Adult and child's hands on a piano

The musical relationships of parents and children spark Grammy Foundation grant

Singing together in the car or a lullaby before bed, discussing issues of power and privilege raised in the musical Hamilton, or improvising lyrics to a catchy melody—these are among the many ways music can be its own instrument in interactions between parents and children.

These parent-child activities are at the heart of a new grant from the Grammy Foundation to support the research of Lisa Koops, an associate professor of music education at Case Western Reserve University.

Lisa Huisman KoopsThe Recording Academy, which presents the Grammy Awards—among the music industry’s highest recognitions—also supports the Grammy Foundation.

Documenting how parents’ musical practices, beliefs and perceptions influence the early development of their children, Koops will spend time over the next year with eight extended families of diverse cultural, ethnic and familial backgrounds and neighborhoods in Northeast Ohio.

“I want to reach a better and broader understanding of how families deploy music in different situations—be it using calming songs to quiet an argument among siblings or holding a dance party when feeling cooped up during the winter,” said Koops, who also teaches classes at The Music Settlement in Cleveland.

The project will yield a book on “musical parenting and parenting musically” that shares the stories of the eight families, woven together with data Koops has collected with Cleveland-area families during research studies over the last nine years, in ways that illustrate the range, depth and dynamic force of music.

Koops will also document the reasoning or pressures behind musical parenting choices, such as beliefs that learning to play an instrument gives students an advantage academically or will help them gain entrance to college.

The findings will complement a growing body of scientific studies, including brain scans, showing how musical interactions are associated with linguistic, motor, cognitive and empathetic improvements.

“While ongoing research will help paint a fuller picture of how music can be used to aid development and personal success,” Koops said, “it’s also important to not lose sight of making music for music’s sake, such as learning the skills to play an instrument or sing in tune.”

In early March, Koops’s research also received support from the university’s ACES+ Program, in the form of an Advance Opportunity Grant. All faculty are eligible for these awards that supply supplemental support.

Each year, the Grammy Foundation funds academic research to learn more about the “impact of music on the human condition” and to advance “understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture—from the artistic and technical legends of the past to the still unimagined musical breakthroughs of future generations of music professionals.”