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The Art of Listening: Listening Skill Development, Classical Music Appreciation, and Personal Response through Visual Art in a Middle School Program

Although many programs aim to develop students’ listening skills and promote the appreciation of Western classical music, relatively few such programs incorporate visual art. This study examined the perceived effectiveness of the Edinburgh International Festival’s (EIF) Art of Listening program in reaching its stated goals to: develop skills for listening, encourage the enjoyment of listening to Western classical music, break down preconceptions held about Western classical music, cultivate a deeper relationship with the imagination through music and art, and encourage students’ personal responses to music. Focusing primarily on the first three goals, this study gathered data from 78 students from six upper primary classes (generally students ages 11 or 12) from four schools located in the Edinburgh, Scotland metropolitan area. Findings from student and teacher surveys before and after the program as well as program observations indicate that participants perceive that the Art of Listening program achieves the specific objectives examined, at least in the short-term.  Both students and teachers responded positively to the program’s unique combination of listening skill development, classical music appreciation, and responses to music through visual art. The article discusses considerations for implementing similar programs in other contexts and makes suggestions for future research.

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