In this paper I describe the manifold effects of a concerted music program on an individual child--'Jonathan'. Over 15 weeks one music session per week was held with a group of 17 three to four year old children in a community child care centre; Jonathan was one of these children. In the music sessions the children were encouraged to explore different aspects of music: the sounds, rhythmic patterns and copresence of different 'voices' that constitute music; the shape, feel and utilities of musical instruments; and the relationship between their own activities and music (learning that clapping is a form of music or realizing the emotion of singing).
A second theme of the project was cultural diversity. Songs that were introduced had different cultural backgrounds (traditional English, African or Japanese songs, but also commercial songs pertaining to cartoon series). Instruments used varied widely in design and make and reflected different cultures and musical sounds; the variety ranging from a variety of drums to rain-sticks. Both pitched and percussion instruments were used
A key aim of the project was to encourage the children to explore music in a way they liked most. Therefore the program varied between formal music groups, during which core competencies such as rhythmic motor training were practised in the context of dance, and spontaneous, explorative play with the available materials, or even spontaneous group activities if the initiative came from the children.
In addition to music sessions the research involved designing a 'music learning centre' inspired by a 'child-centred and child choice approach', inviting children to experiment with a variety of musical concepts through spontaneous play. Musical instruments, music and story books, a special shelf to display cultural artefacts and a regular display on the music program were featured in this music area. The children had opportunities to discover, explore, and create music in a variety of forms of dancing, singing, instrument playing, chanting or a combination of some or all of the forms.
Participants in this project included the children, parents, staff and the researcher (in this case myself) who all contributed to the program and its outcomes. In a recent publication (Vuckovic, 2009) I discussed the parent participation in this project and reported that active participation had been difficult to obtain and overall communication about the music program less than planned. Nevertheless, as Carr (2001) emphasizes, the collaboration of all stakeholders (children, parents, staff, others) with mutual respect for one another is at the hard end of the socio-cultural model, which was embraced as the framework for the project.
Methods and participants
The following discussion of Jonathan's activities and the progression of his exploration of the music presented during the project is an assessment based on a multitude of methods. I provided parents with surveys about family attitudes to music, musical experiences available in the home and their impressions of their child's interest and understanding of music. I also talked to them informally when the opportunity arose (they actually often came and talked to me about things that happened at home and noting these spontaneous conversations proved more valuable for the project than the surveys I had designed). The staff was interviewed to learn more about the children and their musical activities at times when I was not present at the child care centre. I also spoke to the children directly, asked them about their music experiences at home, at the centre and their likes and dislikes in terms of music and music-related activities. Many of my impressions were documented as annotated observational descriptions or annotated photographs. I summarized and interpreted the data by creating learning stories (Carr, 2001).
A learning story is an episodic narrative with a particular thematic focus. …