Having professional music training (G.G.S.M. London) and being a qualified teacher (Music Teacher's Certificate, Institute of Education, London), I have spent most of my working life as a peripatetic and private music teacher.
A move from Suffolk to Shropshire in 1998 opened the way for me to pursue further training in two different but complementary ways.
Firstly, having experienced singing through singing in and directing church choirs, my interest in musical development was stimulated in a different way when I studied with the Szilvay Foundation. I qualified as a Music Kindergarten teacher, CSAK Cert. (Music Kindergarten), and worked with children aged 2-5 years. This training, following Kodaly music education principles, focused on the importance of singing as the basis for musical development from birth onwards.
Secondly, my interest in psychology, which began as part of my teacher training and teaching experience. As I was now near enough to Keele University to consider post-graduate study in psychology combined with music, I took the opportunity to develop this further. I became a post-graduate student in 1999, studying part-time for an MSc (Music Psychology), graduating in 2002.
I have continued my link to Keele as an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Psychology to pursue my music psychology research interests, collaborating with Professor Alexandra Lamont.
I am particularly interested in applied psychology, carrying out research that can lead to a greater understanding of and identifying appropriate ways for encouraging musical development at any age.
My research has included:
- Children’s singing development in early schooling
- A longitudinal study of children’s singing development
- An exploration of the influences of home, culture, and school on musical identity in primary school children, in a multi-ethnic context
- Exploring ways for people who become profoundly deaf as an adult to regain the ability to sing in tune by sensing musical vibrations.
Research and scholarship
My MSc research dissertation explored the effects of class music lessons on children’s singing ability in Early Years schooling (ages 4+-6). Following graduation, this project was extended to create a longitudinal aspect by following up the same children 2 years later. This demonstrated the importance of using appropriate teaching methods for this age-group, including teacher awareness of the complexity of the songs used in schools and the need to use an age-appropriate pitch range.
I am also interested in how the idea of being ‘musical’ and expressions positive musical self-identity develop and what might hinder this development. This project, ‘Bridging the Gaps’, was carried out in two inner-city, multi-ethnic primary schools. Both valued music as an integral part of the curriculum but used it in different ways. Part of this project asked the children to ‘Draw a picture of ‘A musician’.
A further area of interest that follows on from this project but has not yet been explored –
What aspects of learning to sing or play an instrument encourage or discourage people to consider themselves musical enough to want to continue singing or playing with others in adulthood?
I would like to compare those who had singing or instrumental lessons in childhood, or who taught themselves, and continued their singing or playing as adults, with those who did not continue singing or playing as adults.
Is it the method of learning – School music? Learning with the Suzuki approach? Kodaly-based early music experiences? Music exams? Being part of an adult music-making community e.g. Folk music? Brass Band? Choir? Friendship groups? Or something else?
If you have any experiences that link to this question, I would be very pleased to hear from you.
More recently, I have had the opportunity to explore how people who have become profoundly deaf in adulthood might be able to use musical vibrations to access music again. This small project with one person, who became suddenly completely deaf, has shown that sensing vibrations is the access point to perceiving musical pitch accurately. With detailed testing and taking a ‘co-creative’ approach to the training sessions, over several months, our participant was able to identify pitch patterns and learn to turn these into the ability for her to sing what she was sensing from the vibrations. This led to learning two new songs and to regaining the ability to sing in tune sufficiently well to join in with hearing singers. This project also compared her learning strategies with those of some other adults, who thought they could not sing but wanted to find out if they could learn to sing. They took part individually, using the same testing and training sessions as the deaf participant, except that they used normal hearing to access the music.
My projects have all been funded by ‘Arnold Bentley New Initiatives’ Awards from SEMPRE (Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research).
I have also worked with Professor Alexandra Lamont, as a research assistant, in the evaluation of an intervention project using whole-class instrumental lessons, for which I also designed of many of the test materials. I have also contributed to other projects.
I am a member of the following:
- SEMPRE (Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research).
- Centre for Psychological Research within Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Children and Young People in Society’ group.
- Leighton, G.S. & Lamont, A.M. (2006) Exploring Children’s Singing Development: Do experiences in early school help or hinder? Music Education Research, 8(3) 311-330
- In: Lamont, A. (2017). Musical identity, interest, and involvement. In: R.A.R. MacDonald, D.J. Hargreaves & D.E. Miell (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Musical Identities (pp. 176-196). Oxford University Press.
- Spoken Presentation 22nd October 2021 Ways back into singing after experiencing sudden, bilateral, permanent deafness – reporting the findings from two exploratory studies. SEMPRE Autumn 2021 Conference: Engaging and Interacting with Education, Music and Psychology Research (hosted by Keele University)
- Presentation Lamont, A. (2019) Moving towards music: motivation, identity, agency, and co-ordination in musical engagement in the early years. Music and the Early Years Research Conference (EU-MERYC), Ghent, Belgium.
- [included references to the ‘Please draw a Musician’ pictures from our earlier ‘Bridging the Gaps’ project]
- Poster Presentation 20th November 2017 Keele University. Launch of Children and Young People’s Research Network, Keele. Presentation of my earlier research relating to young children’s singing development.
- Spoken Presentation and Poster 2013 August 28 – 1 Sept. European String Teachers’ International Conference, Oxford University
- Presentation ‘A musician is ...’ – windows into children’s musical self-identity’
- Poster ‘A musician is ...’ – windows into children’s musical self-identity’
- Conference for stringed instrument teachers with delegates from Europe and further afield. There were opportunities for talking with many delegates about the poster and after the spoken presentation at this conference. I received several positive email comments, with requests for further information.
- Spoken presentation 2013 Oct. Keele University HUMSS ‘Showcase’ Impact event
- 'A musician is .....’ - helping teachers to recognise the importance of children's musical self-identity.
- This was an opportunity to share the findings and impact of my research with researchers from other disciplines within the RI. It generated interesting reminiscences of childhood musical experiences and their impact on their sense of being ‘musical’ from several people present.
- Spoken Presentation April 12- 16 2011: ‘A musician is ........’ – windows into children’s musical self-identity’. 7th International Conference for Research in Music Education, University of Exeter.
- Spoken Presentation March 5 2011: ‘Opportunity and choice – Encouraging children to develop positive musical identity’. SEMPRE Conference on ‘Developing the Musician’, University of Reading
- Spoken Presentation 10-12 September 2008: ‘Bridging the Gaps – the effects of parent and teacher musical expectations on primary school children’s musical identities’. Second European Conference on Developmental Psychology of Music at Roehampton University, London
- Vocal Consultation Conference 25-26 April 2007, Trinity College, London. Invited delegate
- Poster April 2007: Contributor to poster ‘Exploring Contexts in Music Education’ Geraldine Leighton, Jodie Underhill and Alexandra Lamont, Research in Music Education Conference, Exeter
- Spoken Presentation August 4 2005 (invited speaker): ‘How well are they really singing? – an investigation of the singing ability of individual children in a class-singing context’. Association of the Teachers of Singing Conference, Birmingham April
- Poster July 2005: ‘How well are they really singing? – an investigation of the singing ability of individual children in a class-singing context’ Mtpp Conference, Reading
- Spoken Presentation March 6 2004 (invited speaker): ‘Does the singing context influence how young children perform the melody of a song?’ EARS forum, Cambridge
- Poster October 25 2003: ‘Does the singing context influence how young children perform the melody of a song?’ SEMPRE Keele University, UK
- Spoken Presentation April 12 2003: ‘Meeting the needs of young ‘developing’ singers in school – a study of song-learning accuracy’ Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research, University of Surrey Roehampton, UK.
- Spoken Presentation April 8-12 2003: ‘Meeting the needs of young ‘developing’ singers in school – a study of song-learning accuracy’ Third International Research In Music Education Conference, Exeter, UK.
- Poster April 2002: ‘Factors influencing song-learning accuracy in young children’ Society for Research in Psychology of Music and Music Education: Royal College of Music, London, UK.