Developing a Program for Gifted Music Students in Malaysia

This article presents the results and the findings of a project that created a conducive enhancement framework for gifted music diploma students in Malaysia. The project aims to provide them with all the educational tools and assistance for finding their own way in the highly competitive job market once they graduate from the university. The following research questions have been examined:

1) How are gifted students identified? How do young gifted students in Malaysia learn and develop their personal musical identity? 2) Which ideas and images of being a musician guide them? 3) Which factors are integral to their future development?

Three theoretical constructs have been developed from the narratives: 1) Environmental Influences in the Multi-educational Role Strain; 2) Exceptional Proficiency, Above Average Ability, Creativity and Task Application as Features of Gifted Behavior in a Multiple Intelligence Concept & 3) Emotional Intelligence and the Positive Reinforcement of Self-identity as Factors Contributing to the Development of Young Talents.

Grounded Theory has been employed for creating the theoretical narrative, which is needed for establishing the framework as well as for the identification of the gifted. The selection process is based the Renzulli’s ‘Three Rings Concept of Giftedness’, which has been adapted to UPSI’s standards for gifted music education and modified to represent physical and cognitive skills in music.

The advancement of the gifted students is an integral part of five music educational systems: in Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Chile. Previous studies published by Magdalena Borg, and Hanns Christian Stekel in an edited volume called Music School Research (2016) highlights these points. Another report followed in 2017, published in German, shows how gifted education has to be fostered in order to capitalize on the gifted students, who will benefit society. However, the lesson learned from the Bulgarian music educational system is that education of gifted students can be promoted only if there is a broad nation-wide music education network. If this network does not exist or the educational standards are too restrictive, it will almost certainly reflect on gifted education as well, because fewer talents will be promoted and fewer students will have access to a gifted education curriculum.

The research has also shown the relation between gifted education and successful, open-minded, social tolerance and an equal music educational network for everyone. Music education can be a vehicle for both social change and gifted students’ enhancement. The Chilean “Fundación de Orquesta Juveniles e Infantiles de Chile” (Youth and Children’s Orchestra Foundation of Chile) and the Austrian “Young Master Players” are world class examples of each. It is in the hands of Sultan Idris Educational University to set up such programs and give respect to local realities. It might become a mini example to follow elsewhere in Malaysia. This could have at least two benefits: increasing educational levels within their region and at the same time empowering and supporting the gifted students.

Identification Processes for the Gifted in General

The question, ‘Is any identification for gifted and talented programs necessary?’, has been repeatedly asked by researches contributing to this theme (Birch 1984), (Callahan 1982), (Torrance 1984), and (Borland & Wright 1994). There is a general consensus that such identification is needed, however, it is important not to believe that a person could be “either gifted or not gifted and nothing will ever change this status” (Renzulli, 2004).

Ths author shares the view that talent is not something constant and its appearance but could have peaks and valleys, and the final decision on the student’s potential and suitability for a particular program should be made by “the thoughtful judgment of knowledgeable professionals rather than instruments and cut-off scores that should guide selection decisions.” (Renzulli, 2004). Transferred into the field of music, this can be organized in the form of an audition for the candidates in front of a jury, whose results should be taken into account along with the information gained from interviews with the candidates and their teachers. It is important that the candidates, right from the beginning of the selection procedure, understand that there will not be any “winners” and “losers” and that the purpose of the audition is to find suitable candidates for a particular program (Callahan 1982), (Renzulli 2004).


Identification Process for Musically Talented Students

The author of the current study proposes Renzulli’s (1977) ‘Three Ring Conception of Giftedness’ as a part of the process for identifying musically talented students at Sultan Idris University, Malaysia. The Renzulli’s Three Ring Conception includes: “above-average ability, creativity, and task commitment” and based on it “researchers developed an observational model with checklists for screening students with high potential in dance and musical talents.” (Zimmerman, 2004)

There are a number of authors, who have used Renzulli’s Three Ring Conception for their studies. For instance, Baum, Owen, and Oreck (1996) studied urban students who were economically disadvantaged or did not do well on written tests and therefore as Zimmermann (2004) concluded: “they are not often identified as having outstanding dance and music talents.” (Zimmerman, 2004) There are also authors, who have used a combination of Gardner’s (1983) Theory of Multiple Intelligences and Renzulli’s (1977) Three Ring Conception of Giftedness for their studies. Such articles are conducted by Kay and Subotnik (1994), by Zimmerman (1995) as well as by Clark and Zimmerman (1988). In these articles Gardner’s (1983) theory of multiple intelligences (musical, spatial, and kinesthetic) and Renzulli’s (1977, 1986) Three Ring Conception were modified to include physical and cognitive skills in music and dance; motivation and creativity were defined as individual expression and cooperative problem solving.

According to Zimmerman (2004), the “[…] use of a variety of methods is important and ensures the quality of inquiry in the field of gifted and talented arts education and with a broad base of support in the field of educational research.” (Zimmerman, 2004) For the research project in Malaysia, the Grounded Theory by Strauss and Corbin (1996) was applied for evaluating the qualitative and open-ended interviews conducted in Sultan Idris Educational University. Magdalena Bork used the Grounded theory for her “Young Master Players Research” because:

A significant concern of a project based on grounded theory is to develop practical implications of the studied field. The knowledge developed or discovered in the project should flow back into the field and contribute to the further development of the respective practice. It was precisely this approach that made the application of this method to Young Master research so attractive. (Bork, 2017, In: Hofecker, Hahn, p. 77)

As the project at Sultan Idris University has been inspired by Magdalena Bork’s research, it will adapt some of her study’s key features: objectives, methodology and implementation. One particularly important point is that Grounded theoreticians tend to use the objectives for structuring their research interest, but they do not let the objective determine their study. It is an open-ended research process, which examines a phenomenon by connecting abstract knowledge to the narrative of the interview partners.

You create a theoretical narrative by organizing your constructs into a personal story that describes the subjective experience of your research. In this way it contrasts with more traditional research conclusions that are usually written from distant, “scientific” stance. (Auerbach, Silverstein, 2013, p. 74.)

The theoretical constructs, which finalize this study, may not completely match the initial ideas and thoughts of the research team. However, this does not necessarily mean that the research has deviated from its objectives but could instead be the basis for further studies and comparison.

In the Absence of Union

While some European countries have organized their music schools in national umbrella organizations and the national music school systems are themselves organized in a union, called the European Music School Union (EMU), there are no similar organizations for the countries and members of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). EMU is an umbrella organisation of 24 national music school associations across the continent. It was founded in 1973 as a non-government organization and as a member of the European and the International Music Council. Thanks to its counsellor status within the Counsel of Europe, EMU has become an advocate for sustainable music school policy at the European level.

The European Music School Union could be an example of a platform for music school policy exchange, which could be followed by the countries and members of ASEAN. In Malaysia, first of all, a national umbrella organization is needed for of all music school providers. Nation-wide standards and quality control in music pedagogy would be the beginning of a long term music educational strategy, which has to be integrated into the country’s education, culture and social policy. Currently, education institutions such as Sultan Idris Education University (UPSI) have taken the responsibility for both: to educate music teachers of the nation as well as train and benefit from cultivating gifted young musicians as they have the potential to become the musical elite of tomorrow. This therefore is exactly the function of the current study, to provide assistance by completing the goals of the gifted music education program of the University.

According to the interview partners, quality music education is available only for a few privileged people in Malaysia: for those who live mainly in the large cities such as Kuala Lumpur where wealthy people can access music education for their children through private music schools or conservatories. Such high school fees are not affordable for everyone. These circumstances contradict Renzulli (2004)’s vision that “Outstanding talents are present in children and youth from all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human endeavor” (Renzulli, 2004). For this reason, the ‘gifted child’ may have no access to music education and therefore may not be discovered. Hence, educational institutions such as UPSI, which are affordable and open for everyone, have the mission to promote music education and help students discover and develop their talents.


Check List and Framework

The following three objectives have been created in order to establish a program for gifted musicians at Sultan Idris University in Malaysia: 1) to create a check list of criteria of identifying gifted musicians; 2) to identify gifted musicians based on check list created and 3) to develop a framework for an effective music program for gifted music students.

Objective 1 includes observation of classes and interviews within the faculty. Creating an effective check list is essential in order to understand the local realities and therefore field research has to be carried out.

Objective 2 includes check list implementation, which is set to last for seven weeks (refer to GIFT – the Group Inventory for Finding Creative Talent developed in 1975 in the USA, Zimmerman 2004). The next step is the evaluation of the checklist’s results and the scheduling of an audition for selected candidates.

Objective 3 includes conducting qualitative interviews with selected gifted musicians. After evaluating the interviews, as well as the results of the field observations, a proposal for creating a framework will be made.

How are Gifted Students Identified?

According to Renzulli (2004) gifted and talented children are:

Children and youth with outstanding talent performance or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment. These children and youth exhibit high performance capability in intellectual, creative, and /or artistic areas, possess an unusual leadership capacity, or excel in specific academic fields. (…) Outstanding talents are present in children and youth from all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human endeavor. (Renzulli, 2004, p. xi).

For the identification of the gifted at Sultan Idris Education University, the research team has adapted Renzulli’s (2004) definition of Gifted with the knowledge gained from the anonymous interviews with the UPSI’s lecturers and students. The knowledge accumulated was summarized in ‘master repeating ideas’: “A repeating idea is an idea expressed in relevant text in two or more research participants.” (Auerbach, Silverstein, 2003, p. 54).

Renzulli’s Three Rings Concept of Giftedness has been adapted to UPSI’s standards for gifted music education and modified to represent physical and cognitive skills in music. This builds on Master Repeating Idea 5, which outlines ‘Factors, which promote the integral development of the gifted music students.’ Accordingly, motivation will be interpreted as persistence and it will be particularly noticeable if a student remains actively enthusiastic beyond the first three to four audition sessions (“Gifted students learn fast and can easily interpret a piece of music”: respondents #D+#F+H). Creativity has been translated into individual expression (“They ask smart questions and understand the lector’s explanation”: respondents #J+#K) and cooperative problem solving in music or dance (“They are usually exposed to classical music at very young age and this has helped them to develop a feel for rhythm, a good ear and a sense of music”: respondents #D+#F+#K) The specific criteria adapted from the Three-Rings Model are summarized below (See Table 1):

  • SKILLS: rhythm, perception of sound, coordination
  • MOTIVATION: enthusiasm, ability to focus, perseverance
  • CREATIVITY: expressiveness, composition and improvisation

Table 1: Curriculum Outline in Music

The following is a sample of a student identification system (TIS, see Table 2) and curriculum outline based on the interview evaluations of UPSI lecturers, Renzulli (1978) and Zimmermann (2004). Outstanding performance is marked with a simple plus mark in the relevant area. All plusses will be totalled at the end and the following formula will apply (see Table 3)

Table 2: Sample of Student Music Talent Profile for TIS (Diploma Music Students, max. 16 “+”):

Table 3: Formula for Talent Identification System

If “+” = n & # = nr, then


The highest mark is 7, which would mean that the student’s ability goes beyond the relevant behaviour. It is followed by 6 (meeting expectations), 5 (meeting most of the expectations) and so forth. At UPSI, the instrumental teachers, band & orchestra teachers as well as traditional Malaysian music teachers and music theory teachers could all be eligible for making assessments of students’ talents.

Table 4: Achievement Key based on UPSI interviews’ evaluation

Multi-session Audition Process

The identification process will be completed by a multi-session audition process. Although audition is most often used for the selection of musicians, it might not be enough when it comes to the selection of young talent. An audition shows off only the candidate’s ability, but not his or her motivation, task commitment and creativity. According to Renzulli (1978) and Nunally (1979) these attributes are as important as ability: “Although auditions of performance seem preferable, they too tend to impose limitations. First, they offer constrained opportunities for talent demonstration. Single observations lack reliability and thus have little predictive validity” (Nunnally, 1979, In: Zimmerman, 2004, p. 58).

Motivation, task commitment, and creativity may be inhibited or impaired during a single audition. (Renzulli, 1978) Another problem is that an audition only proves the ability gained during previous training. However, for students with limited access to specific musical training, the audition process might become a barrier. “That is, they measure achievement not aptitude. This presents a particular validity problem for assessing children who have had limited opportunity for formal training in the arts” (Zimmerman, 2004, p. 58).

As Malaysia is a country which does not have a nation-wide music school educational system, this point might be particularly important (for National Music School System refer to Hanh, 2017, In: Music School Research, Hofecker, Hahn, 2017). The audition process should be completed once successful candidates have been selected by a team of professional juries. The audition panel should be represented by the class teachers of the candidates, professionals from the university and outside professionals involved in the project


The findings have been extracted from interview partner narratives and framed within the three theoretical constructs based on Grounded theory. The interviews were conducted in the period of time between January and June 2018. The video and audio recording are saved in SD cards and will be kept until the end of the postdoctoral project. The anonymous interviews have been conducted in English and edited by the research team after being transcribed from the sound recording medium. Although the language used for the interviews was always English, the research team have edited some of the transcriptions in order to ensure the flow of the conversation, without changing the meaning of what has been said. As all of the interview partners agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, they are cited by the letter given them by the coding system, which is following Auerbach & Silverstein (2003).

The findings correspond with the following research questions, which have been asked at the beginning of the study:

  • How do young gifted students in Malaysia learn and develop their musical identity?
  • Which ideas and images of being a musician guide them?
  • Which factors promote their integral development?

Theoretical Construct 1: Environmental Influences in the Multi-educational Role Strain

Theme 1: Praising aspects of the students’ music educational background
Theme 2: Negative aspects of the students’ music educational background
Theme 3: Developing music identity
Theme 4: Determining music identity

When the interview partners were asked about the impact of the surrounding environment on the music education in Malaysia, they naturally thought about their own childhood and experiences with music. So, respondents #C+#F+#W expressed similar understanding, that “talents’ evolution starts at a very young age and depends on the environment. Therefore, children have to be exposed to music from a very young age.” According to Renzulli (2004) “outstanding talents are present in children and youth from all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human endeavor” (Renzulli, 2004). This also applies to music talents. But when it comes to reflecting on the development of talent, there are many different realities in Malaysia a vast country with rich ethnical, religious and multi-cultural character.

The variety of educational formats mirrors the population diversity in Malaysia. This explains the reason why educational institutions such as UPSI have to cope with different challenges arising from the different social, cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds of the students. As respondents #C+#L+#O have said: “The different educational background of the students is challenging, but there is the advantage that they can learn a lot from each other. The disadvantage is that students with advanced knowledge are learning nothing new.” With some exceptions such as arts schools and some international schools in the capital, most of the schools in Malaysia don’t provide music education for their students. Even if there is a program, since “music teachers in Malaysia are not skilled enough and the lessons are only technology based” (respondent #A), then it could only be barely called music education in the sense of teaching musical skills to students. As a result, “when the students enter the university, most of them may need longer time to decide what exactly they want to study” (respondent #L). It means that during the Diploma study, which is the first level of university education, students are still orientating and trying to get used to their new environment. Since the Diploma study is quite short, most of them would not finalize this process, even after completing the Diploma study: “After completing the Diploma study students are still not mature with their major. Therefore, respondents #B+#T suggested that it is important that the degree program provides enough continuity between the subjects and especially the musical subjects.”

Theoretical Construct 2: Exceptional Proficiency, Above Average Ability, Creativity and Task Application as Features of Gifted Behaviour in a Multiple Intelligence Concept

Theme 5: Circumstances which further the education of the gifted
Theme 6: Circumstances which hinder the education of the gifted
Theme 7: Advantages for UPSI graduates within the job market
Theme 8: Disadvantages for UPSI graduates within job market

Several music and dance studies, which have adapted Gardner’s (1983) Theory of Multiple Intelligences (musical, spatial, and kinesthetic) and Renzulli’s (1977,1986) Three Ring Conception (above-average ability, creativity, and task commitment) have proven that “motivation, task commitment, and creativity over time are as important as ability. Further, motivation, task commitment, and creativity may be inhibited or impaired during a single audition” (Zimmerman, 2004, p. 58).

Therefore, identification of the gifted has to be regarded under the consideration of sufficient amounts of time and should be thought of as a process rather than as a single event. This was also seen in a similar way by interview partners #C+#E+I#: “a good performer is not necessarily someone with strong theoretical skills, the combination of practice and theory makes the excellence.  Therefore, education in music theory should start before the student enters the university in order to support their instrumental training.” It means that only students, who have been provided with all necessary knowledge, can be considered for identification. Students complain about too few music educational subjects, but too many general subjects, which may be irrelevant for music educators. Arranging, composition and orchestra, together with their chosen instrument, are the subjects, which are most credited by the students. However, they are only taught as an introduction rather than as a major curriculum subject. As suggested by respondents #M+#Q, students themselves wish for a program for the gifted, “which should provide students with all necessary knowledge for the professional stream and which should support students in becoming successful musicians”. Students need to be taught not only technical knowledge, but also how to proceed towards that knowledge. The correct way of practising, in combination with good time management, are the keys for success, according to the interviews with respondents #D+#R, who are former members of the Malaysian Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (MYPO). MYPO is one of the most creditable institutions, which provides orchestral training for young and gifted Malaysian musicians. At the moment, according to respondents #Q+#R “the standards of playing music instruments at UPSI must be much higher, if UPSI wants to be competitive when compared to other Performing Arts Institutes in Malaysia.” The situation elsewhere in Malaysia is not much different and therefore respondents #Q+#R suggests that: “students, who would like to become professional performers, may need to change their university or study abroad, because of the lack of reasonable educational offers.”

Also, solutions need to be worked on to improve the music education opportunities at the secondary schools, as suggested by interview partners #A+#B+#I:: “playing only classical music is considered short sighted and Malaysian students may think that classical music is boring, as they are not acquainted with this particular environment.” Universities such as UPSI may be advised therefore to explain to students about the huge heritage of classical music. Currently, according to interview partners #M+#O+#S “it is only through lecturers, that students are getting introduced to the vast heritage of classical music that exists”. Nor are “students are made aware of how important classical music is for their development“. (respondents #L+#M+#T).

According to interview partners #D+#H “while playing a guitar, drums and pop singing has such a long tradition here and pop music students are almost ‘job ready’, when they enter the university, classical playing skills lag years behind.” This is because “the level of understanding of classical music is still at the level of gigs” as stated by interview partners #L+#M+#T. Additionally, “choosing the correct musical instrument for students can be very challenging, as this is something very individual.” (respondent #F). Only thanks to the personal engagement of the tutors, students are able to win auditions and to find jobs in the highly competitive classical music job market.

Theoretical Construct 3: Emotional Intelligence and the Positive Reinforcement of Self-identity as Factors Contributing to the Development of Young Talent

Theme 9:  Positive influence of family, teachers, friends, environment and technologies on students’ progress
Theme 10: Negative influence of family, teachers, friends, environment and technologies on students’ progress

The emotional intelligence by Goleman (1997) as well as the multiple intelligence concept by Gardner (1991) present further concepts of giftedness, where “self-confidence, self-esteem, success orientation, and courage, allowing the consciousness to exercise influence, charisma, sense of mission, physical and mental energy, and the ability to engage oneself totally in one field of knowledge” are all embraced. (Renzulli 2007, after Borg 2017) In addition, the role of the family, religion as well as the influence of teachers or friends have to be explored in order to understand all factors in the development of young talents.

Most of the students interviewed stated their “confidence and discipline” as a key for their success by fulfilling their professionals’ goals and dreams. This complies with the broad understanding at UPSI, which has been expressed during the interviews (respondents #D+#K+#L), that “students who are confident and motivated are exampled as talented. Those who have no confidence are believed to have no motivation.” Only with regard to the factor of confidence, can some tutors believe they can identify the gifted students. This shows a tendency, as expressed by interview partners #D+#K+#L that “students who have less personal confidence tend to be overlooked.” This can be prevented with a university’s research-based framework, which will set standards for identification on gifted students.

Generally, although lecturers like when “students ask smart questions”, not all lecturers tolerate when their students have questions. This contradicts the experience, which some of the lecturers have had when studying overseas (respondents #C+#T): “Although some students (and lecturers) still believe that it is better not to have questions, there is nothing wrong with that, but having questions expresses one’s curiosity and eagerness to learn.” Also, as reported by respondent #C, “the music program in UPSI and in the States are very different. The first one opens students’ mind and the second one may make some of the students feel a little bit isolated.” In order to help their students, some lecturers involve their students in different games and techniques, which enhance their critical thinking and curiosity. This is crucial for students’ development, because as formulated by interview partner #F: “there aren’t many reasonable job opportunities for musicians in Malaysia, therefore students have to be creative in order to create jobs. As a consequence, some of them consider opening their own schools, founding their own band or teaching and performing as possible jobs after graduation.” It is a matter of fact, mentioned by respondents #L+#N, that since the background of the lectures in some cases is very similar to those of their students, this “can help one to understand much better the challenges, which the students are facing.”

Young people, who want to become professional musicians, often meet challenges even at the beginning of their professional path. First of all, although “Malaysian people are in general very open minded in terms of music appreciation” (respondents #G+#M+#N), the “music education in Malaysia is not very popular and to be a musician is still not considered as a ‘proper job’ in many families.” (Respondents #A+#C+#G+#M+#N+#N1+#T+#Q) The parents’ or / and friends’ support, which is crucial for young music students, in some cases had been experienced as discouraging, due to the lack of understanding.

Some students are finding support and sources of inspiration in new technologies such as social networks, video channels, etc. This kind of motivation is becoming more and more important as YouTube “can contribute to the popularization of some musical instruments, which are currently not so popular in Malaysia.” (respondents #E+#F+#I) Nevertheless, such an approach still has some limitations according to interview partners #F+#E+#K+#R, since: “Young musicians need leaders to motivate and guide them. For some students YouTube can be helpful, but YouTube cannot replace teachers, as without good teachers nobody can succeed, even the most talented.”

As there is no doubt that the “environment and technologies are important for the success of the learning process” (respondents #A+#B+#N+#V+#W+#X+#Y+#Z+ #AZ), similarly most of the interview partners, especially the students (respondents #J+#M+#R+#S+#T+#X),  expressed that “religion plays an important role in the life of the Malaysian people. Sometimes it could boost or disturb one’s passion for music. Some students pray for success and find confidence in their faith.” Many of the lecturers and the students have been introduced to music appreciation by participating in service activities for their religion. In this case religion has boosted and has given a framework for deepening musical knowledge. In other cases, it has hindered the development even though there was the talent initially (respondents #G+#L+#P). Although the question of the religion seems to be important to the interview partners, they didn’t really want to speak much about that. If there is any specific reason for that, it can be further questioned and explored in subsequent studies.


Currently, in Malaysia, there are two music and arts education program which have to be considered for further studies in order to promote a new, university-based gifted students’ framework. The first one is called Permata and the second one Sekolah Seni. As this paper is a qualitative research based on expert and narrative interviews, the comparison with Permata and Sekolah Seni will be considered in a second stage of the research. The following is a proposal for a university-based program for gifted music students.

The suggestions are made with regards to the evaluation of the interviews with the gifted music students and lecturers of USPI. Another inspiration has been taken from Austria’s Young Master Project, which is a project within the scope of the Vienna Music University’s Enrichment Program for the Exceptionally Gifted and an open promotion concept supporting exceptionally talented young musicians of the Music University (MDW) and the Johann Sebastian Music School (JSBM). The program has two modules: theoretical and practical. Only students who have gone successfully through both modules are eligible to continue their participation in the “Intensive Education” (a further step of the university program, which follows the preliminary stage.) Only students who have successfully undergone the identification process (TIS, see Table 2) and have achieved at least 6 as a mark (see Table 4) will be invited to join the program. The program aims to prepare the student for a professional career in music in the best possible way and includes:

Theoretical module: the students are intensively educated in music theory, as well as solfeggio and obligatory piano lessons, (each one of them is held once a week);

Practical module: the students have twice weekly instrumental coaching, as well as instrumental lessons with piano accompaniment, chamber music, traditional music and orchestra training;

At the end of each term there are exams, which aim to evaluate the student’s progress. If the student has participated in a competition, it will be acknowledged and the exams can be postponed/ cancelled;

Mentoring: the student will be advised what has been achieved, what has to be done next and what are the goals for the future. There is a ‘Master Plan’ for each student, signed by the student and her/his mentor and both must be committed to following it; and

All instrumentalists have to successfully complete at least one chamber music and one orchestra ensemble project within each year.

The proposed framework should correspond with the research participant’s needs and therefore it should incorporate:

Awareness of all factors and influences on musical development

Creation of a conducive enhancement environment for gifted students in the first year Diploma of Music

Building up networks and partnerships; creating a broad, networked environment in which young talents can move, grow and find the right path for themselves

Promoting scholarships for talented students as well as for those with a disadvantaged social background

Offering jobs and professional realization within the framework in order to benefit the system

Organizing performances, master classes, workshops and international tours as an integral part of education

Ongoing professional development for educational staff

Opening a boarding house for students from rural and undeveloped areas

Exchange programs with other music institutes in order to widen the educational horizon of students and teachers


“… the purpose of my music teaching is to remind my Muslim brothers and sisters of the better side of humanity, the kinder, gracious, beautiful side of people”. (Brand, 2006, p. 133).

Taking all the above factors into consideration, it can be concluded that educational universities such as UPSI play a leading role in the modernization of Malaysian society. By giving students with different educational, religious or ethnic backgrounds new identity and based on their knowledge and professional development, it would be for many students an unprecedented chance to build up their own future based on their knowledge and professional development, rather than the role or expectation imposed by society.

However, in order to fulfil its important mission within society, UPSI needs to work towards improving its music educational offer for highly gifted young musicians. Among the elements worthy of praise within aspects of its music programme, there are also voices of criticism. They have to be heard in order to improve the faculty’s standards. Furthermore, acknowledging the local culture and understanding, one may guess that what has been said as a criticism, may only be ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Therefore, those in charge are well advised to consider the findings from the study, together with the proposed framework, as a chance for the gifted students to accomplish their goals and dreams. Notwithstanding the awareness of the authors of this paper that one isolated programme cannot fundamentally change the environment where young musicians grow and develop their talents as professionals, the introduction of a new framework for gifted music students could be seen as another positive sign of change. This in turn could inspire further improvement of the music educational standards in the whole country and beyond.

Analysing the Research Study

As an example of transparency, the following will show how the theoretical construct 3 ‘Emotional Intelligence and the Positive Reinforcement of Self-identity as Factors Contributing to the Development of Young Talent’ was developed. Firstly, the different ideas have been organized as repeating ideas. Secondly, the repeating ideas have been organized as master ideas. The following repeating ideas have been organized as master ideas 3 and 4:

Master Idea 3: Positive Influence of Family, Teachers, Friends, Environment and Technologies on Students’ Progress

#G+#D: Malaysian people are in general very open minded in terms of music appreciation;

#I+#R: YouTube can contribute to the popularization of some musical instruments, which are currently not so popular in Malaysia;

#D+#H: While classical playing is years behind, because of the fact that playing guitar and drums or pop singing has so long been a tradition here, there are students who are almost ‘job ready’, when they enter the university;

#L+#M+#N: Lecturers, who have similar backgrounds to their students, might be an advantage for them, because they might understand better the challenges which their students are facing;

#N: Environment and technologies are important for the success of the learning process;

#G+#L+#P: Religion plays an important role in the life of the Malaysian people. Sometimes it could boost or decrease one’s passion for music. Some students pray for success and find confidence in their faith; and

#Q: The key for the success of young musicians in Malaysia is their confidence and discipline.

Master idea 4: Negative Influence of Family, Teachers, Friends, Environment and Technologies on Students’ Progress

#C+#T: Although some students (and lecturers) still believe it is better to not have questions, there is nothing wrong with that. Having questions expresses one’s curiosity and eagerness to learn;

#A+ #C+#G+#M+#N+#N1+#T+#Q: Music education in Malaysia is not very popular and to be a musician is still not considered as a ‘proper job’ in many families: As a result, although parents’ or / and friends’ support is crucial for music students, in some cases they can be discouraging, due to the lack of understanding; and

#M+#N: There are still many places in Malaysia without any access to music education.

Readers can see how the research team have arrived at the proposed framework. Even though the readers may not agree that this framework describes the best way and environment for Malaysian musical talents are grown, it can nevertheless be seen how the organizational framework has been developed. This makes the data transparent.

The data is communicable, because it has been successfully explained, both to other researchers and to the research participants. Other researchers can understand the experience of the research participants, because this work has been based on the participants’ own words. When research particpants listened to the theoretical constructs, they recognized themselves and acknowledged that the study had captured their experience.

For an example of coherence, the two theoretical constructs “Environment Influences in the Multi-educational Role Strain” and “Exceptional Proficiency, Above Average Ability, Creativity and Application to a Task” as features of gifted behaviour in a multiple intelligence concept fit together into an organized theoretical narrative that describes the environment where gifted music students in Malaysia grow, the circumstances which further and hinder their talent development, as well as the pluses and the minuses of the education at USPI, which is at the centre of this case study.

Nikolay Demerdzhiev
Nikolay Demerdzhiev is a Director of Johann Sebastian Bach Music Academy, Hong Kong.

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