The role of chamber music in learning to perform: a case study

Burt-Perkins, R. and Mills, J. (2008) The role of chamber music in learning to perform: a case study. Music Performance Research, 2 pp. 26-35. ISSN 1755-9219 (online)


This paper draws on findings from the Learning to Perform project, a three-year longitudinal investigation of musical learning at a UK conservatoire. In particular, focus is placed on the role that chamber music can play in the development of musical expertise. While the conservatoire centres its curriculum on one-to-one instrumental lessons, it also offers tuition and assessment for chamber music. In this paper, we propose that chamber music may be one way in which students can “expand” their learning as well as nurturing skills that may promote their careers. We focus on the development of one wind quintet, concentrating on in-depth understanding of the opportunities or constraints that it affords learning. Using interview data, triangulated by questionnaires and observation, we track the quintet’s successes and disappointments, and the impact that the experience had on the learners involved. The quintet emerges as a space in which students can challenge and be challenged, where they can learn deeply and where they can develop skills within and beyond music. Following a decision to be assessed as part of their degree, the group coherence begins to diminish, so that the quintet eventually disperses. We suggest that these findings have emergent implications both in terms of musical expertise and conservatoire curricula. ******* PLEASE NOTE: This article is available open access at the Official URL given below. *******

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