Practices of Music Education and Learning Across the Lifespan: An Exploration of Values and Purposes

Margaret S. Barrett, Heidi Westerlund

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Research in the field of anthropology supports the notion that music is a universal feature of human society and a foundational capacity for all (Dissanayake, 2000, 2006, 2009, 2012; Mithen, 2005, 2009). Music is an important part of our collective celebrations and statements of beliefs, values, and issues, and is an integral component of human growth and development. Through the phenomenon of Communicative Musicality (Malloch, 2000; Malloch & Trevarthen, 2010), music lays down the foundations of human connectedness, identity work, and language as infants and caregivers engage in musical exchanges that promote bonding, communication, and participation in the rituals, traditions, and languages of the infant’s culture (Barrett 2011a, 2012, 2016a, 2016b). When we recognize the fundamental role of music in human individual and collective growth and development, we recognize that music education in some form has been an aspect of human existence for millennia. Despite this continuous history of music education in human experience, what constitutes music education (formal, informal, non-formal) has been shaped by a range of diverse forces. Furthermore, what and how music education is enacted and experienced rest in a range of intersecting factors including age, ethnicity, gender, religion, social class, caste, and geographic location. In this chapter, we explore a range of these diverse forces and factors and provide examples from research projects to illustrate the ways in which these impact on the experience and sustainability of music education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Global Arts Education
EditorsGeorgina Barton, Margaret Baguley
Place of PublicationLondon UK
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781137555854
ISBN (Print)9781137555847
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Music Therapy
  • Music Education
  • High Education Student
  • Shaping Force
  • Music Teacher

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