Chances and Choices: Exploring the Impact of Music Education

Chances and Choices: Exploring the Impact of Music Education

Chances and Choices: Exploring the Impact of Music Education

Chances and Choices: Exploring the Impact of Music Education

Synopsis

In Chances and Choices, Stephanie Pitts surveys the aims and impact of formative musical experiences, evaluating the extent to which music education of various kinds provides a foundation for lifelong involvement and interest in music. Pitts draws upon rich qualitative data from her own extensive original study of over 100 adults with an active interest in music in the UK and Italy to address several key themes in the study of music education. Intertwined with discussion of topics such as music education policy and the role that music teachers and other role models play in nurturing musicians are first person 'interludes' that showcase the stories and voices of the research participants as they reflect upon the influences and opportunities that shaped their musical life histories. Pitts' analysis adds valuable context to these stories, illuminating the historical and contemporary debates about music education and proposing ways in which school music might better prepare young people for continued participation in music throughout their lives. A companion website contains Pitts' data sets and analytical frameworks; the website also features an interactive database through which readers can share their own musical life histories and search others that have been contributed there. Shedding new light on the long-term effects of music education, Chances and Choices is an important resource to understand how we can encourage lasting engagement with music and other cultural activities in every individual.

Excerpt

1.1 Whose Story? Defining and Interpreting Musical
Life Histories

GETTING AT THE “TRUTH” of what happens during a school day is no easy task. Parents ask their children what they have done at school and are told “nothing much” or “it was fine”. Quality assurance inspectors compile statistics on pupil attendance and attainment and make observations of teachers, whose stress at the inspection process causes them to behave unnaturally. Researchers run focus groups, distribute questionnaires, interview students and teachers, but still gain only an outsider’s perspective on the multiple experiences of education in any classroom. The students themselves, meanwhile, might perceive the intentions and even the content of a lesson quite differently from their teacher, relating their school experience to their wider social world in individual and unpredictable ways. The experiences and effects of learning in school are understood differently by all involved and are recalled through many layers of interpretation in later years.

Harder still, then, is to understand the impact of what happened during those school days upon later life experience, attitudes, and ambitions. The influences of childhood are closely intertwined, such that the attitudes of an encouraging (or discouraging) teacher are mediated by the response (or lack of) in the home to news of successes (or disappointments) in school. Parental experiences of education and their life ambitions and social values—as well as their genetic material—shape children’s expectations of school and . . .

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