Music Learning – Benefits for the 21st Century

Papers, Abstracts and Bios

Below is the listing of the authors presenting at the conference, the abstracts of the papers and the presenter bios. Click on the abstract title for more information.

Author: Susan O’Neill

Transformative Music Engagement: Making Music Learning Matter
Abstract: To gain a better understanding of music learners in the 21st century we must first expand the lens through which we view their musical worlds. How do music learners navigate and find a sense of place in their musical worlds and how do they imagine the real world beyond their own experience? Drawing on recent studies by Research for Youth, Music and Education (RYME) with young people from across Canada, I will explore the characteristics of music engagement that motivate young people to initiate and sustain music learning, and the experiences that transform their music learning into a lifelong valuing of music making. Research shows that young people learn faster, retain more and make better conceptual connections when they are engaged with a sense of destination and empowered along the journey to transform their learning experiences in meaningful ways. My findings indicate that important changes are taking place in young people’s conceptions of identity as music learners with implications for motivation research and practice. I will present a transformative theory of music engagement that conceptualizes young people’s musical worlds as zones of complexity whereby expansive learning opportunities are created through convergence cultures, catalysts, and zones of contact. The implications for real world practice in music education will be presented with examples of interconnections that engage young people in participatory learning cultures. The key is understanding the blurring, blended, and braided nature of artistic engagement in the 21st century and the best ways to support the participatory turn that is associated with both constraints and possibilities for the future of music learning in a technological and globalized world.

Authors: Deanna C. C. Peluso and Susan O’Neill

Music and Media Infused Lives: Exploring Young People’s Interactive Use of Media and Informal Music Learning
Abstract: Technological advances in the 21st century have led to an age where a generation of learners is the first to have ubiquitous access to affordable and intuitive forms of media, as well as diverse and creative resources to express themselves through multiple modes of representation. They also have the ability to become literate in ways that are unlike any past generation, where communication and expression were primarily verbal and textual in nature. This study explores how youth are learning within music and media, what motivates and inspires them, and what obstacles and constraints may interfere in their sense of self in their music and media infused lives. Using a mixed-methods and a meaning systems analytical approach we examined all instances of music and media from an interview study of 93 youth, aged 10-18 years, from British Columbia. We will also report on the use of music and media from a survey of youth engagement in music by a large sample of youth from across Canada. Preliminary findings indicate that informal music learning (Green, 2001) involves an increasing convergence culture of old and new media (Jenkins, 2004) and interactive informal learning environments where multimodal learning is explored (Moreno & Mayer, 2007). These inherently complex ways of learning and communicating create diverse linguistic and socio-cultural contexts. The findings will be discussed in terms of what music educators can do to create expansive learning opportunities for youth based on how they are currently engaging in music and media in their everyday lives.

Author: Yaroslav Senyshyn

Music Learning and Cinema as Opera: Revisiting the Soundscape
Abstract: The notion of soundscape as developed by Murray Schafer (1969, 2009), Pauline Oliveros (2005), Barry Truax (1978) and Tadahiko Imada (2005, 2009) has been struggling ever since its inception to find a legitimate practice in all sectors of educational music learning. The resistance to it is undoubtedly related to music education’s prevalent, conservative tendencies in North American in favour of performance paradigms. Through philosophical methodology the author contextualizes the problem of illegitimacy of practice in terms of the dramatic and musical potentiality of cinema and opera as a metaphor for an inclusive notion of soundscape in music learning. The author draws on the cinema as opera in the critically acclaimed Western “Once Upon a Time in the West” as an example in which the analysis of the soundscape in this movie lends itself to an appreciation for Schafer’s conceptualization of the soundscape displaced into the cinema as an expansive understanding of opera in its metaphorical potentiality in cinematic art. Thus film director and composer have created a collaborative work of art for a ‘talking’ or ‘speaking’ opera, (not to be confused with Sprechstimme) albeit a very musical one as well, through the use of soundscape as keynote sounds, sound signals and soundmarks (Shafer, 1969, 1977, Schafer and Imada, 2009) and through more traditional operatic techniques and conventions. Through student awareness of a conscientious learning of soundscape in cinema that utilizes Schafer’s notions is a credible way for students to gain a legitimate sense of an operatic understanding.

Authors: David Erickson, Susan O’Neill and Yaroslav Senyshyn

Youth‐led Participatory Action Research: Building Purpose Through Personalized Music Learning
Abstract: Personalized learning is about tailoring learning environments to meet the needs of individual learners. To achieve authentically personalized learning in the music classroom, it is necessary to provide learning opportunities that are longer than the pervasive short lessons that fit the bell schedule (Hargreaves, 2006). With this goal in mind, we developed a curriculum project that engaged students in activities that fostered intentionality, reflection, identity development, and transformative learning during regular extended lunchtime meetings that took place over several months. The study used a collaborative methodology that braided artistically crafted research (Eisner, 1995) and participatory action research (Langhout and Thomas, 2010) with 12 students in Grades 7 and 8, their music teacher, and two university researchers. Students were encouraged to manipulate or interact within their own ecologies through a process of dialogue, inquiry, and shared meaning making that explored their own ideas about why music matters and the ideas of other students, teachers, musicians, and parents. The sessions were video recorded and the students provided written reflections of their experiences. Using reflexive analysis, the findings indicated that by encouraging the students to think about their own and others’ musical interests and concerns, they experienced a greater sense of empowerment, purpose, and contribution, as well as becoming more engaged in music learning and in their schooling overall. The project offers a promising approach for helping students develop a greater sense of autonomy, connection to their school community and each other, positive identity, and transformative learning experiences in the music classroom.

Authors: Kevin Bespflug, Susan O’Neill, Yaroslav Senyshyn

Meaningful Music Education for Middle Years Students: The Musical Futures Project in action at Southridge School
Abstract: For several months, fourty-four Grade 7 from two beginning band classes participated in a 10 session, two-phase project based on an innovative initiative from the UK called “Musical Futures”. In phase one, the students formed friendship groups and worked collaboratively to learn to play a song of their choice by “ear” without the use of notation or direct instruction. The objective was to have the students emulate the real-life practices of many beginning popular musicians. In phase two, the students wrote reflections, and common theme words to emerge amongst group members when then compiled into “word clouds”. The students also took part in a group inquiry project that engaged them in thinking about their experience working with their band, and how this learning compared with other ways they learn music. The objective of phase two was to allow students to explore issues such as authenticity, repetition, dedication and future musical opportunities. This project employed qualitative research, as students were observed and videotaped throughout the learning process, and their written reflections were analyzed. The final product of phase one, a performance of the songs, and the final product of phase two, a ‘press conference’ in which the students answered questions from their peers, were also observed and videotaped. Overall, the Musical Futures project helped these students to develop listening and performing skills, to increase their engagement in music education, and to develop leadership skills as they acted as initiators of the music making, learning and reflective processes.

Authors: Susan O’Neill, Yaroslav Senyshyn, Jim Sparks

Arts Matter: Action Research in Meaning Making
Abstract: The Arts Matter Collaborative Project involved 15 students in grades 8‐12 with majors in different arts disciplines (visual arts, dance, language arts, music, photography), researchers, and teachers from a Fine Arts School in British Columbia. The researchers and students met for eight sessions over the course of several months to explore knowledge and develop shared understandings about why the arts matter. Activities focused on dialogue, reflection, student‐led participatory action research, and multimodal representations of the “messages” that the students thought were important for increasing awareness and understanding about the value of arts engagement, particularly within their own school culture. The students worked on a variety of projects that enabled them to identify and express key messages about the arts that were important to them. Their key messages emerged through the students’ growing recognition of the valuable role they play in mentoring younger arts students (the school has students from Grade 1-12), and the expansive artistic and positive growth they experienced when engaged in integrated or multidisciplinary arts activities. The students also participated in a dialogue session with arts students in teacher education and a presentation of their diverse artistic representations of why arts matter. In this presentation, we will focus on the opportunities, constraints and key processes that emerged in developing and implementing this project and discuss directions for future projects to encourage integrated music and arts, and whole school involvement in inquiry, reflection and advocacy to strengthen connections between arts subjects and between the school and community.

Presenter Bios

Dr. Susan O’Neill
Dr Susan O’Neill is Associate Professor in Arts Education, Director of Research for Youth, Music and Education (RYME) and Director of the Arts Matter Learning Projects. Her interdisciplinary background includes graduate studies in three disciplines: MA in Music Performance Studies, MA in Education, PhD in Psychology. She is recipient of fellowships from the University of Michigan, USA (2001-2003) and the Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellowship at the University of Melbourne, Australia (2012). Her international collaborative research projects focus on artistic learning and transformative arts and music engagement through explorations of expansive learning opportunities and creative collaborations in and through multimodal and integrated arts, digital media, intergenerational relationships, critical arts education, learning partnerships, youth voice and arts for social change.
Dr. Yaroslav Senyshyn
Professor Yaroslav Senyshyn of Music and Moral Philosophy of Education studied at the Universities of Western Ontario and Toronto’s Faculty of Music and OISE. He is also a recording concert pianist (with the Platon Promotions label, iTunes, etc.) whose performances include recitals in Washington’s Kennedy Center, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Toronto’s St. Lawrence Centre, Moscow Conservatory’s Bolshoi Hall and, most recently, Melbourne Conservatory’s Melba Hall. He publishes extensively in international and national journals such as the Philosophy of Music Education Review, Musica-Realta, Interchange, the Journal of Educational Thought, Educational Leadership, the Canadian Journal of Education, and other publications. He is author of “The Artist in Crisis” (Platon Promotions Publishing) written to inspire all musical performers and artists alike who are in danger of quitting their musical art. In addition to his solo concert activities, Dr. Senyshyn performs with his wife, acclaimed scholar and flautist, Dr. Susan O’Neill.
Deanna C. C. Peluso
Deanna C. C. Peluso is a PhD Candidate at Simon Fraser University, where she is pursuing innovative research in the areas of music education, multimodal and media literacy, and participatory online cultures. Deanna is the Project Coordinator for RYME (Research for Youth, Music and Education), and under the direction of her doctoral supervisor, Dr. Susan O’Neill, their initial analyses of youth musical engagement revealed that youth are engaged in music, media and digital forms of communication and expression in increasingly multimodal ways. Deanna’s research builds on these findings through an extensive empirical investigation of youth engagement with music and digital and social media. In addition to examining the benefits and constraints of these contemporary mediums of musical learning, she is developing innovative methodologies using mobile devices, to investigate instances of motivation, emotional and social experiences, and “flow”, with measures concurrent with young people’s daily musical engagement with social media and participatory environments. Twitter: @dccp Website:
Dr. David Erickson
Dr. David Erickson teaches music at Minnekhada Middle School and was a sessional instructor at Simon Fraser University for the course “Designs for Learning: Music”. He obtained his PhD “Curricular and Pedagogical Reform: Transformative Opportunities for Personalized Learning in Middle School Music Environments” at Simon Fraser University in August 2012. His interests include formal and informal learning, child-centred education, and student-as-partner research. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Arts Education from Simon Fraser University. He received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Washington State University, while studying music performance and playing percussion in the student symphony and opera orchestras. He composed soundtracks for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and recorded with avant-garde musician Eugene Chadbourne for the C.B.C. and Entropy Stereo Recordings. His bands were featured on C.B.C. radio with Peter Gzowski and on Vancouver’s “99.3 the Fox”. He is currently a Simon Fraser University researcher in RYME.

Jim Sparks
Jim Sparks is director of vocal music at the Langley Fine Arts School in Fort Langley, B.C. With a Bachelor of Music degree (U.B.C.) and Masters of Music Degree in Choral Conducting (University of Arizona), Jim has been a school music educator and sessional faculty instructor at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. With support from the Canada Council, the Canadian Music Educators Association, the AIRS initiative and Simon Fraser University, Jim is pursuing collaborative singing research with choral music leaders around the world: Alina Orraca, Havana, Cuba; Joseph Muyale Inzai, Kenya; renowned Ukrainian conductor, Anatoliy Avdievski, Kiev, Ukraine; Helle Hoyer, Aarhus, Denmark. Jim is including this research in his PhD studies at SFU. Working with Dr. Susan O’Neill (SFU), Jim is both a Research Assistant on a SSHRC (MCRI)-funded project, Advancing Interdisciplinary Research on Singing (AIRS) as well as a Research Coordinator in a whole school initiative Arts Matter.
Dr. Kevin Bespflug
Kevin Bespflug has been teaching music and English at Southridge School, in Surrey, British Columbia, for ten years. He is the school’s Internal Evaluation Coordinator in preparation for an upcoming accreditation visit by the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools, a long-time member of the Professional Development Committee, and co-founder of the Junior School faculty’s Professional Reading Club. He is also a workshop leader and site visitor for the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme (MYP). Kevin holds a Ph.D. and M.Ed. in Arts Education from Simon Fraser University; a B.Ed. in Elementary Education and a B.A. in English from UBC; and an A.R.C.T. Piano Teacher’s Diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music. His research and teaching interests include integrated arts education, authentic performing arts experiences for children, and community building through the arts. He is excited to have worked with RYME researchers on two collaborative projects with grade six and seven students.