Why do kids love music but not music lessons?
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Seven-year-old Felix loves music. Since he was a toddler he’s been jamming with his father on guitar, and learning the words to Bob Dylan, Raffi, and K’naan. A couple of years ago he began to realize he could pick out tunes to songs he knew—like Joy to the World, and the theme to Star Wars—on his grandparents’ piano.

But now that he’s enrolled in piano lessons, he grumbles when he has to practice, and says he doesn’t enjoy his sessions.

Felix is not alone: hundreds of thousands of children take weekly studio lessons and yearly conservatory examinations around the world, but stop their education just as they are becoming proficient.

Musician, Regulate Thy Self

One solution, says Queen’s University education researcher Rena Upitis, might be to give them more control over their musical education. Many skilled and expressive musicians attest that their success depends on setting and achieving their own goals.

Self-regulation is at the heart of a new online music instruction tool that revolutionizes the way music students learn, practice and receive feedback from teachers. Known as iSCORE, this online portfolio allows students to record, save and share their practices and performances. It also provides links to composition and sequencing tools, and facilitates interactive planning with teachers.

The iSCORE tool is both a result of, and a source for, research into better ways to inspire and empower people to learn music. By empowering students and fostering a sense of community, iSCORE helps turn a love of music into a love of music education.

Less Isolation

“There is no tool like it,” says Upitis. “By providing students with musical tools in a social media environment, iSCORE empowers them to take ownership of their goals, while still getting guidance from educators and peers.”

Upitis and her colleagues have found that students use iSCORE to plan, execute, and reflect on their work, leading to stronger self-regulatory skills. The tool allows students to share their passion for music and avoid the sense of isolation that is sometimes behind a dislike of conventional one-on-one lessons.

iSCORE is a bilingual service available without charge to students, teachers, parents, and music-lovers.

**Major funders for this research include Canadian Heritage, the Matthews Family, Telus, Concordia University, The Royal Conservatory, and Queen’s University.

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