Possible Selves in Music

Outcomes of a research partnership between Music Generation and St Patrick’s College Drumcondra (2013 - 2015).

Principal Investigator: Dr Patricia Flynn
Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Dr Thomas Johnston

Possible Selves in Music is a landmark research document, revealing a pioneering new model for music education that can achieve powerful and positive outcomes for children and young people. 

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About the Research

Possible Selves in Music is a ground-breaking research document which has revealed a new model for the provision of music education that can achieve powerful and positive outcomes for children and young people. The document challenges traditional thinking about music education, uncovers an entirely new approach and opens up a wealth of knowledge to all who are interested in bringing music into children’s and young people’s lives.  The title of the research comes from the concept that when children and young people connect with music, they begin to imagine their own possible future self and this leads to real transformation in their self-development.

Possible Selves in Music is the outcome of a two-year research partnership between Music Generation and St Patrick’s College Drumcondra (now DCU). The research, which will be of significant interest to musicians, educators, policy-makers, youth workers, and national and local government agencies at home and overseas, was commissioned by the Board of Music Generation in 2013 and carried out by Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Thomas Johnston, who worked with Principal Investigator to the project Dr Patricia Flynn (DCU/St Patrick’s College).

As Ireland’s national music education programme, Music Generation seeks to transform the lives of children and young people through access to high-quality performance music education. Working through local Local Music Education Partnerships, the programme provides children and young people with a multitude of different ways to engage with music.

Through in-depth, in-the-field engagement with the partnerships involved in Music Generation at local level, the research sought to investigate how the programme is enabling thousands of children and young people to reach their potential and experience transformation through music. The research demonstrated how Music Generation does not take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ view – instead it values all approaches, music traditions, practices and intentions for learning. Music programmes are developed locally in response to particular needs and context, and children and young people are enabled to engage with music in ways that are powerful and meaningful for them.

What has been revealed through the research is a new way of thinking about performance music education that looks beyond one single system of learning. By looking closely at how Music Generation works ‘in-the-field’, the researchers showed that a different and very innovative approach, which has flexibility and diversity at its core, is the key to the programme’s success.

Crucially, the research tell us that this diversity of approach works only when all partners involved are working together to achieve a shared goal. From its philanthropic donors, to national and local funders, administrative teams, community groups, schools, parents and musicians, the overarching, aligning vision of Music Generation is to leverage the best possible outcomes for children and young people, musically, personally and socially, within vibrant communities which have music as part of their fabric.

The Research Board for this landmark project comprised Dr Patricia Flynn (DCU/St Patrick’s College); Rosaleen Molloy (National Director, Music Generation); Prof Stephanie Pitts (University of Sheffield); and Prof Emer Smyth (ESRI).

This research was made possible through the commitment and engagement of Music Generation's many partners, including the Local Music Education Partnerships.

A summary of the research is now available to download online

The full research document is available to download here

Research Board

  • Dr Patricia Flynn, St Patrick’s College Drumcondra
  • Rosaleen Molloy, National Director Music Generation
  • Prof Stephanie Pitts, University of Sheffield
  • Prof Emer Smyth, ESRI

Research Partner 

St Patricks College