The following could be a true but not unique story:
Laura had everything going for her. From the age of 6 she had weekly violin
lessons with outstanding teachers. Her parents spared no expense on her. She
started winning competitions at a young age, and at 12 she won a coveted
place in a preparatory program at a prestigious conservatory. Yet after gradu-
ating from high school, she abandoned the study of music altogether, sold her
violin, and enrolled as a science major in college.
To provide a clear account of what allowed Laura to achieve so much with music—and then change life direction so abruptly—we turn to the psychology of motivation. This is a critical consideration for those trying to improve their own musicianship or for teachers and parents of young musicians. As an aspiring performer, it is one thing to know what you need to do to improve your skills, but it is quite another thing to actually do it. Similarly, it is easy for a teacher to write down a list of exercises to be practiced but much more difficult to get students to carry them out. Often musicians and teachers talk about motivation as a feeling or inner desire. But to study motivation, we have to look to its manifestations as behaviors, such as a young child saying he wants to learn to play the trumpet, a teenager continuing her music studies in school when others have dropped out, or a collegiate musician employing special strategies to maximize his practice time (Maehr, Pintrich, & Linnenbrink, 2002).
Multiple sources of motivation exist in the lives of musicians. One simple way of understanding these many sources is to categorize them as intrinsic versus extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from the activity itself and the enjoyment experienced from engaging in it. In general, people make music because of the enjoyment and fulfillment they get from doing it. However, because