Can Musicians Alter the Music Preferences of Audiences?
The Effect of Pre-Performance Informational Presentations on Music Preference

A Simple and Practical Way to Integrate Music into the Elementary and Pre-School Classroom
by Brent Hugh
brent [at] brenthugh.com
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This is the abstract of my doctoral research project entitled, "Can Musicians Alter the Music Preferences of Audiences? The Effect of Pre-Performance Informational Presentations on Music Preference." The entire paper is not available online at this time, but I have an electronic version that I can email to interested individuals. Just email if you would like a copy.

An investigation explored the influence of pre-performance informational presentations on audience preference for classical piano works.

Using a latin-square experimental design, three treatments were compared: (N) no introduction of musical work, (ID) introduction of musical work by discussion, and (IP) introduction of musical work by a short dramatic play involving audience members.

Subjects were students (lower elementary, n=48; upper elementary, n=48; middle school, n=78; and high school, n=255) and audiences at four concerts open to the public (n=234).

Results showed that, for the aggregate of all audiences studied, works receiving treatment ID received a significantly higher preference rating than works receiving treatment N. For the aggregate of elementary and middle-school audiences, treatment N was associated with the lowest preference ratings, ID produced higher preference ratings, and IP produced the highest preference ratings. The difference (ID + IP) - N was significant but ID - IP was non-significant.

Response of different age groups to the treatments was investigated. For audiences at public concerts, the results were consistent with the aging stability model of attitude change, which posits a steady decrease in attitude changeability with age. For school groups, younger students showed more response to treatment ID than older students; this finding did not rise to the level of significance but does suggest that the impressionable years model of attitude change (a strong hardening of musical attitude after the impressionable years, approx. age 10-13) may apply to school groups.

School groups' aggregate response to treatment ID was significantly lower than that of concert audiences of similar age; the difference may be attributable to the fact that recital audiences were self-selected and interested in classical music. Different age school groups responded differently to treatments ID and IP, suggesting that matching the type of presentation to the interest and capacity of each age group increases effectiveness.

Reasons are put forward for the hardening of musical attitudes over the lifespan: the neural network model of learning suggests that decreasing changeability of attitude over time is necessary for the development of discriminating taste. Yet, a very slow decrease in this changeability of attitude is preferable for developing both broader and more accurate knowledge. Implications of this and other findings are discussed from the point of view of both the music educator and of the music performer.

These ideas are based on my research into music preference over the lifespan. More ideas, information and references relating to this research can be found at www.sunflower.org/~bhugh/musicpreference.spm. Some songs I have written to us with young people are available for free download at mp3.com/musiciq. Email: bhugh@mwsc.edu