ArtsEqual researcher's profile: Analía Capponi-Savolainen
Analía Capponi-Savolainen from the University of the Arts Helsinki's Sibelius Academy studies what singing means to 7 and 8 year-old children with non-Finnish background.
What is your ArtsEqual research about?
My study focuses on expressions of what singing means to 7-8 year-old children of non-Finnish background, in the schools in the Helsinki metropolitan area, such as self-image, expectations, sensations, and feelings. Not only is my research interest informed by my own 20-year experience as a voice teacher, but also by my own experience of pluralism as an immigrant to Finland, mother of two Finnish children, who has interacted as voice teacher with a cohort of students of diverse nationalities –from Finnish to Latin American— in Helsinki. Even though there is considerable international literature about school-age children´s singing, it is generally connected with vocal development and with teaching procedures in multicultural settings (e.g., how singing should be taught at schools), but very little is known about what is important about singing for these children.
What are the (current) problems which your research will solve?
Finnish society has changed and continue changing due to the increase of immigrants with diverse cultural backgrounds, especially in the Helsinki metropolitan area. However, the society in general and particularly educators may not be fully prepared to address students’ needs in terms of diversity in the classroom. The arts, and particularly music and singing can be a good tool to work in the right direction; singing as an accessible and participatory practice can offer children the possibility of feeling part of a community, to live an inclusive experience in their schools and to feel integrated into the society.
It is precisely during the first years of schooling when music and singing can play a critical role in assisting children in the process of feeling secure, connected with themselves and with others and integrated into the school community. Children have the right to experience the arts in their lives; their cultural rights are to be respected in the same way than other rights.
How does your research relate to the main purpose of ArtsEqual?
We are all musical beings and it is well known that singing is not a matter of talent, but of socialization and education. Thus, children need spaces to develop musically, opportunities to experience with singing and with other arts in daily life. In childhood experiences music and singing can play an important role in the construction of the individual´s identity. In many countries, part of the population tends to consider itself “non-musical”. Many have faced traumatic events connected with music and singing in childhood or adolescence, particularly at schools.
Singing can connect children with their previous experiences and feelings; in other words, it can help children to feel connected with their inner world in an authentic, profound manner, and with others. This resonates with the ArtsEqual principles of equality and accessibility; “Art doesn't have to be a privilege for the few” but accessible to all. All children have the right to experience the arts – including singing. They need be given space to experience singing and ultimately to discover themselves in music and singing in order to be who they are in interaction with others.
Who will benefit from your research and how?
Policy makers, educators, teacher education programs, and parents could benefit from this research. I share the vision that in our societies, more and more children need to be heard. Hence, in this study, I ask children what is important about singing in their lives using appropriate methodologies. By listening to children´s voices we, as educators, can implement more inclusive and cultural background responsive practices from the standpoint of the recipients of education.
Understanding that singing is more than singing text and notes is the first step to open the conversation of what is meaningful about singing for children´s lives today.
When the child sings, he or she can express his or her inner feelings and thoughts; there is a socio-cultural background behind as well as personal experiences that are manifested, for instance, in the way how children sing, in what they choose to sing, in what they do when they sing or with whom they choose to sing a particular repertoire. Furthermore, it is a matter of companionship and belonging and of what it means for a child to sing a particular song (or listen to a particular music) with a particular other in a particular space. Singing as a situational practice – and its meanings – is much more complex than simply singing the right notes.
What is your vision or dream about Finland in the future from the perspective of arts, equality and well-being?
I would like to see the construction of a more equalitarian society where all (and particularly children) would feel included. Finnish society has already changed and will continue changing. Knowing how to deal with diversity is a powerful tool for the children of today and a needed skill for the future.
Singing can assist children in developing imagination, creativity, agency, and a sense of belonging in relation to their previous experiences, with the here and now, and facing the future.
Do you have any wish for all of us as a society or as individuals from the perspective of your research?
Listen to children! They know more than we think about their lives and about their own experiences. Furthermore, they want to be heard and for some of them this is a great need. Children have the capacity and the desire to share their feelings and thoughts with peers and adults. All they need is time and a patient listener.
Equality is not fully achieved in Finnish society and as educators and parents we need to strive for it. If children grow in a more equalitarian society they may considerer pluralism as a valid and respectable option for their daily life interactions. But if children experience inequality, they may develop a sense of acceptation of inequality, besides long-lasting negative self-image and emotions. Equality in this context means to let each child be who he or she is, in a way that he or she would feel accepted and included.
Meaning of singing for children
ArtsEqual researcher Analía Capponi-Savolainen studies what is the meaning of singing for 7 and 8 year old children with a multicultural background.