USC Thornton’s Exciting New Strides in Researching Music and Child Development

The University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music is taking exciting new strides in studying music and child development. USC has appointed new faculty members, formed pioneering partnerships, and will be researching a population which has rarely appeared in scientific literature – children from inner city of Los Angeles.

The university recently announced that Peter Webster, professor emeritus and director of the PhD program in music education at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, will join Thornton’s faculty in Fall 2013.

“Peter Webster is an acknowledged leader in the area of musical creativity in children,” said Robert Cutietta, USC Thornton School Dean. “We are thrilled to welcome him to Thornton.”

This follows the school’s July announcement about their new partnership with the USC Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI), the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, and Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA).  The institutions have embarked on a five-year project designed by Beatriz Ilari (assistant professor of music ed at USC Thornton) and Assal Habibi (from the USC Brain and Creativity Institute) which will explore the role of early music engagement in learning and brain function.

“I’ve been doing research with children for more than 10 years, but this opportunity to research the brain is new to me. The exchange has been very rich and very interesting,” said Ilari. “Habibi is a neuroscientist and pianist who also worked with the children… Our goal is to look at a population that would represent Los Angeles and seldom appears in music psychology and science literature.”

Neuroscientists and music educators from USC began working with students from the Heart of LA’s Youth Orchestra (YOLA) in September of 2012. The researchers are studying six-year-old students who are encountering music training for the first time. This will provide data on how intense musical training affects the children’s brain development.

“With the new study, new faculty, and the new partnership with the USC Brain & Creativity Institute, the Music Education program is poised for spectacular growth,” said Dean Cutietta.  “Thornton is in a great position to lead the research of childhood musical development for years to come.”

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