On becoming and being a musician: A mixed methods study of musicianship in children and adults. Doctoral Thesis

Dawn C. Rose

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Studies comparing musically trained and untrained children and adults provide evidence of structural, functional and behavioural changes associated with experience-specific adaptation within the cortical and subcortical sensory-motor neural networks. Researchers have suggested that changes associated with musical learning may transfer to near domains (e.g. fine motor ability) and/or far domains, such as general intelligence. However, few studies have considered the concomitant development of a range of cognitive, behavioural and socio-emotional measures reflecting emerging musicianship. No other study has attempted to situate these findings within the context of adult musicians’ experience. Two studies are presented here; firstly a quantitative longitudinal quasi-experimental investigation of multiple measures of musicianship. 19 children received only statutory school music group lessons over one academic year, and another 19 children received additional extracurricular musical instrument lessons for the first time during that year. A battery of tests included measures of aptitude, intelligence, memory, motor abilities and parental and teacher reports of socio-emotional behaviours. Results showed musical training enhanced hand-eye coordination and fluid intelligence, replicating and extending previous studies. The second study is a qualitative grounded theory investigation of a range of 28 adult musicians reflecting contemporary working musicians in the U.K. This includes nonconformist and popular musicians as well as conductors and music producers. They reflected upon what it is to be a musician, and what qualities they were aware their experiences had brought to their lives. A musicians’ model of musicianship emerged which challenges assumptions relating to the concept of transfer effects. The data generates new hypotheses that musical learning supports and encourages flexible cognitive and behavioural skills and creativity that are further enhanced by the concomitant experience of nonverbal communications encompassing music and socialisation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Goldsmiths College
  • Heaton, Professor Pamela, Supervisor, External person
  • Bartoli, Dr Alice, Supervisor, External person
Award date30 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2016


  • music
  • learning
  • transfer effects
  • motor abilities
  • cognitive abilities
  • socio-emotional wellbeing
  • ontology
  • musical instruments
  • Musical Aptitude


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