Scholarly article on topic 'The Relationship between Flow and Music Performance Level of Undergraduates in Exam Situations: The Effect of Musical Instrument'

The Relationship between Flow and Music Performance Level of Undergraduates in Exam Situations: The Effect of Musical Instrument Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Dorina Iusca

Abstract In music education, the study of flow has been employed in a variety of research contexts that demonstrated its effect on students’ musical compositions, rehearsals or music performance. Additionally, a crossover of flow from music teachers to their students has also been identified. The present study aims to investigate the relationship between the flow state during music performance exams and the artistic level of music performance. Although previous studies found that students frequently experience flow during music performance, an exact correlation between flow and music performance level hasn’t yet been determined. A group of 130 undergraduate music students specialized in classical vocal performance (49 subjects), strings (35), woodwind and brass (36) and piano (10) participated in the study. The students completed The Flow State Scale FSS-2 (Jackson & Marsh, 1996) immediately after taking their annual music performance exams. We have found a significant positive correlation between the flow state and the general level of music performance (r=0.29, p=0.01). There was no effect of gender on this relationship. The correlation was particularly high in the case of strings (r=0.45, p=0.01) and piano (r=0.47, p=0.01) players. There was no significant association between flow and music performance level in the case of singers, nor woodwind and brass players. The ANOVA test revealed that strings players experienced significant higher levels of flow during the exam in comparison with singers. Educational implications may suggest introducing flow enhancement strategies to students in order to develop music performance level.

Academic research paper on topic "The Relationship between Flow and Music Performance Level of Undergraduates in Exam Situations: The Effect of Musical Instrument"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 177 (2015) 396 - 400

Global Conference on Contemporary Issues in Education, GLOBE-EDU 2014, 12-14 July 2014,

Las Vegas, USA

The Relationship between Flow and Music Performance Level of Undergraduates in Exam Situations: The Effect of Musical

Instrument

Dorina Iuscaa*

"George Enescu" University of Arts, 7-9 Horia Street, Iasi, 700126, Romania

Abstract

In music education, the study of flow has been employed in a variety of research contexts that demonstrated its effect on students' musical compositions, rehearsals or music performance. Additionally, a crossover of flow from music teachers to the ir students has also been identified. The present study aims to investigate the relationship between the flow state during music performance exams and the artistic level of music performance. Although previous studies found that students frequently experience flow during music performance, an exact correlation between flow and music performance level hasn't yet been determined. A group of 130 undergraduate music students specialized in classical vocal performance (49 subjects), strings (35), woodwind and brass (36) and piano (10) participated in the study. The students completed The Flow State Scale FSS-2 (Jackson & Marsh, 1996) immediately after taking their annual music performance exams. We have found a significant positive correlation between the flow state and the general level of music performance (r=0.29, p=0.01). There was no effect of gender on this relationship. The correlation was particularly high in the case of strings (r=0.45, p=0.01) and piano (r=0.47, p=0.01) players. There was no significant association between flow and music performance level in the case of singers, nor woodwind and brass players. The ANOVA test revealed that strings players experienced significant higher levels of flow during the exam in comparison with singers. Educational implications may suggest introducing flow enhancement strategies to students in order to develop music performance level.

© 2015TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Scientific Committee of GLOBE-EDU 2014.

Keywords: Flow state, music performance level, undergraduates, singers, strings, woodwind, brass, piano players;

1. Introduction

Music education specialists describe music performance as a complex motor, cognitive and emotional activity

* Dorina Iusca. Tel.:+0-456-543. E-mail address: dorinaiusca@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Scientific Committee of GLOBE-EDU 2014. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.02.376

which depends on a variety of individual factors not always related to musical competence. For example, students' psychological states may effectively influence the level of their artistic proficiency, as they may facilitate or impede students in revealing their true musical potential.

The concept of flow has been developed by Csikszentmihaly in his model of optimal experience as one fundamental concept associated with positive psychology. Flow state research originated from Csikszentmihaly's intention to understand the phenomenon of intrinsically motivated activity (later called autotelic activity). He created the idea of flow by observing people who dedicate themselves almost totally to activities like sports, literature, music making, rock climbing, dancing, games, sailing, chess etc. The flow state that occurs during these activities is characterized by subjective sense of well-being and control, intense and focused concentration, an appropriate balance between challenge and skills, unambiguous feed-back, merging of action and awareness, loss of self-consciousness, distortion of time and clear goals. Subsequently, Csikszentmihaly published an exhaustive theoretical model of the flow state operationalized through nine factors. The model also included the implications of flow on personal development, personality, skills, happiness, family life and work (1975, 1990, 1997, 1999; Csikszentmihaly & Hunter, 2003; Nakamura & Csikszentmihaly, 2002).

The flow state theory has recently been employed in a variety of research contexts (Jackson et al, 2001; Pates & Palmi, 2002; Jackson & Marsh, 1996; Pates et al, 2002) that found a significant influence of flow on people's efficiency in doing different activities, mainly sports performance. Flow has also been analysed in analogy with hypnosis (Dafinoiu & Vargha, 2003; Pates & Palmi, 2002).

Some studies (MacDonald et al, 2006; Bakker, 2005; Fritz & Avsec, 2007) have demonstrated that the flow state is also relevant for the musical domain. Bakker's (2005) research on 178 teachers and 605 students has discovered the presence of flow in music teachers. Moreover, music teachers' job resources (such as autonomy, performance feed-back, social support from colleagues and supervisory coaching) proved to have a positive relationship with the balance between challenges and skills and therefore increase the frequency of flow among music teachers. Remarkably, teachers' flow state seemed to crossover to their students through emotional contagion.

A Slovenian study (Fritz & Avsec, 2007) carried out on 84 students from the Academy of Music found that several aspects of flow are positively related to measures of subjective well-being of music students. The researchers revealed that students experience flow during different musical activities, frequently during music performance, in a concert, rehearsals or individual instrumental study.

2. Method

The flow state is considered to be an optimal experience which has a high potential of creating opportunities for success in many domains, as a growing body of literature suggests. Specifically for the musical field, this has already been demonstrated by British researchers (MacDonald, Byrne & Carlton, 2006) who discovered a significant correlation between flow and musical creativity of first-year university students. Therefore, increased levels of students' flow state were related to increased levels of creativity regarding their musical compositions rated by a group of music education specialists. By analogy, our hypothesis suggests that higher degrees of flow may be associated with higher music performance scores undergraduates obtain during exams.

2.1. Purpose of the study

The present study aims to investigate the relationship between the flow state and classical music performance level of undergraduate music students. First, we calculated the Pearson correlations between students' grades they obtained during music performance exams and the self-reported flow state they experienced during these exams. Secondly, we were interested to see if this correlation differs from one performance category to another (strings, woodwind, brass, piano and vocal performance). Moreover, the ANOVA test could reveal more about the different levels of flow of these performance categories. The research questions are:

• Is there a significant correlation between flow and music performance level?

• Does the study of a specific instrument influence flow levels and the relationship between flow and music

performance level?

By establishing a link between flow and music performance level, new ways of using the flow state within the field of music education may be considered in order to improve students' success in international music performance competitions.

2.2. Participants

A group of 130 undergraduate music students (74 female and 56 male) from a Romanian faculty of music participated to the study. They specialized in one or the other performance categories: classical vocal performance, strings (violin, viola, cello and guitar), woodwind and brass (flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, horn and saxophone) and piano. Students' instrumental experience varied between 8 years of study (in the case of woodwind and brass players and vocal performers) and 12 years of study (in the case of violin and piano performers). The distribution of students across musical instruments was as follows: 49 singers (26 female and 23 male), 35 strings players (27 female and 8 male), 36 woodwind and brass players (12 female and 24 male) and 10 pianists (9 female and 1 male). Students' distribution across the four years of study was relatively equal: 40 entering university students, 33 second-year students, 31 third-year students and 26 fourth-year students.

Additionally, 4 evaluation committees (one for each performance category: strings, piano, singers, woodwind and brass) assessed students' level of music performance on the occasion of the faculty's annual exams. Each committee consisted of 2 up to 4 university professors who accepted to participate in the study.

2.3. Instruments

We used The Flow State Scale FSS-2 (Jackson & Marsh, 1996) which is based on Csikszentmihaly's Flow State Theory (Csikszentmihaly, 1975, 1990, 1997). The scale has previously been used successfully in evaluating flow during sports trainings and competitions (Pates et al, 2002; Pates & Palmi, 2002; Jackson et al, 2001). The FSS-2 operationalizes the concept of flow using 9 factors (consistent with Csikszentmihaly's theory) measured by 36 items (4 items per factor): challenge-skill balance, merging of action and awareness, clear goals, unambiguous feed-back, total concentration, sense of control, loss of self-consciousness, transformation of time, autotelic experience. Each item was attached to a five-level Likert scale. The instrument was translated and adapted for the Romanian native speakers. The reliability quotient for the final Romanian form of the scale was 0.90. Also, Cronbach's alpha coefficients for each of the nine factors ranged from 0.73 to 0.85.

2.4. Procedure

The undergraduates completed The Flow State Scale immediately after taking their annual music performance exams and answered the questions by referring to the psychological state they experienced during the exam. Additionally, students' music performance level was registered with the help of the four evaluation committees which assessed the students as part of their task for the faculty's annual exams. Each of the four evaluation committees assessed only the students that corresponded to a specific performance category (for example, strings committee assessed only strings players according to the specific difficulties and performance challenges of this particular performance category). In order to avoid homogeneity problems due to the participation of not one but four evaluation groups we investigated students' scores related to their music performance level by using Kolmogorov-Smirnov test. As the distributions for the music performance scores of all 130 subjects significantly differed from a normal distribution, we used Spearman correlation instead of Pearson correlation in order to calculate the statistical link between music performance and flow.

3. Results

A significant but small correlation between the flow state that occurred during the exams and students' level music performance was found (p=0.297, p<0.01). This correlation was similar in both female (p=0.33, p<0.01) and male (p=0.29, p<0.01) undergraduates. The result took into consideration the complete group of 130 performers,

therefore we further analysed this low level of correlation by investigating the effect of performance category (musical instrument).

Table 1 reflects the particular levels of correlations between flow and music performance specific to the four performance categories (strings, pianists, singers, woodwind and brass). We noticed that the link flow - music performance is relatively strong in the case of pianists and strings players and insignificant in the case of woodwind and brass players.

Table 1. Correlations between flow and music performance level for each performance category

Performance category Number of subjects Spearman correlation Significance

Piano 10 0.47 0.01

Strings 46 0.45 0.01

Singers 49 0.31 0.05

Woodwind and brass 36 0.12 0.48

A complementary ANOVA analysis revealed a significant difference between strings players and singers regarding the flow state level they experienced during exams (t=2.81, p=0.04). Therefore, strings players experienced flow more than singers did. No other significant differences between performance categories regarding the flow state level were found.

4. Discussion

The main finding of our research is the significant positive correlation between flow and classical music performance. Consequently, when students' flow state was more intense during exams, the results regarding students' artistic level revealed higher scores. Although the significance error was small, the correlation was relatively medium and this is why we further investigated the effect of instrument on this relationship. Nevertheless, our result completes previous research data (Bakker, 2004; Fritz & Avsec, 2007; MacDonald et al, 2006) regarding the implications of flow on the musical field. Not only it is present during various musical activities like composition, performance or teaching, but it is also associated with different levels of proficiency regarding classical music performance.

When analysing the effect of musical instrument, we found that flow is particularly important for pianists and especially strings players. In their case the flow state during exams is more intense and more connected with music performance level. Explanatory ideas of this result may bring up the numerous years of instrumental study pianists and strings players go through in comparison with singers, woodwind and brass players. The latter categories of students start the study of music performance later than pianists and violinists and their daily rehearsals are shorter due to specific body limitations. Maybe a certain amount of time is needed in order to establish the proper conditions for flow to emerge during music performance and to create a link with students' artistic level.

Educational implications of this finding may bring up the idea of using flow as a relevant factor in building up the artistic level of students. For pianists and strings players music performance is an autotelic activity, but in their case flow can also increase concentration, establish clear goals, improve feed-back, sense of control and regulate the balance between challenge and skills during music performance rehearsals and competitions.

5. Conclusion

We found a significant correlation between music performance level and undergraduates' flow state level during exams. This connection varies according to each performance category: it is considerably strong in the case of strings and piano players, medium in the case of singers and insignificant in the case of woodwind and brass players. Additionally, strings players experienced flow during exams at a significantly higher intensities than singers did. In conclusion, the flow state is particularly relevant for pianists and especially strings players' musical activity. Explanatory ideas take into consideration the long duration of instrumental study for these two performance categories. In their case, the flow state is more intense and associated with higher artistic levels. Educational

implications of this finding may consider teaching students about flow enhancement strategies as relevant factors for success in music performance competitions.

References

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