Classical music proves to be a hit with primary school children

08 January 2014

Opportunities to listen extensively to classical music in the early years of primary school are likely to lead to children appreciating a wider range of music in later years, according to a study by Sue Hallam of the Institute of Education (IOE).

 Professor Hallam carried out the research to evaluate the effectiveness of Apollo Music Projects, a music education programme which brings live classical music to children who might not otherwise experience it. The evaluation of the programme showed that children had a positive reaction and had not developed any prejudices against classical music.
During the course of the project children listened to a range of music from a selection of well-known classical composers including Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Ravel, Shostakovich and Mendelssohn. The process of listening to live classical repertoire enabled children to enhance their listening skills and develop other skills needed for careful listening, including concentration and self-discipline.
The children's skills are developed as the musicians explain what they should listen for and engage with them in a series of question and answer sessions about the music. As the programme progresses the listening tasks become more complex until the children are able to listen intently to entire movements of string quartets and symphonies.
Sue Hallam, Professor of Education and Music Psychology, IOE said:
"This music programme is unique in focusing on developing children's listening skills through guided exposure to classical music. There is no dumbing down in this programme. It recognises the ability of children to respond to sophisticated ideas and provides them with an opportunity to explore their feelings and use their imagination. Teachers also found an improvement in a range of the children's skills but particularly listening."    
David Chernaik, Chief Executive and Programme Director, said:
"It is fantastic for us to have this evaluation of our projects. We have consistently found that when classical music is presented in the right way children have a direct and positive response, and that as trust grows between the children and the musicians we can take them further. By the time they hear a full orchestra their level of concentration and enjoyment is amazing to see."
The children reported that they enjoyed listening to classical music and that it was not too difficult for them. They said the programme was appropriate for younger children, and some children indicated that they were more open-minded to classical music than adults might think. Mary Igoe, a former head teacher from Columbia Primary School, London who was involved with the programme said:

"Working with Apollo Music Projects brings a new dimension to our pupils' appreciation of music. For many of the children it is the first time they have experienced musicians playing classical music before their eyes. There is delight as the sound fills their own classroom and excitement when they attend a public concert. The skills of careful listening and differentiating musical sounds transfer to other areas of the curriculum and improve their ability to concentrate and attend to details."
This innovative music education programme was originally developed by Apollo Music Projects in partnership with Hackney Music Service. This is the tenth year that it has been delivered in primary schools in Hackney and Tower Hamlets and it is now expanding into neighbouring boroughs. So far 4,500 children in 26 primary schools and over 22,000 children in assemblies and schools concerts have been inspired by the experience of live music in the classroom and the concert hall.
A report launch will take place on 21 January at 5.15 – 6.15 pm at Shoreditch Town Hall, London. If you would like to attend or receive a copy of the report please contact Rowan Walker in the IOE Press Office on 0207 911 5423 or at
Notes to Editors
About Apollo Music Projects
Apollo Music Projects brings live classical music to children, taking them on a journey from a first experience of live performance in the classroom to the thrilling spectacle of a full orchestra in concert. The programme introduces children to the instruments of the orchestra, the musicians who play them and the music they play, providing the opportunity to hear live music and the tools to understand what they are hearing. The projects focus on developing listening skills, enabling students to discover for themselves how to listen to and enjoy classical music, using their own imagination and experiences to enter a new world of sound, stories and feelings.
About the IOE
The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specialises in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the Institute's research activity was judged to be internationally significant and over a third was judged to be "world leading". The Institute was recognised by Ofsted in 2010 for its "high quality" initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students "to want to be outstanding teachers". The Institute has moved up to 7th place in the QS world rankings for education.  What's more, looking only at the metrics indicators on research quality and impact, the IOE rises to third, alongside Harvard and Stanford. More at