experience a strong relationship between self-efficacy for learning, on the one hand, and public performance, on the other. We interpret these results in view of potential long-term careers in music, relating them with a series of different agents.
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    Intra-individual change and variability in intentional self-regulation: A concert cellist optimizing performance
    López-Íñiguez, G ; McPherson, G (The International Symposium on Performance Science, 2019)
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    Developing Tests of Music Performance Improvisation
    McPherson, G ; Brophy, T (Oxford University Press, 2019)
    This chapter presents a survey of research on the development and validation of a measure to assess instrumentalists’ ability to improvise music. It begins by framing efforts to distinguish between visual, aural, and creative forms of music performance, and the types of assessment tasks required to evaluate music performance improvisation. The chapter surveys a range of related measures that have been used to assess improvisational abilities in young developing musicians and provides a detailed description of the author’s own Test of Ability to Improvise (TAI) that he has used with beginning, intermediate, and advanced level school instrumentalists. Included also are examples of the instrumentalists’ improvisations and a discussion of the implications of the research findings for conceptions of musical development and practical applications within music education.