The Art of Listening: Listening Skill Development, Classical Music Appreciation, and Personal Response through Visual Art in a Middle School Program

By Smiraglia, Christina; Asaah, Gordon Divine et al. | Research and Issues in Music Education (RIME), September 2018 | Go to article overview

The Art of Listening: Listening Skill Development, Classical Music Appreciation, and Personal Response through Visual Art in a Middle School Program


Smiraglia, Christina, Asaah, Gordon Divine, Lacerda, Hanako Sawada, Research and Issues in Music Education (RIME)


Introduction

Considering students' interests and needs related to music education is important for high interest, engagement, and a thorough music education (Kaschub & Smith, 2014) as well as to create personal connections between students and subject matter. One program that tackles this issue by providing supplemental music education as a field trip opportunity is the Edinburgh International Festival's (EIF) Art of Listening program. Even though the focus of the EIF's work is their annual festival of the same name, the Scottish organization also offers year-round classical music programming for a variety of audiences, including school groups. The program moves beyond simply offering music appreciation or music history by facilitating interactive student explorations of what it means to listen, live professional musical performances, and personal responses to music through visual art creation, in addition to covering the history, elements, and popular contemporary uses of Western classical music.

There is an abundance of research on how to develop students' listening skills (see Arcavi & Isoda, 2007; Jalongo, 1996; Norkunas, 2011; Sims, 2005; Smialek & Boburka, 2006; Thompson, Leintz, Nevers, & Witkowski, 2004; and Wilson, 2003). Thompson et al. (2004) offered a four-stage model for effective listening that included preparation, listening process model application, evaluation, and future goal setting. More recently, Kerchner (2014) discussed best practices and expanding listening skills to strengthen theoretical understandings and concrete ways of applying musical listening, which eventually lead to musical enjoyment. The purpose of listening skill development can range from understanding the historical context of music and discovering new genres or traditions of music to learning specific elements of music (Kaschub & Smith, 2014). Besides being a key element of music education, listening is also important for students in general social interactions--in the classroom and beyond. However, we have found no studies of programs that combine the development of student listening skills with imaginative personal responses to listening through visual art.

Studies exploring visual art's impact on cultivating imagination and providing opportunities of expression are plentiful (see Alerby, 2000; Ozsoy, 2012; and Villarroel & Infante, 2014). Often, students' responses through art are analyzed to understand their cognitive abilities (Lambert, 2005), communication skills (Watts & Garza, 2008), knowledge of serious subjects such as death (Marsal & Dobashi, 2011) or the environment (Alerby, 2000), cultural values (Andersson, 1995), or general intellectual acuity (Brooks, 2009). However, almost no research has been done on programs that use visual art to capture responses to music. Kerchner (2014) discussed the use of listening maps, in which students translate what they hear into personal, non-standard musical notation and also create visual images illustrating personal connections to music, but examples are otherwise lacking.

Although much has been written on how to promote interest in Western classical music (see DePascale, 2003; Green & Hale, 2011; Kolb, 2000; Levin, Pargas, & Austin, 2005; Shuler, 2011; and Woody & Burns, 2001), less is known about how to break down preconceptions about the genre. Kolb (2000) lamented the dearth of research on the attitudes and preferences of university students about music. She explored university students' preconceptions about classical music and found beliefs that classical music concerts were expensive and that concertgoers were well-to-do economically, older, and possessed some requisite "special knowledge" (p. 17) about classical music. Although responses after attending a classical concert were mixed--depending on the particular concert students had taken part in--the students generally enjoyed the classical music (Kolb, 2000). …

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