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TNLI: Action Research: Curriculum Implementation: Connecting Generations in Music Education


Research Summary

What can be done to help students who participate in band, chorus, or recorders persist in musical activities?

I would like to strengthen the music program at P.S. XYZ and in doing so find out what it is that enables children to persist in musical activities. 

Literature Review
Research indicates that parental perceptions and expectations become fact and children fulfill their parent’s prophesies (Borthwick & Davidson, 1999).  It stands to reason that this concept applies to the value parents place on music studies. If parents value music and encourage their child to participate in music studies, students will likely value music themselves and persist in musical studies (Sichivitsa, 2004).

Parents can support their child’s music interest and studies in various ways. Support is needed because elementary students feel extrinsic motivation through parent support (Sichivitsa, 2004). Parents should provide a supportive environment for their child’s musical studies because studies show that students with musically supportive parents feel better about musical abilities, have higher self-concepts, are more comfortable academically and socially, value music, and are motivated to study music in the future (Sichivitsa, 2004). Students not only need support from home, but they also require some school-based supports if they are going to be motivated to continue their musical studies. The more students perceived schools to be caring, friendly, and academically oriented, the greater was their interest in music (Marjoribanks & Mboya, 2004).

There are many benefits to studying music. Students who persist in instrumental music have higher self-esteem (Schmidt, 2005), develop creative and cognitive competencies needed for academic success, take risks in their thinking and learning, express thoughts and ideas, exercise their imagination, and sustain focus over time. High-arts youngsters were far more likely than their low-arts counterparts to think of themselves as competent in academics (Bresler, 2005). Therefore, successful arts instruction may lead to success in other academic areas.

Method & Data
Information was gathered using an audio taped group interview and observation. Also, a student survey was designed, along with a companion parent survey. The surveys probe for parent and student musical experiences, parent expectations, the amount of support and exposure parents provide for their child, and the value they place on music.       

In the group interview, students responded that they are motivated to participate because activities like band make school more interesting; they enjoy experiencing different types of music; music can make people famous; it is fun and offers an opportunity for expression. The results of the parent and student surveys produced the following information regarding student participation in and exposure to music.

  • Many students participate in musical groups or lessons outside of school.
  • Parents report that they take their child to music concerts or shows approximately once a month.
  • Nearly all of the parents said they expect their child to continue to study music in the future, while 85% of the students said they plan to continue their musical studies.
  • 77% of the students said they hope that their own children will study music.
  • 78% of the students feel their parents support their musical studies, while 100% of the parents feel they support their child’s musical studies.

The parent survey had one short answer question asking how parents support their child’s musical studies. Responses fell into three categories: providing private lessons/practicing, participation/exposure, and general support. Students also commented on ways they feel their parents support them.

According to the responses given in the audio taped interview and surveys, students who participate in band, chorus, or recorders do have parents who participate in, encourage, and support their child’s musical studies. A high percentage of surveyed parents have participated in a choir or musical group or have taken music lessons, which is consistent with Sichivitsa‘s findings. Many parents said their own parents encouraged them to participate in musical activities as children.

It seems that parents believe they are being supportive though the child does not necessarily always feel their support. Students do acknowledge they receive verbal encouragement from their parents. Students discussed enjoying working with other students, having a nice teacher, and experiencing success, which is consistent with research by Schmidt and Sichivitsa.

Clearly, there is a generational connection in music education. Parents who participated in music have children who participate in music. Many surveyed parents said they expect the child to continue to study music in the future and many surveyed students said they hope that their own children will study music as well.

Action should be taken to expose parents to reasons why music should be highly valued. Once value is established, parents should be educated on ways to involve their child in music studies and how to support them. When students feel their parents support, the cyclical generational connection of music education continues. A series of music meetings could be arranged to create a forum for music-related conversations. Meetings could be arranged to communicate the value and benefit of music studies, to discuss recruitment for the third grade recorder program, and to offer both simple and more intense ways to support the student at home. At school, additional actions can be taken that compliment the support provided by parents at home. Music teachers can arrange music trips, encourage dialogue between students regarding their struggles and successes of their music learning, provide students with ample performing opportunities, and educate the school administrators on the value and benefits of music education.

Policy Recommendations
Parents must be provided with information on the value and benefits of supporting and encouraging their child’s music education.

  • Parents must be given examples and suggestions on how to actively support their child’s music education at home.
  • Music teachers must stay in frequent communication with parents.
  • Music teachers must provide exposure to music experiences at school.
  • Administrators must be educated on the value and benefits of music education.

Rebecca Ponka

Research Focus:
Music Education

TNLI Affiliate:
New York City

PS 261
Philip Livingston School 
314 Pacific St. 
Brooklyn, NY  11201

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute, please e-mail Kimberly Johnson for more information.



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