Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Research Publications

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    How Can Music Engagement Address Loneliness? A Qualitative Study and Thematic Framework in the Context of Australia's COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdowns
    Kiernan, F ; Davidson, JW (MDPI, 2023-01-01)
    Social isolation and loneliness are serious public health concerns. Music engagement can strengthen social connections and reduce loneliness in some contexts, although how this occurs is not well understood; research suggests that music's capacity to manipulate perceptions of time and space is relevant. This study adopted a qualitative perspective to examine how music engagement shaped the experiences of residents of Victoria, Australia, during conditions of restricted social contact during the lockdowns of 2020. Semi-structured interviews explored participants' lived musical experiences while giving focus to perceptions of time and space (e.g., how music helped restructure home and workspaces in response to lockdown regulations, or punctuate time where older routines were no longer viable). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the interview transcripts identified five themes representing the key findings: (1) a super-ordinate theme of perceived control, which comprises four themes: (2) dynamic connection; (3) identity; (4) mobility; (5) presence. Each theme describes one generalised aspect of the way music engagement shaped participants' perceptions of time and space during lockdown and supported their processes of adaptation to and coping with increased social isolation. The authors argue that these findings may inform the way music can be used to address loneliness in everyday life.
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    Adolescents and Music Therapy: Contextualized Recommendations for Research and Practice
    McFerran, KS (Oxford University Press, 2020-03-01)
    Music therapists have been working with, writing about, and researching their work with adolescents for many decades. This paper provides a reflective review of the research literature in the field that is categorized in three contexts: education, mental health, and community. Grouping knowledge in this way affords a new perspective on how music therapists describe adolescents, including the terms we use to describe them, the types of programs we offer, the approaches to research that are most popular, and the way we talk about the focus of therapy. Distinctions between research in these fields are highlighted, with reference to the beliefs and values that are most congruent with each of these contexts. Following this reflective review on the literature, I provide five recommendations for consideration by researchers and practitioners. These include: determining if and when evidence is an appropriate focus; continuing to seek understanding; not underestimating the value of positive experiences; avoiding an exclusive focus on the music therapist’s perspective; and being realistic about the outcomes of group versus individual therapy. The paper concludes with an illustrative example to emphasize how one adolescent might be “seen” differently in each context.
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    Music, adversity and flourishing: Exploring experiences of a community music therapy group for Australian youth
    McFerran, K ; Hunt, M (SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD, 2022-02-16)
    Community music therapy is a widely accepted approach that has its origins in the British community music scene and was carefully developed with respect to participatory values dominant in Norwegian practice. This article describes the way an Australian community music therapy programme for youth has been experienced by a group of diverse young people participating in a programme that is for youth who share an enthusiasm and a passion for music and often bring formidable talent to the group. They are also young people who are experiencing adversity due to chronic illness, mental ill-health, unstable homes lives or acute personal crisis or challenge. Qualitative analysis of interviews identified a number of themes including It is like a family; We understand one another’s life experiences and It is good for me, and also identified that diverse group members responded first to the emphasis on the value of music-based experiences, but strongly benefitted from the understanding afforded of the challenges they faced as a result of adverse life experiences. Possible distinctions between traditional group music therapy with adolescents and community music therapy are considered, with implications for programme descriptions and the level of focus on music and support adopted by facilitators.
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    Contextualizing the Study of Music Performance
    McPherson, GE ; McPherson, GE (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2022-02-17)
    The eighty scholars from thirteen countries who prepared the fifty-four chapters in this handbook are leaders in the fields of music psychology, performance science, musicology, psychology, education, music medicine, science, and music education. They include academics who hold prominent positions in music institutions worldwide, emerging early-career researchers who have begun to make their mark through publications of international stature, and leaders outside the field of music whose work deserves to be adapted and applied within the field of music performance. Chapters provide a broad coverage of the area, with considerable expansion of the topics that most would normally expect to be covered in a resource of this type. In this way, the range and scope of the content is much wider than other publications by virtue of the inclusion of chapters from related disciplines such as performance science (e.g., optimizing performance, mental techniques, talent development in non-music areas) and education (e.g., human development, motivation, learning and teaching styles), as well as the attention given to emerging critical issues in the field (e.g., wellbeing, technology, gender, diversity, inclusion, identity, resilience and buoyancy, diseases, and physical and mental disabilities). The two-volume handbook is designed around eight distinct parts: Development and Learning, Proficiencies, Performance Practices, Psychology, Enhancements, Health and Wellbeing, Science, and Innovations.
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    High-Impact Teaching Mindframes
    McPherson, GE ; Hattie, J ; McPherson, GE (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2022-02-17)
    This chapter provides our explanation of why certain teachers are able to leave such a positive impact on their students’ love for performing music. It draws on the work of John Hattie, whose explanation of how to make learning visible details ten mindframes that have been shown through extensive research to explain successful learning and inspirational teachers. Because this chapter is placed within a book on music performance, our adaptation of these ten mindframes relates to how they might be relevant within the context of studio instrumental and vocal teaching that are typical in many music institutions internationally. The chapter argues that teachers of music performance will be in a much better position to cater to the needs of the diverse range of student abilities we observe in music institutions internationally if they apply the mindframes outlined in this chapter. When we recalibrate our teaching to focus on questions of why as well as what and how, we position ourselves to take on a much broader and more impactful role as a performer-teacher who really cares about students, who wants to spark their interest, who encourages them to live their musical dream, and who helps developing musicians exceed what they think is their full potential.
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    Playing by Ear
    Haston, W ; McPherson, GE ; McPherson, GE (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2022-02-17)
    There are significant and long-lasting benefits when beginning instrumentalists are exposed to a sound-before-sign approach. Likewise, refinement of play-by-ear skills by experienced, proficient musicians can enrich their musicality and lead to benefits for other performance skills including playing by ear, playing from memory, sight-reading, and improvising. Improving play-by-ear skills improves all forms of performing, as musicians use inner hearing to build an aural database through the use of mental and aural imagery while playing by ear. A mental warehouse of aural templates and mental tools allows for more efficient processing of music visually, aurally, and kinesthetically. We support an integrated model of instrumental performance that is significantly enhanced by developing one’s abilities to play by ear. This approach fosters connections between eyes, ears, and fingers and allows musicians to advance their skills more efficiently and effectively to become more responsive performers. A versatile twenty-first-century musician is able to meet the demands of performing varied musics in varied contexts. We make specific recommendations for implementing playing by ear as a technique for contemporary practice.
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    Musical Potential, Giftedness, and Talent Development
    McPherson, GE ; Blackwell, J ; Hallam, S ; McPherson, GE (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2022-02-17)
    This chapter surveys research dealing with musical potential, musical giftedness, and musical talent to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about the nature and scope of musical development. It addresses the issue of whether we are all born musical, before exploring ways of how to define and explain musical potential, giftedness, and talent. Attention is given to debates about the extent to which there are individual differences in musical potential, and the complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors that can help explain this concept. Environmental, intrapersonal, and developmental processes acting on the realization of musical talent are each discussed separately, with a final section rounding this explanation off to provide a framework for understanding talent development in music. The chapter shows that music is a universal feature of our human design and that virtually everyone can successfully engage with music, if they so choose. For musicians who wish to take their talent development to a much higher level, the topics covered provide greater awareness of what exactly is taking place on the road to developing expertise, from the earliest stages of learning right through to the types of transformational achievement that distinguishes the world’s leading musicians.
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    Readiness for Learning to Perform Music
    Blackwell, J ; McPherson, GE ; McPherson, G (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2022-02-17)
    This chapter begins by discussing prominent learning theories that contextualize development and then drills down to individual components that are relevant to learning to perform music. Developmental factors, such as distinguishing giftedness from talent, predispositions to learn, sensitive and critical periods, and perceptual abilities are discussed. A section on physical maturation provides information on how to match students with instruments, including factors influencing these choices such as motor development, teeth alignment, sex differences, and gender biases. We strongly advise against using so-called standardized measures of musical aptitude to predict future success and detail some of the ways these types of measures are flawed. In the final section dealing with practical applications, we return to the broader definition of readiness as a “healthy state of mind” to provide a set of principles that can be used to guide the types of environments, approaches, and beliefs that we believe best cater for the individual needs of each child. One of the main points we stress is that there are no definitive rules for when a child is ready to learn an instrument or voice. Determining readiness is highly contextual and will vary from child to child.
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    Self-Regulated Learning Music Microanalysis
    McPherson, GE ; McPherson, GE (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2022-02-17)
    The toolkit of strategies that help individuals adapt their behaviors to break through, feel energized, and perform successfully collectively embody the concept of being a self-regulated learner. This toolkit of strategies is what this chapter is about, and its purpose is to help musicians more skillfully infuse ideas and principles from the self-regulated learning literature within their musical development. These strategies encompass the ability to monitor one’s own thoughts and actions, navigate and control your own emotions especially when you feel frustrated or anxious, and focus your efforts to select the most efficient solutions that will enable you to perform at your personal best. Put another way, becoming self-regulated in the mastery of music involves being able to recognize a challenge, understand the scope and nature of this challenge, focusing your motivation to deal with the challenges, enacting strategies and plans to overcome the challenge, and evaluating your progress toward overcoming the challenge. Self-regulated learning is not a mental ability or skill, but instead a way of mastering musical learning by drawing on and applying a number of self-directive processes that allow musicians to transform their mental abilities into skills. Examples are provided of the self-regulated learning microanalysis technique that are designed for performing musicians who are trying to take more control of their own development and proactively work toward achieving their personal best.
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    Sight-Reading
    Zhukov, K ; McPherson, GE ; McPherson, GE (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2022-02-17)
    This chapter synthesizes available information on music reading and highlights recent approaches to studying the acquisition of sight-reading expertise. We focus on factors contributing to fluent music reading: eye movement, perceptual skills, auditory skills, and memory. The eye movements of accomplished sight-readers are different from those of slow readers, with expertise measured by fewer and shorter fixations and longer saccades. Skilled sight-readers perceive larger rhythm and pitch patterns than slow sight-readers do, and base their prediction skills on their knowledge of musical styles. Strong auditory skills also play an important role in sight-reading. Fluent sight-reading involves fast retrieval of well-established motor responses from the long-term memory and suppression of irrelevant information in the working memory. We discuss a range of approaches to the acquisition of fluent sight-reading: rhythm training leads to greater rhythmic accuracy, familiarity with musical styles improves pattern recognition, and collaborative playing activities assist in maintaining pacing of a performance. A holistic training approach combining all three of these elements is described in the last section of the chapter. General and specific recommendations for ways musicians can improve their music reading skills are provided together with training strategies aimed at helping musicians become fluent music readers.