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THEME Lecture: Beatriz Ilari

Friday, September 29, 2017 - 2:30pm
  • Beatriz Ilari, University of Southern California
    Beatriz Ilari, University of Southern California

A colloquium of UW faculty, guest lecturers, and students of Theory, History, Ethnomusicology, Music Education

Featuring Beatriz Ilari, University of Southern California
Revisiting Children's Musical Development: Lessons from a Longitudinal Study


Documenting the changes that occur in the brains and bodies, cognition, emotions, sociality, and musicality of underrepresented children as a result of their long-term participation in music is central for any theorization of musical development.

Over the past six years, I have been a member of an interdisciplinary research team that has been tracking down the development of brain, cognition, socioemotional and musical skills of children involved in community-based, extracurricular music (El Sistema-inspired) and sports programs (soccer and group swimming), and a control group.

Seventy-five children (aged 6-7 years) were recruited from extracurricular programs and local schools in a same geographical region of Los Angeles. Child participants came from underprivileged backgrounds and attended schools that did not offer comprehensive music education programs for their students. Children in the experimental groups were tested on a comprehensive battery of behavioral and musical test, and underwent brain MR imaging and EEG prior to induction in their extracurricular programs. They were tested on the behavioral and musical measures every year thereafter, for 5 consecutive years. Parents/legal guardians have also been interviewed each year, sharing valuable information on children’s overall development and musical engagement. 

In this talk, I will offer a brief introduction to the project, followed by a presentation of two studies concerning the development of two distinct musical skills. In study 1, we examined children’s improvised song endings over the course of 2 years, using a mixed methods approach. A quantitative analysis of improvised products revealed no significant differences between study groups, yet girls’ improvisations received higher ratings than those produced by boys. Qualitative data revealed the strategies that children used six different strategies when improvising song endings, and suggested that engagement in improvisational tasks depends on a combination of children’s musical skills and interests. In study 2, we assessed the development of rhythmic entrainment and its associations with social cognitive and prosocial skills in children over the course of 3 years. Results indicated that children’s rhythmic synchronization was affected by social context. Taken together, these findings not only reinforce the notion that musical development is a complex and multifaceted process, but also concur with the idea that it is perhaps best understood in light of an epigenetic perspective. Implications for music teaching and learning will be presented along with directions for future research.

Beatriz Ilari

Beatriz Ilari is Assistant Professor of Music Education at the University of Southern California where she teaches graduate courses in music psychology, the sociology of music, and research methods. She has conducted extensive research with babies, preschoolers, and school-aged children from the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Japan, and Mexico. In her work, she uses a variety of approaches to study different aspects of musical development and growth of infants, children, and adolescents. Her research is interdisciplinary in nature. 

She collaborates with scholars from diverse fields, including neuroscientists from USC’s Brain & Creativity Institute, and psychologists and educators from the Advancing Interdisciplinary Research in Singing (AIRS) team. She is currently the editor for Perspectives: Journal of the Early Childhood Music & Movement and Association (ECMMA), and serves on the boards of prestigious journals such as Journal of Research in Music EducationPsychology of MusicMusicae Scientiae, and Music & Science.