Exposing Young Children to Music through the Production and Presentation of Music-Appreciation Television Programs

Article excerpt

Introduction

MUSIC APPRECIATION FOR young children has been a long-standing topic in research on early childhood education. Researchers have revealed the positive impacts of music-appreciation activities on child development. These include increased cognitive skills (Crncec, Wilson & Prior, 2006), improved self-esteem (Warner, 1999), improved physical coordination (Hirt-Mannheimer, 1995) and wider aesthetics responses (Yim, 2005). Researchers have also proposed pedagogies for conducting music appreciation activities with young children; for example, the use of recorded music (Jalongo, 1996), and repeated listening to enhance familiarity and responsiveness (Levin, Pargas & Austin, 2005). Some researchers also emphasised the importance of music appreciation for young children by arguing that human beings, from infancy, possibly possess an innate ability to appreciate music and/or other aesthetic subjects (Dalla Bella, Perets & Rousseau, 2001; Lawler, 2005; Trehub, Schellenberg & Kamenetsky, 1999). Although these research studies and arguments may have provided sufficient rationale for conducting music appreciation activities with young children, most of them are based on data from Western societies. There appears to be a lack of studies exploring teaching and learning issues surrounding music appreciation for young children in an Eastern context.

This study set out to explore the effectiveness of a method of presenting a series of music appreciation activities for children in Hong Kong. Such information, if available, would provide a more comprehensive understanding of early childhood music education.

In Hong Kong, music appreciation has long been included as one of the learning areas in the local early childhood curriculum. In the Guide to the pre-primary curriculum (Hong Kong Curriculum Development Council, 1996, pp. 88 & 91), teachers are encouraged to 'enhance children's ability to appreciate music' by arranging music appreciation sessions during music lessons and/or at other activity times. In a new curriculum, to be implemented in 2007, teachers are still encouraged to teach children to 'appreciate the beauty of nature and works of art' and to provide opportunities for them to 'appreciate diversified arts so as to broaden their knowledge of art and cultivate their appreciation ability' (Hong Kong Curriculum Development Council, 2006, pp. 35-36). In addition, both versions of the local curriculum (Hong Kong Curriculum Development Council, 2006; Hong Kong Curriculum Development Institute, 1996) and another government publication, Performance indicators (Hong Kong Educational and Manpower Bureau, 2003, p 13), have emphasised the need to encourage children to appreciate the arts of different cultures and forms.

The above curricula provide basic directions for music-appreciation teaching for local early childhood educators. Also, they confirm the perceived importance of including music appreciation in the curriculum for young children. However, the use of music from diversified cultures and forms may not yet be a common practice in the early childhood music contexts in Hong Kong There seems to be a gap between teachers' understanding of these theoretical principles and their possible practical implementations in the local context.

In an attempt to build upon the theoretical principles and the findings of Western research on early childhood music education, this study explored to what extent young children in Hong Kong benefited from a series of 16 music-appreciation activities which were a synthesis of three major approaches: world music, Orff Schulwerk and multimedia.

1) World music

World music is 'used broadly to encompass styles ranging from traditional music to globally marketed dance music with a traditional flavor' (Hart, 2003, p. 683). Sixteen world music excerpts were chosen in this study according to the different themes of each program (see Table 1). …