Welcome to the Institute for the Study of Music-making Behavior (ISMMB).  Our mission is to assemble and disseminate information from diverse areas of research with the purpose of heightening the understanding of human music-making behavior.

While all aspects of this behavior are considered, we have a particular interest in the following areas: 1) first and foremost, the music-making behavior of young children, ages two through seven, and 2) the music-making behavior of adults who do not have formal music training and do not perform professionally.

Given the primary emphasis on young children, the Institute for the Study of Music-making Behavior will serve as a locus for building a network of advocates – including educators, researchers, parents, and community partners – who are interested in the discourse of ideas and research related to young children and their natural relationship with music as music makers.

Important long term goals of the Institute are:

1) to promote a greater recognition of the value and importance of music-making behavior, especially during early development, and

2) to foster a climate of interest and openness among early childhood educators that can lead to the exploration and formulation of a new paradigm in early childhood music education.


Issues Addressed by the Institute

The Institute investigates common but often inaccurate perceptions about music, including the fact that it is a mode of expression exclusively used for either cultural or artistic purposes. In both instances, it is the musical “work” that receives most of the attention, not the behavior that is necessary to create the musical work. By and large, music consumers are not attuned to how the music-maker creates music. For example, let us consider how a Native American drummer or an African drummer plays his or her instrument. It is assumed that both will hit their respective drums either by using their hands or a special drumstick. In both cases, the musical interest generated by either of these music-makers is most likely centered on the resultant music. In other words, the musical product will be of primary interest, not the process — that is to say, the music-making behavior.

This distinction between product and process is especially critical when it comes to young children. Although an average four-year-old may also use a hand or a stick to hit a drum, the level of proficiency and the ensuing musical “work” will be very different than an adult doing the same. Thus, it is easy to discern the quantitative difference between the music-making behavior of an adult and that of an average child. However, there is evidence to suggest that the qualitative experience of the average child who is engaged in music-making behavior may, in fact, be similar to the qualitative experience of an adult engaged in the same behavior.