Music, Mind & Wellbeing - Global Precedent Gathers Momentum
What makes music central to human life? That is one of many questions that the Music, Mind & Wellbeing initiative (MMW), a world first joint initiative between the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, the School of Psychological Sciences, and the Melbourne Neuroscience Institute at the University of Melbourne, seeks to answer.
Opened on 22 July 2010 at Melba Hall by Professor Patrick McGorry AO, the MMW fosters collaborative research in music, psychology and neuroscience and since opening the program has received widespread interest/international acclaim although is now entering a period where financial support is required to carry the project on to the next level.
The members of the MMW are leading researchers in the brain mechanisms involved in audition and music, social factors involved in music learning and participation, the role of music in individual and community wellbeing, and advanced music theory and technology. Recent findings from their research have revealed: how brain mechanisms define musical forms and music exposure alters brain mechanisms and structures; the types of developmental assets, both personal and social, that are acquired from learning music and that have positive consequences for music learners’ emotional wellbeing and social development; and ways that music can improve or worsen social outcomes for various members of our communities.
The MMW creates a public identity to disseminate research about music practices in society to the public and professionals through workshops, fora and lectures, in addition to government. We are currently in the process of informing the government on the importance of musical participation to enhance individual and social wellbeing.
In 2011 the MMW have hosted a number of highly sought after (and all fully booked!) events. The next in the popular series looks at MUSIC AND TEENAGE BEHAVIOUR 17 October, 6pm, Dr Katrina McFerran, Senior Lecturer in Music Therapy. Music is a powerful influence in young people’s lives, but is it powerful enough to trigger problem behaviours? There is a clear relationship between preferences for particular kinds of music and vulnerability to mental illness. In this presentation Dr Katrina McFerran will flesh out some possibilities in light of the Mp3 revolution and the increasing access to music by all people. This event is free, but bookings are essential. See www.melbournerecital.com.au or call 03) 9699 3333.
Get Involved! As a pioneering initiative, there is a need for various levels of support for the Music, Mind and Wellbeing initiative. Research grants have been submitted for 2012 without guarantee of success. What is possible for the project is certainly exciting, with belief that music fulfills the mind in a manner that sport fulfills our physical health.
We know that psychological wellbeing is essential to human survival, and that every normal, healthy human being is musical. Therefore, music has an important role in wellbeing. The academics forming the MMW are undertaking these activities in addition to their normal duties, as they are passionately committed to highlighting the role of an appropriate, relevant and engaging music experience to enhance wellbeing. The MMW is receiving recognition at an international level, with leading international researchers in the field of music and psychology coming to the University of Melbourne to work with the MMW in 2012, such as Associate Professor Susan O’Neill, Director, Research for Youth, Music and Education at Simon Fraser University, Canada, and Professor Isabelle Peretz, Director of the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research at the University of Montreal.
To offer your support or that of your organization, please contact Associate Professor Sarah Wilson, Director of MMW, on 8344 7391, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ACTIVITIES FOR 2012
In collaborative programs with other institutes and practitioners the MMW will integrate this research into a cohesive new vision for music in the 21st century. Plans for the MMW in 2012 include the continuation of the hugely successful Music on the Mind series, as well as a number of research projects supported by Australian Research Council grants, such as the multi-year research studies:
- “Music as a bridge between strengths and difficulties: Preventing mental ill-health” and
- “Creating musical futures in Australian schools and communities: Refining theory and planning for practice through empirical innovation.”
Research grants have been submitted to run groundbreaking and interdisciplinary research in 2012 in the following areas:
1) The Bionic Ensemble: Teaching music to the Deaf.
Most cochlea implant (CI) recipients have difficulty perceiving pitch and music. Music is found in all human cultures and provides a natural means of regulating our emotions and enhancing social connectivity. Pitch is also vital to the perception of speech prosody, which conveys much of the emotional content in interpersonal communications, as well as being important for speech segregation. This research will investigate whether auditory processing can be improved in CI recipients by daily music training using innovative, purpose-designed instruments and interactive digital scores.
2) New Music for New Brains
Music is important in human socialization and emotional regulation, and learning music improves speech perception relating to both the meaning (phonemic recognition) and intent (prosodic recognition). Social wellbeing is an important factor in successful participation in education and is enhanced by music participation. Yet, music participation amongst Australian school children is now only17 %, and amongst adults it is only 3.5%. In this project MMW researchers will collaborate with early childhood education researchers and specialists at the Early Learning Centre (ELC), University of Melbourne to adapt a new classroom music ensemble of tuned percussion instruments with an integrated music pedagogy based on a new neuro-cognitively informed music theory and system of notation for use in pre-school environments.
The founding members of the MMW include the Director, Associate Professor Sarah Wilson and Associate Professor Neil McLachlan from the School of Psychological Sciences, Ormond Chair of Music and Director of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music Professor Gary McPherson (MMW Deputy Director), Professor Denise Grocke, Convenor of Music Therapy, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and Head of the National Music Therapy Research Unit, and Dr Katrina McFerran, Senior Lecturer in Music Therapy at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.