Working with children at Hackney New Primary School

In October, Katie and Alice visited Hackney New Primary School to work with children from reception and year 1 classes. The children and staff have just moved into their new building which was under construction during the past two years whilst the school were in temporary accommodation.

Children in the Hackney New Primary School playground

Hackney New Primary School are a unique school who put music at the core of their curriculum for all children, starting in reception at ages 4-5 years. 

KS1 student during a music class

Alice and Katie have been asked to evaluate the impact that the daily music training is having on the children’s development across the primary years.
During this months visit, the team began this work by piloting two different aspects of evaluation: understanding the musical curricular and working on new ways of measuring children’s musical skills between ages 4-6 years.

A year 1 student with his violin

This research will continue over the coming years. Updates and findings will be published here – please sign up to our newsletter to keep up-to-date!

Musical Chairs 2019!

On Saturday 16th November 2019 Katie took part in Orchestras for All’s “Musical Chairs” event, helping to raise money for the organisation. People signed up to be members of a very special orchestra, with all the players playing instruments that were completely new to them. After a few weeks of practice, Katie managed to get some notes out of the saxophone (her first instrument is the flute), and joined others in the wind section. Guided by some of the members of the National Orchestra for All, the orchestra performed a selection of pieces from this season’s repertoire, including Verdi’s Anvil Chorus and a rousing Ghanaian song A Keelie Makolay.

Katie joins the saxophone section for Musical Chairs 2019

A great day was had by all, and the event raised £21,400 for dedicated young musicians leading complex lives. We will definitely be signing up again next year… maybe trying the cello next time! Thank you for a wonderful day Orchestras for All! 

British Psychological Society, CogDev 2019 Conference

Music and Cognition at CogDev 2019

Katie attended The BPS Cognitive Psychology Section and Developmental Psychology Section joint conference in Stoke on Trent, 4-6 September 2019. 

The conference hosted Psychologists from all over the UK presenting their work in cognitive and developmental psychology, covering a wide variety of topics from executive functioning, attention, language and literacy, to the development of social and emotional wellbeing. 

Katie also presented work from her PhD looking at executive function in deaf children

Katie presented our work looking at how task presentation can impact children’s performance on an inhibition task. We found that when a peg tapping task is presented with predicable timings (as opposed to unpredictable), children do better on the task. This has important implications for the way in which researchers and other practitioners use certain tests to assess ability – and it generated a lot of interest, conversation and positive feedback from conference attendees.  

We will be publishing our findings on this study soon, so watch this space! 

SMPC conference in New York

In August, I travelled to the US for the Society for Music Perception and Cognition (SMPC) conference at New York University.

The conference featured lots of the latest research happening around the world in music cognition and perception. 
I won a Sempre conference grant to attend the conference as well as to learn more about the research of ‘Learning Lab‘ in Oregon.

Learning Lab have been using LENA audio software to analyse the home music and language environment of over 100 infants in the US. Jenny Mendoza, a lead researcher on the project, presented some fascinating preliminary data on music in everyday infancy. After the conference, I met with Jenny to learn more about the work happening in their lab and discuss a possible collaboration. 

I was also very happy to see colleague Beatriz Ilari, who is a music research colleague based at the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California.

Beatriz presented some of her most recent research: parents’ views of their children’s participation in music programmes, which links to a longitudinal study Beatriz and colleagues are doing in collaboration with the LA Philharmonic orchestra. 

Beatriz and Alice outside NYU

Katie and I are currently co-authoring a paper with Beatriz on a joint study that looked at executive function and prosocial skills in pre-schoolers. This paper will be published in Spring 2020.

Orchestras for All: ‘Modulo’

Modulo groups at Cecil Sharp House, Camden

This month Alice and Katie visited the Orchestras for All London and Manchester ensemble meets to learn about the benefits both students and teachers experience from the ‘Modulo’ project.

The programme is designed to support teachers to establish or develop a small ensemble – a Modulo – of between 4 – 10 young people aged 11-18. Players can be of any instrument skill level or experience and everyone comes together twice a year to rehearse for some performances. Katie and Alice spoke to 10 teachers and 8 pupils about their experiences of the programme, here are a few snippets:

“Orchestras for All make our job as music teachers really easy and the performance deadlines keep the ensemble going – it’s great!”

“Being part of the big ensemble makes you feel the music more and hear how each part makes up the whole.” (student)

“The modulo teachers are so friendly, and the conductor is great – she gets things done quicker [than in our school rehearsals], it’s really well organised.” (student)

We couldn’t believe the quality of the music, especially considering the instrument groups are not your traditional mix and students had been playing their instruments for less than a year! Listen to the Modulo rehearsal and Facebook livestream here.

Budapest CEU Conference on Cognitive Development (BCCCD19)

January 3-5th 2019, Katie and Alice attended the Central European University’s Conference on Cognitive Development in Budapest, Hungary. The conference featured a fantastic line-up of international cognitive development researchers, all meeting to discuss their recent findings and advances in the field. Alice and Katie presented a poster of their work investigating the impact of music classes on preschool children’s executive function skills, which was very well received!

It was interesting to learn about the latest developments in research methodology, particularly in the study of baby and infant cognition. With a mixture of lab-based and ‘real-world’ studies, the conference gave us lots of food for thought when it comes to study design and the balance between scientific rigour and collection of data that can be applied to real-life situations.

New Publication! Out now in Frontiers in Psychology

Our latest paper entitled “Investigating the impact of a musical intervention on preschool children’s executive function” is now available in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology – you can read the paper here.

We conducted the research with the UCL Institute of Education and arts charity Creative Futures to investigate the effect of weekly musicianship training on the executive function abilities of 3-to-4-year-old children at a London preschool. The findings from the study contribute to current debates about the potential cognitive benefit of musical interventions, including important issues regarding intervention duration, experimental design, target age groups, executive function testing, and task novelty – all of which we discuss in the paper. You can read more about the study on our “Projects” page!

Sounding Out: A toolkit for music practitioners working with deaf students

In September 2018, Katie and Tiziana Pozzo worked with the arts charity, Creative Futures, to produce an online toolkit for music practitioners working with deaf children.

“Sounding Out” is a comprehensive resource to support music leaders and school teachers who work with deaf children, and is a culmination of the experiences and learning from across a 3-year programme in specialist schools for deaf children funded by Youth Music.

The toolkit consists of two sections, a theoretical introduction and a practical section with step-by-step guides to creating warm-up activities, musical games and main activities, supported by video examples. This free resource can be found on Creative Futures’ website here.

There is also an in-depth blog post about the creation of the toolkit here!

ISME conference India 2017

In November 2017, I won the Sempre conference award to present some of our research at the ISME South Asia regional conference held at the NIAS in Bangalore, India.

Local children performing at the conference opening ceremony

The conference was the first of its kind in South Asia and aimed to open up a dialogue between music educators and researchers in the region.

I presented a talk on some recent research I had undertaken with colleagues in the UK, examining the impact of a musical intervention on the development of preschool children’s executive function. The talk was very well received and provoked thoughtful conversation with many interested conference attendees. You can watch the talk here.

Alice at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India

My experience in Bangalore was extraordinarily rich and provided me with a unique insight into the musical life of children in a part of the world that I had not previously visited. From links I made during this trip, I hope that it will be possible to carry out some interesting future research with children in both the UK and India.