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Institute of Education research links exposure to classical music with enhanced listening skills

13 January 2014

Opportunities to listen extensively to classical music in the early years of primary school are likely to lead to children appreciating a wider range of music in later years, according to a study by Sue Hallam of the Institute of Education (IOE).    

Professor Hallam carried out the research to evaluate the effectiveness of Apollo Music Projects, a music education programme which brings live classical music to children who might not otherwise experience it. The evaluation of the programme showed that children had a positive reaction and had not developed any prejudices against classical music.    

During the course of the project children listened to a range of music including Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Ravel, Shostakovich and Mendelssohn. Hallam’s research found that the process of listening to live classical repertoire enabled children to enhance their listening skills and develop other skills needed for careful listening, including concentration and self-discipline.     

Hallam said: ‘This music programme is unique in focusing on developing children's listening skills through guided exposure to classical music. There is no dumbing down in this programme. It recognises the ability of children to respond to sophisticated ideas and provides them with an opportunity to explore their feelings and use their imagination. Teachers also found an improvement in a range of the children's skills but particularly listening.’    

The programme was originally developed by Apollo Music Projects in partnership with Hackney Music Service. This is the tenth year that it has been delivered in primary schools in Hackney and Tower Hamlets and it is now expanding into neighbouring boroughs.     

Mary Igoe, head teacher of one of the schools involved, said: ‘Working with Apollo Music Projects brings a new dimension to our pupils' appreciation of music. For many of the children it is the first time they have experienced musicians playing classical music before their eyes. There is delight as the sound fills their own classroom and excitement when they attend a public concert. The skills of careful listening and differentiating musical sounds transfer to other areas of the curriculum and improve their ability to concentrate and attend to details.’ 

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