Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Understanding Mothers' Perspectives on Early Childhood Music Programmes

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Understanding Mothers' Perspectives on Early Childhood Music Programmes

Article excerpt


My research looks at the responses of mothers who have chosen to participate in early childhood music education with their under-fives and what they feel their children will gain by attending. I have been facilitating music classes for children from 12 months of age to five years of age for the past 14 years, the last 12 years being in Australia.

I offer a developmental music programme, based on the principles of Kodaly and Dalcroze, and many families choose to participate in the programme for many years. Active parental involvement is encouraged and subsequently families with more than one child may eventually, by way of siblings attending, remain in the programme for several years. Parents play a crucial role in introducing and nurturing their child's musical development (Cooper & Cardany, 2008; Dai & Schader, 2001, 2002; McPherson, 2009) and their interest and encouragement is vital to motivate and support children to participate and continue (Berger & Cooper, 2003; Custodero & Johnson-Green, 2003; Dai & Schader, 2002; Feierabend, 1990; McPherson, 2009).

These parents all seem generally aware of research that states that 'music makes you smarter' and without doubt have been influenced by parenting literature espousing the benefits of enrichment classes and early intervention for young children (Temmerman, 2000). This study seeks to highlight what mothers actually perceive the benefits to be from attending early years music classes for their children. We also see what these parents value most about the classes and why they have chosen music specifically.

Review of Literature

Music education research

Early childhood music is well-recognised as developing cognitive, physical, social, emotional and language skills in the child, in addition to developing musical abilities (Cooper & Cardany, 2008; Dai & Schader, 2002; Davidson & Borthwick, 2002; Koops, 2011; McPherson, 2009; Mackenzie & Clift, 2008; Temmerman, 2000; Rauscher & Hinton, 2011; Vlismas & Bowes, 1999; Young, 2008).

Educational research into early years music classes and parental involvement has focused on 'musical parenting', that is, parent-child interactions and engagement around music, parents' aspirations and objectives for their child's musical development and behaviour associated with developing a musical child. Studies have explored music in the home (Barrett, 2009; Custodero & Johnson-Green, 2003; De Vries, 2009) or designed specific programmes to expose the positive benefits for children of participation in these classes and what musical play can bring (Berger & Cooper, 2003; Cooper & Cardany, 2008; Custodero, 2006; Custodero & Johnson-Green, 2003; Gudmundsdottir & Gudmundsdottir, 2010; Ilari, 2005; Ilari, Moura & Bourscheidt, 2011; Koops, 2011;Vlismas & Bowes, 1999).

Davidson and Borthwick (2002) believe parents are the 'key determining factor in the child's overall motivation' to pursue musical activities (p.123). McPherson (2009) and Pomerantz and Dong (2006) concur, stating parents' beliefs in their child's ability in music determines how successful they will be. McPherson (2009) addresses parental preconceived ideas on music classes stating that:

Children's performance on specific tasks is influenced heavily by the degree to which they expect their engagement to be interesting, important, useful and difficult, their valuing of the activity, and their feelings of competence and confidence ... these attributes are established even before children arrive at their first music lessons as a result of interactions with their parents, who shape their expectations and valuing of music as well as their educational attainment. (McPherson, 2009, p. 100)

McPherson (2009) details the important role of parents' music-making to 'enable their children to positively approach achievement through an innate need to feel, competent, autonomous, related and purposeful' (p. …

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