Research Gallery Abstracts 2008

Elementary School Principals’ Perceptions of the Benefits of Music Education

By Kristen Bugos

University of Buffalo

Principals are recognized as having a crucial role in the success of music programs (Clark, 1999; Fulbright, 1999; Gaining the Arts Advantage, 1999; More Lessons, 2000).  Over the past thirty years, several researchers have investigated the opinions and values of various school personnel in relation to music programs.  However, the majority of these investigations have focused on the high school level, with only a few looking at the elementary level (Abril & Gault, 2006; Browen, Bewley & Martin, 1968; Gaines, 1968; Stroud, 1980).  This study focuses specifically on the elementary level by examining western New York elementary principals’ attitudes toward music and their perceptions of the current effectiveness of their elementary school music programs.

Data was collected through an online survey instrument distributed to all public and parochial elementary school principals in western New York (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming counties).  Questions were designed to gather general demographic information about the school (public/private, urban/suburban/rural, grade levels, music course and extracurricular offerings) and the principal (age group, years of experience, extent of musical participation as a student and adult).  Based upon their personal perceptions, participants ranked a list of benefits of music education in order from most valuable to least valuable, and then evaluated the extent to which their buildings’ music programs are meeting that goal.  The list of benefits of music education was drawn from the 1995 President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities publication, Eloquent Evidence: Arts at the Core of Learning.  Two open-ended questions allowed to participants to list the actions they have taken, or would like to take, to contribute to the success of their buildings’ music programs.  Data was recorded and coded by an online survey program, then analyzed using SPSS.  Responses from public and parochial school principals were compared, and the possible relationship of personal musical participation to values was examined. 

Linking Classroom Music to Family, Local and Global Communities:
One Teacher’s Success at Integrating School-Based Music Education into Societal Contexts

By Patricia Gingras

Hildegard Froehlich wrote, “. . . chances are high that the seeming disconnect between school music culture and everyday culture will continue to be a force with which music teachers have to reckon.”  Estelle Jorgensen  believed that music, as a part of society, reflects and embodies social structures and that music educators who recognize the link between music and social groups are better able to integrate music education into societal contexts. Drawing upon personal life experiences, first-year music teacher Christine Kilbourne independently arrived at the same conclusions. Shortly after taking a position at a newly-established urban elementary school, Kilbourne implemented steps to create a sense of school community and links between classroom music, her students’ families, and local and global communities. The results of Kilbourne’s efforts were revealed through student observations and interviews with Kilbourne, school staff, and parents. Musical activities introduced in the classroom were seen and heard in the cafeteria, on the playground, and inside the school bus. Families integrated school-learned musical activities into their homes. Students became skilled at appropriate repertoire to musically engage their future infants and toddlers, made personal connections with local musicians, and shared musical experiences with an international community. Kilbourne’s story illustrates what one music teacher can accomplish on her own without outside funds or overt administrative support. Her goals and activities can be emulated by others and are a resource for like-minded teachers.

Music Responses and Collateral Benefits of a Music-Learning-Theory-Based Intervention for Children with Autism

By Rachel  Whitcomb, Nazareth College

Children with autism manifest a wide variety of deficits in communication skills, social interactions, and behaviors. Those deficits range from minimally- to-extremely-debilitating. Consequently, researchers, doctors, educators, and parents continually search for interventions that may assist children with autism. Because of the social and communicative nature of music, some researchers have investigated the use of music interventions for children with autism. 

The purpose of the present research was to examine whether children with autism exhibit changes in (a) proximity to investigator, (b) positive affect, (c) vocal imitation, and (d) vocal initiation when participating in a Music Learning Theory-based intervention. The researcher based the music curriculum on Gordon’s (2003b) music learning theory and the practical application of Valerio, Reynolds, Bolton, Taggart and Gordon (1998). The researcher performed songs, rhythm chants, tonal patterns, and rhythm patterns in a variety of tonalities and meters without the use of words. Each participant met individually with the researcher two times per week for fifteen minutes.

Proximity to investigator and positive affect were coded using a partial interval system, vocal imitation was recorded using response per opportunity and vocal initiation by rate. All data were coded by the investigator. A secondary coder watched and coded a percentage of the data to ensure inter-observer agreement. The investigator found no visible change in proximity to investigator or positive affect. The investigator did find an increasing trend in vocal imitation and vocal initiation over the intervention period.

Selected Music Listening Practices of Undergraduate Students

By Jane Palmquist, Conservatory of Music of Brooklyn College

Undergraduate students enrolled in a required music appreciation course at an urban university completed a written survey about their music listening practices during class in the first week of the semester.  
Students (N = 157) were asked to (a) list online music services they currently use; (b) indicate the amount of time they listen to music on cell phone, radio, TV, Ipod/mp3, or computer; (c) indicate whether or not they download music and, if so, list the source(s) of the downloaded music; (d) list favorite radio stations, websites, and tv stations/channels, or programs for music listening/viewing; (e) indicate the number of music purchases they made in the previous 5 months in the following categories:  music download, music CD, music DVD, music ring tone.

No significant differences (df = 3, p < .05) were found among academic classifications for subjects, however significantly more women than men (n = 97; n = 60, respectively; df =  1,  p < .001) were represented in this sample.  Mean age of students was 21 years.

The most commonly cited music service used was iTunes, (listed by 96 students), followed by Limewire (n = 23), Rhapsody (n = 17), Windows Media player (n = 7), Pandora (n = 5), YouTube (n = 4), Realplayer (n = 4), Yahoo music (n = 3);  and Juke box and imeem (n = 2, each). Twenty-nine students did not list a music service. 

Seventy-seven students reported making a music download “purchase” in the previous 5 months although many noted that the download was from a free website.  Seventy-two students reported purchasing a music CD, 20 students reported purchasing a music DVD, and 40 students reported purchasing a music ring tone for their phones in the previous 5 months.

Significantly more students download music (n = 122) than do not (n = 35) (df = 1, p < .0001).  The most frequently listed sources of downloaded music were: Limewire (n = 53);  iTunes (n = 40); Torrents (n = 5); Yahoo music (n = 4);  Bearshare (n = 7);  Rhapsody (n = 6); friend’s CDs (n = 5);  and Ares (n = 4).

Music listening and music delivery systems are fluid and numerous, and can be difficult to categorize. Additional findings are discussed.

Rhythmic Characteristics of Improvisational Drumming in Preschool Children

By Hannah Gruber, Crane School of Music SUNY Potsdam

Recent research on the creative endeavors of young children has focused primarily on melodic aspects of spontaneous musical creation using xylophones.  The purpose of this current study is to determine the rhythmic characteristics of call-and-response and free improvisational drumming of 4- and 5-year-old children in a group setting.  Hand drums have been used to isolate rhythmic choices made by children as they spontaneously create music.  Specific goals of this study were: (1) to determine the durations, start and stop times, and rhythmic patterns of improvised responses to a simple given call using drums, (2) to determine what social factors affect the improvisational drumming of 4- and 5-year-old children, (3) to determine the rhythmic characteristics of free improvisational drumming, such as the presence or absence of steady beat, distinguishable meter, note durations, and rhythmic patterns, and (4) to discover changes in the rhythmic characteristics of call-and-response and free improvisational drumming in 4- and 5-year-old children over a six week period. 

Eight children enrolled in an early childhood music class participated in call-and-response and free improvisational drumming with the researcher for six weeks.  The researcher and undergraduate music education students modeled improvisational drumming for the children at the beginning of each session.  Data collection has been completed and data analysis is currently underway. Data analysis will include symbolic representation of children’s improvised responses and free improvisations, indications of whether each child repeated the call or created an original rhythmic pattern, the presence or absence of steady beat, and the duration of each response and free improvisation.  Data will also be analyzed to determine the social factors that have affected the improvisational drumming of young children, such as whether students copy patterns heard by others in the group.  Data analysis will be completed during the summer of 2008, and results will be reported in tables and short narratives.

Praxis shock: symptoms and recovery – How young urban teachers encounter the first weeks of school

By Janice Smith

Aaron Copland School of Music Queens College CUNY

This research project explored the challenges faced by beginning urban music teachers during the first month of school and the impact it has on their professional self-image. Stories from first year teachers and veteran teachers were presented to highlight common themes and possible solutions to typical problems. While several of these issues are not unique to urban teachers, they can seem more overwhelming when combined with the large class sizes and administrative demands city teaching presents.  Themes that emerged included relationships with colleagues, spaces to teach, inexperienced students in experienced ensembles, evolving class rosters, relationships with students and successful teaching strategies. 
Relationships with colleagues in the first few weeks can be quite challenging due in part to shared work spaces and seniority issues. As in any new relationship, there are bound to be some unsettling moments. Young professionals occasionally encounter very unprofessional behavior in others and have to negotiate their way beyond those issues.
Class lists also have a way of morphing into several different variations and determining who is actually present in a class and who is supposed to be present is an acquired skill.  Finally those assigning students to ensemble classes may not take into account the skill level of the class.  Advance students may be assigned to beginning classes or beginners may be placed in more advanced ones. The young teacher may have to find ways of working within those contexts that allows everyone to be successful.  This narrative gallery session will present the words of young teachers coping with these issues.