Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Researching the First Year of the National Singing Programme Sing Up in England: An Initial Impact Evaluation

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Researching the First Year of the National Singing Programme Sing Up in England: An Initial Impact Evaluation

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT - The article reports on the first year of an independent evaluation of the National Singing Programme 'Sing Up' (2007-2011) in England. The aim of the Sing Up Programme is to provide all primary-aged children (up to the age of 11 years) with opportunities for singing under high quality vocal leadership both within their school curriculum and outside of school on a regular basis. As part of the evaluation, members of the research team visited 81 schools across England, and assessed the singing behavior and development of 3,762 individual children using the combination of two established rating scales. The focus was on providing an initial profile of children's singing prior to the launch of the National Programme and, subsequently later in the first year, to conduct a small number of additional visits to see if there was any evidence of early impact. The results confirm that children's singing is subject to developmental processes, with variations related to sex, age and ethnicity. There is also some evidence that, notwithstanding such variations, a programme of sustained singing education can have a positive benefit on children's singing behaviors and development.

KEYWORDS - children's singing development, Sing Up

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

Research suggests that singing behaviors are subject to developmental processes in which individual neuropsychobiological potentiality is shaped (nurtured and/or hindered) by learning experiences within sociocultural contexts (Knight, 2010; Welch, 2007, 2011). Although singing is commonplace, it is also marked by cultural diversity, with development related to opportunity (e.g., Mang, 2007), the prosodie features of indigenous languages (Azechi, 2008), as well as the dominant characteristics of the local musical soundscapes (Welch, 2006a, 2006b, 2011; Welch, Sergeant, & White, 1997).

In many parts of the world, the ability to sing is a mark of an individual's underlying musicality (cf. Sloboda, Wise, & Peretz, 2005). Consequently, those individuals whose singing development has been hindered in some way are often labelled (including self-labelled) in some absolutist sense under a bipolar categorization of 'can'/'cannot' sing, with variations in their ascribed musical identity as a 'non-singer', 'tone-deaf', or 'tone-dumb' being found in virtually all cultures. Yet, as mentioned above, contrary evidence from developmental and neurological studies continues to emerge that singing and musical behaviors are context bound and susceptible to improvement with appropriate experience which can be informal as well as formal (e.g., Brown, Martínez, Hodges, Fox, & Parsons, 2004; Dalla Bella, Giguère, & Peretz 2007; Fuchs et al., 2007; Kleber, Veit, Birbaumer, & Lotze, 2007; Koelsch, Fritz, Schulze, Alsop, & Schlaug, 2005; Mang, 2006, 2007; Mithen & Parsons, 2008; Stewart & Williamen, 2008; Welch et al., 2008; see Welch, 2006a for review).

Furthermore, the recent wealth of studies into the neurosciences and music (cf. Avanzini, Faienza, Minciacchi, Lopez, & Majno, 2003; Avanzini, Koelsch, Lopez, & Majno, 2005) continue to amass evidence of the multi-sited representation of musical behaviors in various regions of the brain, including singing (Kleber et al., 2007). These and related studies also indicate that there are various other-than-musical benefits that can accrue for the individual from engaging in musical (including singing) activity, such as related to physical and psychological health and well-being (Clift & Hancox, 2001; Clift et al., 2007; Kreutz, Bongard, Rohrmann, Hodapp, & Grebe, 2004; Welch, 2005), social skill development and social inclusion (Odena, 2007; Portowitz, Lichtenstein, Egorova, & Brand, 2009) and cognitive development (Schlaug, Norton, Overy, & Winner, 2005).

Therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that music is figuring more significantly in the contemporary educational policies of several of the world's governments. …

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