Recognising and developing musical gift and talent

Jaap, Angela Sarah (2011) Recognising and developing musical gift and talent. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
Download (2MB) | Preview
Printed Thesis Information:


The focus of this thesis is an exploration of how musical talent is developed. It also considers the usefulness of the terms gift and talent. The research examines contemporary issues relating to the recognition and musical development of gifted and talented young musicians in Scotland. While the terms gift and talent are applied regularly to describe the abilities of learners, they are societal constructs (Borland 2005) used to categorise children’s learning behaviours. These constructs can therefore influence an individual’s self-concept and approach to tasks (Dweck 2000) leaving the individual to believe that he/she possesses ability or not.

Although this thesis does not attempt to re-conceptualise the construct of musical gift or talent, it aims to provide a greater understanding of how musical talent is developed in young people. It does this through literature analysis and empirical data collection. The thesis begins by analysing research literature to explore constructs of gift and talent, before relating this analysis to music-specific literature and to the empirical data collected during the course of the doctoral research. The empirical data was collected from four sources: professional musicians, current music students, teaching staff (music instructors/teachers and project co-ordinators/course leaders) and from pupils at a National Centre of Excellence (NCE).

Through analysing literature on high ability from both general high ability studies and music-specific studies, it became apparent that there has been a development in thinking over the course of the 20th century, with a move away from ability being associated with IQ scores towards a more broadly-based consideration of the needs of the individual learner. However, the research literature indicates that teachers and society seem to focus more on the negative aspects of labelling children as gifted and talented and on the implications for the learner as well as those around them. In terms of the original data gathered from professional musicians, teachers, programme leaders/coordinators, students and school pupils, a more contemporary concept of musicianship has emerged. While the terms ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ were used by the participant groups, the terms were not solely associated with music. Technical ability and proficiency were identified as desirable for music talent development by some participants. Equally important were more general skills such as interest, communication, people- and self-management and team work. Therefore the gifted, talented or highly able musician, to these participants, not only possess a high level of musical skill but a ratio of musical, general and transferable skills.

The findings from this thesis suggest that the development of musical ability is not purely reliant on musical technique, but consists of a variety of different ‘general’ transferable skills. In addition to this, the doctoral research argues for the importance of the role of self-efficacy and resilience in attaining learning goals and achieving learning aims for pupils and students. The participants in this research were able to identify particular events which they consider either enhanced or delimited their experiences, noting how they managed each situation in order to manage their development. From this it would appear that if a learner can achieve a high level of self-efficacy they might be more likely to successfully develop their ability, regardless of the subject area in which the ability is shown.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Music, high ability, gift, talent, musical gift and talent, self-efficacy, resilience, mindsets
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Patrick, Dr. Fiona and McPhee, Dr. Alastair
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Miss Angela S Jaap
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2994
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2011
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2014 09:07

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year