Do School Band Programs Influence Aesthetic Appreciation?

5 Oct

It is often rewarding to pour over older studies in music cognition and music education.  Much of the premier research addresses the most pressing and profound questions in the fields: how do we acquire musical taste?  How does musical training influence our human experience?  Is music representational of “meaning?”  How can music evoke emotion?  And though research methodology has changed drastically with the development of brain-imaging technology (cognitive neuroscience) and has offered more comprehensive explanations, I find that these earlier studies get to the heart of the field.  This study, conducted between 1971-72, investigated how the type of musical literature, the study material of study band organizations, affected the participant’s aesthetic appreciation.

Lawrence Anderson set out to measure the “aesthetic sensitivity” between groups of students that participated in stage-band and/or concert-band programs.  The study took place over the 1971-72 academic school year, and began with an initial review using the Gaston Test of Musicality and California Test of Aesthetic Judgments in Music tests and an additional test that investigated the student’s musical background and experience.  The groups of students were divided into the “stage-band” or the “concert-band” band group, and participated in daily rehearsals that related to their division.  Musical literature was used in each group that pertained to the music and practices of the bands.  A control group of students participants in both the concert and stage band rehearsals that were daily, held for a period of 50 minutes, and instructed by the same teacher.

The results showed no significant difference between the two groups using the Test of Musicality.  However, the California Test showed a vast difference in the growth of aesthetic sensitivity between the two groups.  Those that were enrolled with the concert-band group, became more aesthetically attuned over the course of the study. Furthermore, those that were enrolled in both groups, became more aesthetically attuned than those just enrolled in the stage-band group.  These results illustrate that concert-band literature might facilitate an individual’s ability to become “aesthetically sensitive.”  Additionally, the musical background score found that those involved to a greater degree with school musical performance also became more aesthetically sensitive.  The most influential factor was the number of years of participation.

Despite the results gathered from this study, we must be cautious of over-generalizing the conclusions to today’s school bands — the change of practice literature since the 1970s,  and the incorporation of new teaching methods and programs might eradicate these found differences.  It would be interesting to conduct a similar study, and see how aesthetic sensitivity differs between music programs of all sorts in current academic environments.

Anderson, L. (1975). The effects of music literature in developing aesthetic sensitivity to music. Journal of Research in Music Education, 23(1), 78-84.

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