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Department of Cognitive Science

Expanding expertise: Investigating a musician's experience of music performance

Andrew Geeves (, Doris McIlwain (
Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney
John Sutton (, Wayne Christensen (
Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney


Seeking to expand on previous theories, this paper explores the AIR (Applying Intelligence to the Reflexes) approach to expert performance previously outlined by Geeves, Christensen, Sutton and McIlwain (2008). Data gathered from a semi-structured interview investigating the performance experience of Jeremy Kelshaw (JK), a professional musician, is explored. Although JK's experience of music performance contains inherently uncertain elements, his phenomenological description of an ideal performance is tied to notions of vibe, connection and environment. The dynamic nature of music performance advocated by the AIR approach is illustrated by the strategies that JK implements during performance. Through executing these strategies, JK attempts to increase the likelihood of vibe and connection by selectively exercising agency over performance variables within his control. In order to achieve this, JK must engage in ongoing monitoring of his performance, whereby the spotlight of his attention pans across a vast array of disparate performance processes (and levels within these processes) in order to ascertain how he can most effectively meet the specific demands of a given performance situation. It is hoped that future research compiling data from numerous interviews and sources as well as using different research methodologies will further unlock the potential that the AIR approach holds for understanding expert performance.

Citation details for this article:

Geeves, A., McIlwain, D., Sutton, J., Christensen, W. (2010). Expanding Expertise: Investigating a Musician’s Experience of Music Performance. In W. Christensen, E. Schier, and J. Sutton (Eds.), ASCS09: Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science (pp. 106-113). Sydney: Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science.

DOI: 10.5096/ASCS200917
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