Photograph by: Holger Selover-Stephan

While music education plays an important role at school, some children still opt to quit music class. A study shows that such a decision has little to do with their true talent or interest towards music, but depends more on how confident they are in their music preformances.

The study, conducted by researchers at Northwestern University, aimed to find out what exactly determines whether children would keep taking music classes.

In the first part of the study, 319 children in six grade from five primary schools were asked about their family background, their attitudes toward music, peer pressure, how they see themselves as singers and other variables.

Then the researchers waited until all these students started their middle school and got to choose whether to stay or quit their music class.

The results showed that family background, self-concept and peer influence were relevant elements which had an impact on making such a decision. Their attitudes toward music, however, did not really matter.

Then for the second part, researchers measured the singing accuracy of the students who stayed in the music class, as well as those who chose to quit. The results showed no obvious differences between these two groups in terms of accuracy.

However, the study did find out that the student’s own musical self-concept could affect their accuracy and willingness to continue.

“If a child falsely believes he or she is a poor musician, for a variety of reasons that child may actually becomes one” said Dr. Peter Pfordresher, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Buffalo.

Rosaleen Molloy, director of an Irish music education programme, believes that the responsibility lies on the educators.

As a singing teacher herself, she has watched too many children drop out of music classes. She told The Irish Times “We’ll never be able to keep all children in music, but it is incumbent on us as music educators to think what it is that young people want and how they experience music.”

Some children may excel in some subjects and others may not, but it seems the likelihood of them staying in music classes comes down to their own perception of their ability alongside social factors.