Exploring the Musical Culture of an African American Child with Developmental Disabilities in Group Music Therapy

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Children with developmental disabilities
musical culture
special education in early childhood
cultural implications in music therapy

How to Cite

Cork, M. (2013). Exploring the Musical Culture of an African American Child with Developmental Disabilities in Group Music Therapy. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 13(2). https://doi.org/10.15845/voices.v13i2.723


The purpose of this study was to explore the role of the musical culture of an African American child with developmental disabilities in group music therapy. Qualitative methods were employed in an early childhood education setting. First, interview questions were sent home to parents and guardians of participants regarding music in the home, and music examples were analyzed based on the genres reported in the interview answers. Then, one session of four male participants with developmental disabilities, ages 4-5, was conducted and analyzed. The participants were of African American, Hispanic, Pakistani, and Caucasian ethnicities. The researcher focused on the African American child, utilizing clinical data and an examination of the musical sources that represent the child’s musical culture in the home. The results indicated that the musical culture of the child played a significant role in the group music therapy process. The musical culture of the African American child in the study was found to be characterized by three main elements: emphasis on a strong rhythmic pulse, emphasis on movement, and singing or chanting as a means of expression. The child seemed to be less engaged when the music was syncopated, lacked a strong rhythmic pulse, was interspersed with verbal injections, or contained Spanish lyrics. Although some conclusions have been drawn to indicate the significance of musical culture in a group music therapy setting with children, there is a great need for further research in order to determine more precise ways in which musical culture influences the group music therapy process. Thus, this study serves as a catalyst for future music therapy research.

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