No-one is unmusical: Elizabeth, everyday cheermongery, and active musical citizenship


  • Neil Thin University of Edinburgh


music, happiness, parenting, perfectionism, self-transcendence


Everyday cheermongers spread positive emotion through social contagion. This capability is illustrated here through a portrait of Elizabeth, a ‘Suzuki method’ violin teacher in Edinburgh. Through this example, we can learn about the important ways in which children and parents alike rely on skilled and dedicated felicitators to help them through the difficult balance between enjoyable and sociable music-making on the one hand, and the pursuit of musical excellence on the other. After presenting the philosophical and practical aspects of Shinichi Suzuki's ‘everyone-is-talented’ approach to instrumental music instruction, this paper argues for recognition of the key roles of music in facilitating happiness, and explores cultural variety in the promotion of musicality. While also recognizing that music education needs a democratic ‘no child left behind’ approach, the argument is that the full benefits of music are better realised through active musical engagement and social music-making. When not treated simply as an optional leisure activity or as a means to other ends, music can be a pathway to self-transcendent ‘peak experiences’ that can be achieved not only via the extraordinary performances of elite musicians, but also by savouring the very imperfect musical sounds produced by children.


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Author Biography

Neil Thin, University of Edinburgh

Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Teaching, School of Social and Political Science




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