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Matching personalities with instruments

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Joined: 06 Jan 2009
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Location: Philadelphia, PA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:18 am    Post subject: Matching personalities with instruments Reply with quote

last night in my Music Psych grad class I broached the topic of certain personalities seemingly gravitating toward certain instruments. The topic was originally people's perception of musicians based on physical appearance (like the Alison Balsom thread a few months ago - let's not bring that back up right now though), and I inverted the conversation to focus on personalities and instruments. We all know the stereotypes of the "cocky trumpet player," "ditzy flautist," etc, but I can't help but wonder how much of a grain of truth these have. Anyone who has spent time teaching band can tell you that obists and French horn players tend to be people who are very particular about things, for example, and I think some elements of these stereotypes can be found throughout the range of instruments. This leads me to wonder, do instruments draw personalities or do personalities draw instruments? Yes, I know it is a combination of both.

So my question is, does anyone know of a decent starting point for this as a research project? i.e. similar research; studies, anything to use as a jumping-off point.

And please, I don't want this to turn into an "anyone can do anything as long as they put their mind to it." That maybe so, but there's enough of my students who simply "get it" from Day 1 that leads me to believe they made the right choice from the getgo. I think the biggest reason I do this for a living is because I made a similarly right choice. AND, I have students who simply don't get the instrument they're working on, and it isn't always for lack of trying.

This is pertinent for me since I teach elementary band, and I want to make sure that I set kids up for as much success as possible by making the right call early on. Question is, how do I find out?
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Paul Tomashefsky
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Joined: 04 Nov 2004
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Location: Worcester, MA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:50 am    Post subject: matching instruments to students musical / aural skills Reply with quote

I haven't really investigated the "personality factor" but as a fellow Elementary Music educator (5th & 6th grade band & Jazz band, High School Concert & Jazz band and College Jazz Ensemble) I can tell you from experience that there is definitely a "science" to matching kids to the right instrument choice. We have used the "Instrument petting Zoo" model for the past 5-6 years with excellent success!

Personally (having taught public school for 27 years in MA), I have found that students who have had prior experience on strings, or Piano do much better on Oboe and French horn . . . Having our 4th graders come in the evening (with their parents) we have a group of "dedicated" local musicians and educators who then assess each child on embouchure, tone production, pitch matching, and physical ease of playing. Our retention rate has increased a lot and kids also have more of a desire to switch to another instrument (rather then just give up alltogether) if they're not 100% successful out of the gate. We call this the one size shoe doesn't fit all Theory. We tell the parents if you go into a store to buy shoes for your child, and your kid wears a size 7 and the store only carries size 5 1/2 you don't leave saying well. . . "I guess you're going barefoot this year" you go to another store and try on another pair until you find the right fit!

good luck with your research. . .

personally, I wanted to be a drummer in the worst way. . . one of my best friends played the Trumpet, and after having been given the choice of Clarinet, Flute, Saxophone or Trumpet. I chose the Trumpet. also growing up in the 1970's I saw and heard a lot of Brass / Trumpet players on TV (Herb Alpert, Doc Severinsen, Chuck Mangione, Boston Pops PBS concerts, etc...)

I'm not so sure it's personality driven as it is environmental, economics, and need driven in terms of what the band director tries to steer you towards. In the end I think the instrument finds you more often than not. . . .
"Life Beats down and CRUSHES the soul, and Art reminds you that you have one" Stella Adler

"Music washes away the Dust of Everyday Life"
Art Blakey

"If you practice...It will come" Field of Trumpet Dreams
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Joined: 17 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:01 am    Post subject: Matching personalities with instruments Reply with quote

You have a monumental task before you and I wish you nothing but luck and good fortume; but I think as a pragmatic approach to matching kids with instruments, Paul T.'s approach makes total sense. The fact that kids he and his colleagues work with stay in instrumental music is, by itself, endorsement enough of the method(s) he uses.
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