Characteristics of early musical environments associated with preschool children's music skills
Etopio, Elisabeth A.
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The purpose of this study was to explore the early musical experiences of children in preschool and the extent to which musical environments established by teachers and parents were associated with children's development of tonal skill and rhythm skill. Fifteen teachers and their students (N=134) participated in this study. Selected sites, accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), did not benefit from instruction offered by a music specialist. Measures used to examine key variables included a questionnaire developed to elicit information regarding the intensity and variety of musical experiences teachers provided, as well as teachers' musical background; the Preschool Teacher Musicianship (PTM) Rubric to assess teachers' musicianship; the Test of Early Audiation Achievement (T-EAA) to determine children's tonal skill and rhythm skill; and, the Home Musical Environment Scale (HOMES) as an indicator of children's home musical environment. Both PTM and T-EAA were developed for an earlier project supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Descriptive statistics were employed to describe characteristics of preschool and home musical environments. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) then was used to examine relationships among predictors in the preschool and home musical environments and children's tonal skill and rhythm skill. Teachers' tonal composite (their musicianship and use of appropriate tonal strategies) was the strongest predictor of children's tonal skill. With rhythm, the relationship between music intensity and rhythm skill was not the same for male and female students. Boys achieved more in environments with low music intensity, while girls achieved more in environments with high music intensity. Female students also demonstrated greater tonal skill than males. There were no significant findings in the analysis of the home musical environment, suggesting that the relationship between preschool musical environment and music outcomes was consistent, regardless of salient features in the home musical environment. Conclusions drawn from the study confirm that the quality of musical experience for the young child remains a serious challenge. Early childhood professionals and music education professionals must work in concert to improve the musicianship skill of the early childhood specialist so that young children can realize their full music potential.