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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mapping how students conceptualize ancillary movements in instrumental music performance MacLennan, Donald Scott


Music theorists have emphasized the intellectual, disembodied mind throughout music education’s history in Western culture extending back to the time of the ancient Greeks. Additionally, Regelski (2009) notes that the dominant and residual view of music curriculum involves the contemplation of music for its own sake (i.e., autonomous “works”) instead of experiencing it through action. Yet pioneering advocates for movement in music education, including Jaques-Dalcroze, Orff, Kodály, and Suzuki, all affirmed and emphasized the centrality of the body in music making and learning. Present-day instrumental music teachers’ proclivity toward teaching to the minds of their students (marginalizing physical action) seems incongruous with the views of these pioneers, especially when one considers the prevalence of movement and dance in contemporary popular music culture. When instrumental music teachers focus on teaching to the minds of their students, they ignore the importance of the students’ ancillary movements, those physical movements not directly involved in the production of sound (e.g., leaning forward, swaying side to side). Research on the importance of ancillary movements in the experiences of adolescent students studying instrumental music is sorely lacking. I thus undertook a two-month study utilizing a phenomenographic approach, which involves identifying and describing the varied conceptions of a phenomenon held by the members of a group collectively, not individual conceptions. I used interviews and student journals to map the different conceptions 24 adolescent instrumental music students have of ancillary movements. I found that ancillary movements reflect students’ degree of engagement with music-making and that these movements hold important meanings for them. Participants’ statements suggested that students become more engaged with music they are performing when they 1) are given freedom to make their own natural ancillary movements, 2) feel confident with their music skills (i.e., balance between challenge and skills), 3) do not feel self conscious about what others might think, and 4) discover that their teachers support ancillary movements. Moreover, students’ descriptions of their conceptions revealed increasingly complex understandings of ancillary movements, suggesting ways in which educators might develop more embodied approaches to teaching instrumental music.

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