Development of the school-aged musician

Harnismacher (1995) identified four stages of development of the school-age musician, spanning 8-18 years of age. These stages are a useful description of the phases of musical development for the young child.

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Stage 1 the activity stage (8-10 years) is where musical activity is often play-related.

Stage 2 is the adoption stage (11-12 years) where a work ethic is developed about goal orientation and practice.

Stage 3 is the integration stage (13-14 years) and this is where practice becomes a part of the daily routine. There is also a playful, informal element of practice which is used for relaxation and enjoyment.

Stage 4 is the identification stage (15-18 years) in which there is reflection on practice and improving ones effectiveness and an increased awareness of standards. Quality and economy of practice become a central feature of this stage.

As children mature, they develop a greater metacognitive awareness. Metacognition is an awareness of strategies for learning. The change from the play activities of younger children to the more reflective approach to musical instrument learning and practice of teenagers, is representative of the growth in metacognition and associated understanding of learning skills. Older students will have more knowledge about practice strategies than younger students.

The research suggests that musicians develop useful practice strategies rather late in their development. Teachers of young students will need to provide more scaffolding of appropriate practice strategies during lessons. Highly motivated and high achieving young children may demonstrate aspects of more advanced stages of musical development. At this level, some practice strategies have become habitualised and routine, however, limitations of metacognitive awareness and skills may still be present. This requires the teacher to provide further practice strategy guidance.

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