A Study on the Factors Influencing the Talent Development of a Musically Gifted Adolescent in Singapore Using Gagne's DMGT-Based Analysis

Article excerpt


Talent development in music is a complex phenomenon. The literature documents a number of musical talent developmental studies, broadly divided into those examining the effects of the characteristics of the environment (Bloom, 1985; Sloboda & Howe, 1991; Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius & Arnold, 2003), genetic and hereditary influences (Gagne, 2001; Scheinfeld, 1972), and musical training and practice (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer, 1993; Ericsson, Nandagopal & Roring, 2005). The differences in research focus stem from the argument of nature versus nurture in the existence of musical talent, suggesting that exceptional performance is entirely either the product of nature or nurture. In the context of music, Scheinfeld (1972) studied musically able children and claimed that 70% of them have musical parents, attributing individual differences, in part, to common genes among family members. Other musical development studies have noted that beyond innate abilities, there are many other psychological and sociological factors that can have significant impact on the development of musical expertise. These include the role of parental and familial environment (Bloom, 1985; Sloboda & Howe, 1991), schooling and teachers (Clark & Zimmerman, 1988; Subotnik, Jarvin, Moga, & Sternberg, 2003), intrapersonal (Pirrto, 1999; Winner & Martino, 2000) and prolonged effort and hard work (Ericsson, et al., 1993; Sloboda, Davidson, Howe, Moore, 1996).

The study takes on an exploratory approach to investigate the factors that influenced the musical talent growth of an adolescent in the Singapore context. Focusing on the musically gifted adolescent's musical experiences over a span of 10 years from the time she began her first piano lessons at four years of age to the present when she is an undergraduate at a music conservatory, the study draws out common themes from the adolescent, her parents and two of her teachers to create a picture of the factors that represented her talent emergence. The present research used Gagne's Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT, 2003) as a model, which groups a wide range of variable categories and encompasses a comprehensive list of causal factors into an interactive model of talent development. Termed by Gagne (2000) as an useful analytical tool, "DMGT-based analysis" (p. 71) is a systematic approach which uses the DMGT model as a classification tool to group relevant data and material from the study to be codified into categories and sub-categories in relation to the DMGT. Believing that talent development is a 'complex choreography' (Gagne, 2000, p. 67) of many factors, Gagne posits that almost anything can affect talent development and propounded the Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT: 2003) to illustrate the development of talent in any particular human activity. Gagne's model offers a useful framework in this study on musical talent development because it embraces all domains of gifts and talents and despite being recognized as one of the more prominent frameworks in studies of intellectual giftedness and other domains, it has not been widely used for the understanding of musical giftedness.

Background on case study

The case study focused on the musical experiences of fourteen-year-old Ling (pseudo name), who is an accomplished young pianist of Singapore-Chinese descent. Ling was chosen because she is regarded as one of the region's most promising young pianists ('Singapore's talented children', 5 Dec, 2003; 'Small wonders', 10 Feb, 2005). Ling is talented in music and excels academically. Raised in Singapore, she is the eldest in the family and has a twin brother. In the preliminary surveys, Ling was asked to give a profile of her academic and musical achievements. Ling was ranked among the top one percent in Singapore in an international Maths Competition sponsored by the University of New South Wales and was a high scorer in the Year 2004 Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) [1]. …