The Body, Brain and Music – Robyn Staveley

Robyn Staveley is Senior Lecturer in Music, Movement, and Dance Education at the University of Technology Sydney, Kuring-gai Campus. She is a past president of the NSW Orff Schulwerk Association, is one of the NSW representatives on ANCOS, the Australian National Council of Orff Schulwerk, and is Vice Chair of the Levels teacher training programs. Robyn has written many resources and materials and presented many workshops and courses throughout Australia and internationally. In 2003 Robyn was recipient of the ASME (Australian Society for Music Education) Excellence in Teaching award. Her research interests are in cognitive neuroscience and music education. Her workshops take you on a journey that is provocative, reflective, invigorating and best of all an enjoyable musical experience.

Description of Session:

This session will discuss current research about how the body, the brain, and the environment engender conceptual development (Lakoff and Johnson 1999). For cognition to occur, it requires an active exploration of the environment (Niedenthal et al. 2005, 184-211; Clark 2005, 1-11; Kiverstein 2012, 740-758; Shapiro 2012, 1-23). Important for all teachers is understanding about how learning occurs, what happens in the brain, and how knowledge is mapped and integrated throughout the brain. A particular focus in this sessions will be the role of mirror neurons, the specialised brain cells that fire both when motor acts are performed or observed (Rizzolatti and Craighero 2004, 169-192; Arbib 2010, 12-24).

In music education, much of what we do to be musical is a sensorimotor act, in a group. This type of activity is very strong learning because of the ability of the learner to observe, act, practise, compare to past experience, explore, experiment and develop bigger and wider mind maps of concepts (Rizzolatti and Fabbri-Destro 2008, 179-184). Participants in this session will experience firsthand, through simple performance activities, how the body informs the brain and builds conceptual knowledge. They will then reflect on how they learned, what the teacher does to engender this and link it to the research.