Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, PhD


School of Educational Studies

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Mary Poplin

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Philip Dreyer

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

DeLacy Ganley

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Lu Elrod

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License

Rights Information

2012 Paul G. Morehouse


Developmental theory; early childhood; music-making behavior; music education; early development; music structure; aesthetic perception; music form; rhythm; music leader; percussion instruments; Zone of Proximal Development

Subject Categories

Child Psychology | Community-Based Learning | Curriculum and Instruction | Developmental Psychology | Educational Psychology | Educational Sociology | Music Pedagogy | Other Music


We have many developmental theories contributing to our understanding of children as they meander steadfastly toward maturation. Yet, none have reported on how young children interpret the qualitative meaning and importance of their own music-making experiences. Music created by average, not prodigious, young children is perceived by adults as “play” music rather than “real” music. But do young children take the same view as adults? When Piaget speaks of the young child’s qualitatively unique view and experience of the world (Ginsberg & Opper, 1988), can we assume that his statement encompasses young children’s predispositions related to music-making?

Music is understood to occur when people act intentionally to produce and organize sound into rhythm and form. The guiding questions for this study are, What evidence is there to show that, when following an adult music leader, young children can engage in authentic music-making behavior and produce identifiable musical structures that move beyond random sounds or ‘noise’? What evidence is there to show that children's music-making behavior develops according to developmental stages? trek

This qualitative field study observed and videotaped over 100 children between 2 and 7 years old who chose to engage in music-making behavior in a socially-rich school environment during structured activities guided by an adult “music leader.”

The data gathered from this study suggest that young children’s motivation to make music derive from predispositions unrelated to notions of cultural and artistic expression thereby differing from adult musical needs and are instead based on more primary responses to their own developmental needs and their social environment. Functioning as “music leader,” the PI appeared to serve as an indispensable interface for assuring authenticity in the children’s music-making at all stages of development. The older children did not introduce any novel behavior specifically related to making music. However, due to the progression of cognitive and social maturity across the range of ages, new extra-musical behavior (EMB) slowly emerged at each developmental stage always seeming to enrich the experience relative to a particular group.



Graph of Developmental Theory Model

Quantitative Data from Analysis