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A study on the factors influencing the talent development of a musically gifted adolescent in Singapore using Gagne's DMGT-based analysis.


Talent development in music is a complex phenomenon. The literature documents a number of musical talent developmental studies, broadly divided into those examining the effects of the characteristics of the environment (Bloom, 1985; Sloboda & Howe, 1991; Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius & Arnold, 2003), genetic and hereditary influences (Gagne, 2001; Scheinfeld, 1972), and musical training and practice (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer, 1993; Ericsson, Nandagopal & Roring, 2005). The differences in research focus stem from the argument of nature versus nurture in the existence of musical talent, suggesting that exceptional performance is entirely either the product of nature or nurture. In the context of music, Scheinfeld (1972) studied musically able children and claimed that 70% of them have musical parents, attributing individual differences, in part, to common genes among family members. Other musical development studies have noted that beyond innate abilities, there are many other psychological and sociological factors that can have significant impact on the development of musical expertise. These include the role of parental and familial environment (Bloom, 1985; Sloboda & Howe, 1991), schooling and teachers (Clark & Zimmerman, 1988; Subotnik, Jarvin, Moga, & Sternberg, 2003), intrapersonal (Pirrto, 1999; Winner & Martino, 2000) and prolonged effort and hard work (Ericsson, et al., 1993; Sloboda, Davidson, Howe, Moore, 1996).

The study takes on an exploratory approach to investigate the factors that influenced the musical talent growth of an adolescent in the Singapore context. Focusing on the musically gifted adolescent's musical experiences over a span of 10 years from the time she began her first piano lessons at four years of age to the present when she is an undergraduate at a music conservatory, the study draws out common themes from the adolescent, her parents and two of her teachers to create a picture of the factors that represented her talent emergence. The present research used Gagne's Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT, 2003) as a model, which groups a wide range of variable categories and encompasses a comprehensive list of causal factors into an interactive model of talent development. Termed by Gagne (2000) as an useful analytical tool, "DMGT-based analysis" (p. 71) is a systematic approach which uses the DMGT model as a classification tool to group relevant data and material from the study to be codified into categories and sub-categories in relation to the DMGT. Believing that talent development is a 'complex choreography' (Gagne, 2000, p. 67) of many factors, Gagne posits that almost anything can affect talent development and propounded the Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT: 2003) to illustrate the development of talent in any particular human activity. Gagne's model offers a useful framework in this study on musical talent development because it embraces all domains of gifts and talents and despite being recognized as one of the more prominent frameworks in studies of intellectual giftedness and other domains, it has not been widely used for the understanding of musical giftedness.

Background on case study

The case study focused on the musical experiences of fourteen-year-old Ling (pseudo name), who is an accomplished young pianist of Singapore-Chinese descent. Ling was chosen because she is regarded as one of the region's most promising young pianists ('Singapore's talented children', 5 Dec, 2003; 'Small wonders', 10 Feb, 2005). Ling is talented in music and excels academically. Raised in Singapore, she is the eldest in the family and has a twin brother. In the preliminary surveys, Ling was asked to give a profile of her academic and musical achievements. Ling was ranked among the top one percent in Singapore in an international Maths Competition sponsored by the University of New South Wales and was a high scorer in the Year 2004 Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) [1]. She was also selected for the Gifted Education Program (GEP) [2] in Singapore scoring a math/verbal average high of 700 in the SAT exams. Her musical endeavors are equally stellar. Ling was accepted to a prestigious local music conservatory at the age of thirteen, making her the youngest music undergraduate in Singapore. This puts her well within the top one percent of the talent threshold in the DMGT. On top of this, she won numerous awards in piano competitions, including a first prize in a prestigious international piano competition.

Gagne's Work & the DMGT

In attempts to clarify the nature-nurture debate, Gagne, Blanchard and Begin (1999) used DMGT-based analysis to conduct a large-scale empirical survey of 3000 participants from the academic, music and sports fields to examine innate abilities in relation to individual differences. Within this group, the majority give credence to both biological endowments and the environment for their talent emergence, with a minority of 11% who indicated either strong environmentalism or hereditarianism. According to Gagne (2007), everyone possesses certain degree of natural abilities in each of the four giftedness domains as proposed in his DMGT (see Fig. 1): intellectual, creative, socioaffective, and sensorimotor) which can be subdivided to more specific areas. Gagne (2004) asserted that, "One cannot be talented without first being gifted" (p. 125). However, it is possible for high natural abilities to remain simply as gifts and not be translated into talents, as witnessed by many child prodigies who never attain expert levels of performance due to underachievement or in the cases of potentially talented musicians who do not sustain their commitment in the pursuit of excellence. Perhaps the most defining characteristic of Gagne's DMGT lies in its distinction between 'gifts' and 'talents'. The DMGT illustrates the transformation of gifts to talents through the continual process of talent development in a particular occupational domain. This developmental process is the core of the DMGT without which, gifts cannot be systematically developed into expert skills. His model presented giftedness as 'aptitudes' or 'raw abilities' in one or more domains of ability and referred to talent as the performance in one or more fields of human activity. In the case of musicians, he gave the example of intelligence as a natural ability modeled in one's finger dexterity, rhythmic coordination and pitch accuracy of musicians. A gifted individual is defined as follows.

Giftedness designates the possession and use of untrained and spontaneously expressed natural abilities (called aptitudes or gifts), in at least one ability domain, to a degree that places an individual at least among the top 10% of age peers. (Gagne, 2003, p.60).

In the DMGT, environmental catalysts are distinguished in four distinct components; (1) the milieu or surroundings refers to demographics, home environment, access to learning resources, size of family, socioeconomic status, and neighborhood learning resources, (2) persons, for example parents, siblings, extended family, friends, educators, (3) provisions such as school or community programs, activities and other interventions, and (4) significant events which could impact their vocational decision and chance (the probability of the right person being at the right place at the right time). Together with intrapersonal catalysts which include physical (e.g., health, physical appearance) and psychological aspects (e.g., motivation, personality, and volition), and the role of 'chance', these factors interweave in a complex pattern of interaction as they facilitate the talent development process.



The DMGT-based analysis (Gagne, 2000) was used to understand the dynamics of Ling's musical experiences over a span of ten years, from the time she had her first piano lesson at the age of four till present, as a full-time music undergraduate. The DMGT guided the construction of preliminary surveys and interview protocols for the parents, adolescent and two teachers, especially in the choice of the most relevant causal factors, survey and interview items and the presentation of results. The preliminary were conducted before the interview to gain baseline information on demographics and background information of the participants.

Two in-depth interviews were conducted, one with the adolescent, another with the parents, each lasting approximately one and a half hours. Secondary data in the form of phone interviews with the respective teachers and related newspaper articles, archives and concert programs and reviews were also collected to supplement the data analysis. The surveys were interpreted and analyzed for coding using an exploratory technique--"free pile sorting" which was used to identify the key statements from the description of the parents and adolescent. In addition, 'selective coding' (Corbin & Strauss, 1990, p. 9) was employed to cross-examine all the key statements and domains to ensure that the categories are distinct and separate on their own. The key themes were then categorized and in relation to its meaning units to form a basis for discussion in this article.


The study examined and focused on the musical experiences of an exemplary case in Singapore. Due to constraints of time and manpower, the participants of the study were limited to Ling, her parents and two of her teachers. The teachers were selected based on Ling's and her parents' inputs that they were the two most influential teachers throughout her musical development. At the same time, the interviews with the participants are based on their recollections and spontaneous responses and could sometimes lack more articulate insights of the musical development.


The study revealed key themes that represented the types of causal factors in Ling's musical development. These key themes are presented in five categories and are separately examined in relation to Gagne's DMGT components:

1. Natural abilities

2. Support from significant others

3. Providence of musical experiences

4. Empowerment and motivation for success

5. Cultural values and expectations

1. Natural abilities

The data shows that both parents and teachers took early notice of Ling's natural flair with music and her ease and speed of learning the piano. Ling's giftedness in music was first observed by her parents in the early beginnings of her music development in how she surpassed her classmates in many aspects of musical learning.
   From the very first few lessons, we realized that she took to it
   very fast: while the other kids were looking for their middle "Cs",
   and all that ... she was already picking up tunes that they sang.
   Then I thought, "She must have something".

Ling's younger siblings were given formal music lessons but none of them had the same level of musical development. In the DMGT, Gagne (2004) has accorded a partial share of individual abilities to an individual's genetic endowments, and that these natural abilities can be seen in almost every task that the individual is confronted with in the course of her learning and development. In fact, the data shows that Ling was highly gifted in both academic and musical areas. It was clear that Ling possessed exceptional natural abilities in music and that was confirmed by her teachers and international music experts.

Parents: She was very impressive there and they actually loved her. Quite a few teachers there gave me feedback that she does have something, that it would be a waste if we stopped any of her lessons.

Ling's piano playing has a magical quality about it. By any standard, hers is a skill of the highest calibre (Singapore's Talented Children, 5 August 2003).

Ling showed musical qualities that corresponded to behaviors that her music teachers interpreted as exceptional qualities in music. This was first noticed very early by her parents during her first musical encounters with a group music lesson. This corresponded with what Gagne (2004) postulated as, "untrained and spontaneously expressed natural abilities" (p. 120). It was also observed by her second piano teacher, who in Ling's mother's words, said "She should find another more appropriate teacher who can give her the specialized guidance". Her later teachers became "excited and passionate" about exposing her to solo recitals and "performing at Carnegie Hall". One of the teachers interviewed noted the "moldable quality" when he first heard her performance and this was, in his belief, an important indicator for expert training. The other interviewed saw indicators of giftedness through her sheer rapid rate of improvements in a very short period of time, to a stage where she not only surpassed her age peers but even those who were much older than her.

Teacher 1: Her understanding of harmony [at first] was almost completely lacking. Within a year, her musical understanding began to catch up with her playing. She matured intellectually at a rapid pace. Within two years, she could reason and communicate as would a freshman in college. By the time she entered the Conservatory, the depth of her musical understanding had well exceeded that of many of her peers.

Teacher 2: I gave her an academic book--Mozart's Piano Concerto Form: The 1st Movement of The Piano Concerto by Denis Forman. It is a rigorous book of high academic standards. College students may struggle with it. Nevertheless, I told her to read it and write a report on it. According to her mother, she relentlessly wrestled with the book. To my astonishment, she produced a well written report and could accurately tell me the contents of the book with detailed understanding.

2. Empowerment & Motivation for Success

Ling: I want to be a famous concert pianist and perform with orchestras all over the world when I grow up. I also want to compose my own music and arrange songs to make them more difficult.

Ling's sense of commitment to music is manifested in many ways from a very young age. Her parents commented on how Ling, at six years old, would put up with "the number of scoldings" during her training sessions to be selected for performance at the music school. Her parents confirmed that she wanted to achieve more than what her classmates were doing at group music class that she attended at four years old.

Parents: After a while, she wanted to know how you put in the left hand. She watched the teacher closely. When the class was playing a short tune, she was actually harmonizing. She was about four years old. Her drive and commitment to excel in music is verified in her teacher's comments about her qualities.

One of her teachers shared that she possessed "profound fortitude and motivation for a child her age" and "had determination and perseverance that are quite uncommon for someone her age". They further noted

Teacher 1: Her desire to excel and reach her potential is quite unusual. She has goals clearly in mind; for someone this young to have such a clear vision of what she wants to do as a performer is unique.

Teacher 2: Her intent to be a musician is completely genuine. It originates from deep within. Ling possesses the capability to intuit the nature of things.

This corresponded well with Gagne's DMGT that passion, motivation and volition for pursuing the domain plays a crucial part for sustainability in the field. For Ling, her commitment to music is shaped by three clear beliefs. At the most fundamental level, she is convinced that this is the path she wants to take.

Ling: It is important to want to be a musician. When you are asked why you want to be a musician, it is because "there is nothing else I want to be". You must want to be it and nothing else. Performing is a powerful thing-you can change lives. And music is an endless pursuit of beauty and knowledge and skill. I would be happy to spend the rest of my life doing that.

Her parents maintained that, "the passion for music is all Ling's doing" and that "she has a mind of her own". According to her father, "She (Ling) has a very special passion for music, "She pushes herself". Her parents recalled,

Parents: The school had these concerts, which they select out of so many kids. ... she wants to be the one who gets picked. I guess there is this need in her to excel, that pushes her on, and she worked very hard.

Ling's motivation to excel is closely tied to many aspects of her development. First, the need to be accepted and recognized by peers in the music industry. Second, the satisfaction, rewards and recognition she gets from competitions and performances, despite how grueling or daunting the situation and third, the recognition from and expectations of her teachers.

Ling: After my solo recital, I took a one-day break and then started work on a 15-minute piece, something my teacher asked me to memorize for the next lesson. I practiced for 5 days and did it. It was not a difficult piece, Bach's French Suite. For a concert in May, I practiced it in March but now, I am still refining and working on it.

In Ling's case, her musical development began with "fun experiences" and practice routines that are monitored and guided by her mother, but it slowly became a strict routine that is embedded in her daily life. What was evident was the huge amount of hours spent by Ling to be skilful in her instrument. Although it was grueling, Ling never stopped practicing. As her parents noted, "All the while, she loves to practice." This is verified in Ling's statements about how she perceives practice.

Ling: I never wake up thinking I don't want to play. I might wake up saying I don't want to practice a particular piece, but then I can go on to something new, dissect it, tear it apart.

3. Support from significant others

From the data, the parents invested time, money and effort throughout the musical development. In spite of their lack of musical knowledge, they, especially the mother, were highly supportive of her activities,

Parents: I (mother) don't have any musical training but from the book, I can roughly tell that this note will tally with this note. Then I would show her how it should be done theoretically and she understands that.

Ling: My mother had to sit in my lessons and supervise my practice, which was probably necessary, but it took up a lot of time.

Parents: It was in xxx school that she took it [piano practice] on very seriously because the training was quite strict ... she had to perform etudes, scales and all that. I had to sit in with her for every lesson and made sure that she practiced everyday for one hour, and it was very tedious. So we did go through that, accompanying her to classes, and sitting with her an hour a home everyday to practice.

From the beginning, it was noted how Ling had nurturing teachers who believed in her qualities and provided appropriate guidance at different stages of her musical development. Ling recalled her first teacher as one who "gave sweets, stickers and reward to encourage." Then there was the teacher "who lives in the back street" whom she remembered fondly as caring, kind and fun. As she began formal music lessons, she spoke of how her teachers recognized her potential and shared "big dreams" about performing at big cities.

Ling: He was very excited and he was very passionate about it. He thought I could do lots of things. Some things were unrealistic at that point but you know, he gave me something to look forward to. He exposed me to a lot of CDs and played good pianists' works and talked a lot about really big dreams like, Carnegie Hall.

In the later phase of her musical development, her current teachers "opened a whole new world" in her musical understanding.

Ling: He really changed my whole way of playing. Not just changed the way of playing but also the way of listening because before, I was listening as if I had a cloth over my ears. You are looking, and you are seeing everything in grey. I can tell a pianist is good but I wouldn't know why it is good, what is good.

Ling's teachers in the later phase spent a large amount of time working on details of technical expertise and artistry, but also provided soft skills such as tacit knowledge to prepare Ling into her career choice to be a professional musician. The teachers recognized her capability and took appropriate strategies to "raise the bar".

Teacher 1: We worked at a high artistic and academic level thus creating a more sophisticated working model. This model was in advance of Ling's years. She not only kept up but occasionally exceeded the model. I believed that Ling was sufficiently challenged to make such progress. In fact, she thrives in these challenges.

4. Providence of musical experiences

Ling: It was like everywhere around, there was music!

The parents recounted how the environment the child grew up in coincidentally provided a musical surrounding that fuelled her interest in the instrument, even though they themselves do not have any musical background. In fact, the child's first experience with the piano was an "old, banged-up upright" sitting in her grandmother's basement.

Parents: Her grandmother was staying very close to us and we had this old piano in the basement that has been sitting there forever. Nobody played on it, except my brother, who would once in awhile play tunes for the children. But she took a liking to it.

Gagne (2004) states "significant events" (that took place in one's life) as one of the three dominant variables of forces that act as environmental influences in his DMGT. By presenting opportunities in the form of enrichment provisions and significant events, these experiences "can markedly influence, positively or negatively, the course of talent development" (Gagne, 2004, p. 128). From a young age, the child was exposed to music in the environment and surroundings she grew up in.

Parents: I played a lot of music tapes. I, myself, like classical music. Even though I can't play any instrument, I attended SSO (Singapore Symphony Orchestra) performances. And I have quite a few classical CDs, and I played them in the house most of the time and she enjoyed that, listening to it and all.

Ling: My mom played music around the house, as the children were playing together. She played all types of tunes, not just classical.

Ling grew up in a "musical neighborhood", where most of her childhood friends took piano lessons and she would often listen to their practices. Eventually, she began formal music lessons. As the adolescent explained,

Ling: My neighbors were learning to play the piano. When we went to each other's houses, I could hear them play. They were already playing music pieces and I wanted to play like them.

The parents opened the doors to the world of music by exposing her to musical experiences from an early age. Her parents exposed her to concerts and it is perhaps one of those early experiences that ignited her interest in music performing.

Parents: She got her first taste of performances and she just loved it, even though it is only 5 minutes. After that, there is no stopping her. She fell in love with performing. She has the whole stage to herself!

They auditioned her at a music school for the musically gifted at the age of six and in believing in her potential, made bold decisions in organizing her first solo recital at the age of nine with the encouragement of one of her teachers. Later, the opportunities to perform on the world stage opened the doors for her to the professional music scene.

Parents: We went there (the Gina Bauchauer Piano Competition) for an eye-opening experience, without knowing it was such a big competition. We wanted to widen her horizon, open her ears and eyes to the world outside of Singapore and provide her with exposure to equally if not more committed and talented kids.

5. Cultural values & expectations

Being third generation Singaporean-Chinese, Ling's parents have brought with them certain oriental traditions and values in the way they facilitated her musical development. One of the most significant findings that emerged from the study is the way in which the parents believed that Ling has a gift for music. The mother recalled, "She has an ear for music and perfect pitch, so it was clear from the start that she has talent." Acting on their beliefs, the adolescent's parents wanted her to "experience as many things as possible". This reinforces the Confucian belief, zhi yao gong fu shen, tie chu mo cheng zhen, "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" (literally translated as with great skills, even an iron rod can be filed down to a fine needle) which implies that a strong foundation is necessary for one to develop fine skills needed to reap boundless rewards. The adolescent described a childhood that was filled with a myriad of learning activities.

Ling: My parents let me try out a lot of things when I was 5 to 6 years old. I went swimming a lot, played tennis, learnt how to cycle and took ballet, art and piano lessons. My brothers and I spent a lot of time running outdoors in the park, but at home and at kindergarten, we did more advanced Math and English comprehension exercises.

The Chinese have long regarded education as their top priority and viewed achievements as one of the hallmarks of the Chinese culture. In the early phase of musical development, the parents were also seen to demonstrate cultural value orientations to impart a sound value system to inculcate positive learning habits to achieve excellence. The shared parent-child expectations and beliefs influenced the way the adolescent acquired practice habits and developed a personal striving for success that was a critical step leading to the adolescent's long term commitment to the instrument. In the Chinese cultural climate, 'hard work' is part of a Confucian construct that Chinese people have instilled in their children for centuries. With the Chinese saying, qie er bu she, "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" (try your best), the Chinese children were taught from a young age to have the spirit of perseverance to attain one's best. It is evident that Ling and her parents both view "success" to be a prolonged and continuous process filled with hard work and self-effort.

Ling: It is a long process because there is so much to learn out there and it is a long way if I want to be conservatory teacher. I'm always learning and I still have so much to learn. Parents: She is still a budding musician, still a musician in training. It takes a lot more work, in terms of skills. If she wants to win the really major league competition, the next Van Cliburn or something in that category, she really has a long way to go.

The data also revealed that these cultural expectations are tied to certain cultural pressures to conform to cultural-societal expectations. The parents expect her to complete her post-graduate degree (DMA) and talked about participating in the "Van Cliburn Piano Competition". Their belief in the notion of "success" has translated to a form of parental expectation and career aspirations for their child.

The concept of filial piety or xiao "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" (xiao shun) in Confucian theory, in the form of unquestioning obedience to and respect for parents accounts for the motivation to pursue excellence and succeed in one's field, and requires that children unconditionally bring honour to their parents. The power of parental expectations and the child's submission to act upon their parents' wishes cannot be fully understood without taking Chinese tradition and history into consideration. Chinese children generally practice obedience to their parents, and work towards their goal with a sense of personal duty to gain their parents and even their teachers' respect. In this study, Ling has a high regard and respect for her parents and even her teachers, which is a value that is highly accorded in the Chinese culture.

Ling: I wouldn't be where I am right now without my parents and family. Besides supporting my music, my parents always taught me what was right and wrong.

Discussion & Implications

Overall, the findings of this study suggest that many complex factors interweave together in the process of talent emergence. Five macro themes emerged from the findings of this study, perceived by the participants as key catalysts influencing the adolescent's talent growth: (1) natural abilities, (2) empowerment and motivation for success, (3) support from significant others, (4) providence of musical experiences, and (5) cultural values and expectations. The macro themes: empowerment and motivation for success, support from significant others, providence of musical experiences, and cultural values and expectations can be categorized broadly as the 'environmental' and 'intrapersonal' catalysts interacting with each other to facilitate the talent process (Gagne, 2004, pp. 126-127).

With regard to the remaining themes, "natural abilities', the data showed evidence that a certain degree of innate aptitude or "giftedness" (Gagne, 2007) were present in Ling's case even before she began formal musical training. Ling showed how she "picked up tunes" and "put two hands together" of the songs that they sang in her early group music lessons, and later learnt at great speed and ease to surpass the abilities of those who were older and had studied piano for a longer period of time. Her teachers spoke unanimously of this special "moldable quality", where she was shown to understand complex musical structures and accomplish tasks well beyond her age.

What she possesses can be termed as what Gagne (2004) postulated were "natural abilities" which act as "raw materials" for talent. In other words, the development of natural abilities provides a foundation for expertise and with greater speed and ease of learning, the greater the natural abilities. Ling's learnt very fast to play the piano, especially in spite of the lack of prior formal musical experiences and the fact that both her parents have no musical training. Interestingly, Ling's siblings, especially her twin, were given the same musical training by their parents but did not yield similar results. Given the limited environmental inputs, the question to ask is: "Why was Ling the only one who was singled out by her teachers in spite of the similar opportunities and backgrounds given by her parents to her siblings?" This finding corresponded with Gagne's work and research on the existence of natural abilities.

The support of parents contributing to the success of musical development is well studied and documented (Bloom, 1985; Manturzewska, 1990; Sloboda & Howe, 1991; Subotnik et al., 2003). However, Gagne (2000) argued that whilst environmental catalysts are one of the "most visible of all casual factors" (p. 20), they alone cannot sufficiently guarantee fulfillment of potential. Like these studies, this case study yielded similar strong evidence of the significant role that parents and teachers play throughout a child's musical development. The child may possess natural musical abilities but without the recognition and support of the parents and teachers to make the most of it in the 'talent development process' (Gagne, 2004, p. 125), these abilities may never reach its fullest potential. Alongside parents, teachers play a complementary role in the development of a young musician because they can influence the development through their relationships with their students, the teaching strategies they adopt, and their willingness to transfer 'tacit knowledge' (Subotnik et al., 2003). This include social skills and awareness, sharing of the realities in the music scene, and "capturing their hearts and imaginations" to motivate them in developing "their own colour to create their own style" (Subotnik, 2000, p. 251).

Another key finding of the study that has neither been discussed nor included in studies in other context and in Gagne's work is how this case study in the Singapore context, revealed evidence of cultural values and attitudes having a profound impact on the way the parents perceive and practice talent development. Chinese cultures' theories and practices of human development have their roots in the Confucian tradition in their belief that, "every child has gifted potential" (Freeman, 2002, p. 9). The profound influence of the learning theory proliferating in rich and abundant Chinese stories and idioms give account of a people who achieve success through sheer hard work, effort, and will power. The Confucian notion of yin cai shi jiao "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" (every child has his or her level of ability) highlights the need to support and educate all children and maximize their level of giftedness (Chan, 2002; Yang, 2007; Zha, 1988). Hence, in this cultural context where education and achievements are valued and respected, the driving force behind the child's musical achievements are seen to be partly attributed to the parents' high expectations "to be the best", shared career aspirations, and a certain degree of pushing to succeed. Based on the findings, programme administrators and teachers should be aware of the diversity that exists within and between cultural groups in their country and this may in turn affect the way a musically gifted child is "nurtured and socialized" (Sternberg, 2007, p. 168). In the teaching and learning environment, this means understanding the child's musical performance, in part, as a function of culture and environment which he or she was raised and thus design identification tools, developmental and assessment strategies that will enable each child to maximize his or her strengths.

The learning, practice and training component in the DMGT constitutes a crucial causal factor in the development of talent, ensuring the growth and transformation of the natural abilities or "raw materials" to systematically trained talent (Gagne, 2004). Gagne's learning process is well supported by many other studies on elite musicians which converged on a '10-year rule' of an intensive training period to achieve expertise (Ericsson et al., 1993; Bloom, 1985; Manturzewska, 1990). In Ling's case, her musical development began with "fun experiences" and practice routines that were monitored and guided by her mother, but it slowly became a strict routine that is embedded in her daily life. What was evident was the many hours spent by Ling to be skilful in her instrument over this period of time, from spurts of 5-10 minutes daily in the early phase of her development, up to 6 hours a day at present.


As this is a single case study, the results cannot be generalized to the development of musical talents in other gifted students. However, some of these insights may be useful for parents, teachers and counselors. Programmes must consider this 'tripartite relationship' between the child, parents and teachers. Based on the findings, it can be perceived that life experiences, especially in different cultural contexts can lead to distinctively different parenting philosophies and beliefs and ultimately to different parenting styles and practices. This in turn shapes the way a child's talent growth is perceived and conditioned. It is also hoped that the findings of this study will provide basic theoretical grounds for further research in understanding the role of cultural perspectives in the talent development process of musically gifted individuals.


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Pauline SK Ho & Sylvia NY Chong National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

[1] A national examination for Singapore students, the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) is conducted at the end of six years in Primary school education.

[2] The Gifted Education Programme (GEP) is a special programme for the education of the intellectually gifted. The programme was first implemented in Singapore in 1984 and was initiated by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Pauline SK Ho completed her Bachelor's of Arts in Music and English and her Masters in Education (Music) in Singapore. She has taught for five years in secondary schools before being posted to the Co-Curricular Activities Branch, Ministry of Education, Singapore, where she was music and talent development officer. She is currently a research associate at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University in the Foundation Programmes Office.

Dr Sylvia NY Chong is an associate professor with the Visual and Performing Arts Academic Group, National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She is also the Associate Dean for Programmes Planning and Development in the Foundation Programmes Office. She is responsible for the planning and development of the initial teacher preparation programmes at NIE. Her current research interests focus on preparing teachers as well as teacher education policy and reform.
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Title Annotation:Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent
Author:Ho, Pauline SK; Chong, Sylvia N.Y.
Publication:Australian Journal of Music Education
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9SING
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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