• Gifted and Talented Resources

Welcome to the WMEA Gifted and Talented Resource page!

Gifted and Talented Identification Handbook

Music Identification Handbook

These resources are based on the Gifted and Talented Resource Guide: Music Identification Handbook for Educators, Coordinators, and Administrators in Wisconsin Public Schools, which was created to assist teachers and gifted/talented professionals in the identification of musically gifted and talented children. Funds for the project were provided through the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Gifted and Talented Students Education Program Grant for 2008-2009. 

Click here to download a copy of the handbook (pdf, 62 pages, 2 MB)

For more information or to order a copy of the handbook with accompanying file disk, please contact the WMEA office at 800-589-9762, send an email to Workshops or download and complete an order form (pdf). Please include $8.00 for shipping.

WMEA has been awarded a second grant for the 2009-2010 school year. This second grant period project will focus on professional development to teach educators, administrators and support staff how to use the book effectively, and will also include development of activities for gifted and talented programming in music. Look for more updates to come during the 2009-2010 school year.


Handbook Contents and Resources

Guidelines for Developing a District-Wide Plan
References and Resources
Musical Talent Criteria
Examples of District Plans
and Forms
Identification Tools and Forms
Forms on Disk


Joanne Haroutounian, the founder of the MusicLink Foundation and author of A Framework for the Identification of Musical Talent, was a major contributor to this project. Joanne’s research on the development of identification instruments and procedures for musically talented children serves as the basis for this document. 

Multiple school districts have contributed to the Gifted and Talented Resource Guide: Music Identification Handbook. Sample documents from Waterford, Eau Claire, Manitowoc, and Whitnall can be found in the appendix. The documents are intended as starting points for school districts as they develop identification tools for use in their school district.

In addition, the following committee members contributed to the development of this document:

  • Martha Barlow, Gifted and Talented Coordinator, Waunakee School District
  • Beth Bashara, Director, Oneida Nation Arts Program; Board Member, Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education
  • Terri Felton, Continuing Education Director, Wisconsin Music Educators Association
  • Joanne Haroutounian, Executive Director, MusicLink Foundation; Music Faculty, George Mason University, Arlington, VA
  • Benjamin Kossow, Gifted and Talented Coordinator, Waterford Unified School District; Board Member, Wisconsin Association of Gifted and Talented (WATG)
  • Julie Palkowski, Coordinator of Fine Arts, Madison Metropolitan School District
  • Mel Pontious, State Fine Arts Consultant, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
  • Nancy Rasmussen, Music Educator, Walworth Joint School District #1          
  • Rick Sadlon, Director of Music, Darien (CT) Public Schools       
  • Susan Savolainen, Former Gifted and Talented Coordinator, Eau Claire Public Schools
  • Wendy Wegenke, Gifted and Talented Consultant, CESA 2

Philosophy and Rationale

Statement of Philosophy/Purpose

The Wisconsin Music Educators Association (WMEA) believes that all students, regardless of their backgrounds, should have the opportunity to realize the full extent of their musical abilities.  Through this resource manual, we aim to establish standardized processes and criteria for gifted and talented identification in music in order to provide meaningful musical experiences within the classroom, as well as through various opportunities offered beyond the regular school program. To that end, we seek to identify students whose exceptional needs require differentiated programming.

WMEA recognizes that a comprehensive identification program:

  • Begins at an early age and continues throughout a student’s educational career
  • Is research-based
  • Allows all students the opportunity to be identified
  • Utilizes a variety of identification tools from a variety of resources
  • Engages classroom teachers, music educators, gifted education staff, parents, peers, and the students themselves in the identification process

Rationale for the Identification of Musical Talent

Educational documents in the field of gifted education and music education recognize the need to identify and provide programming for students who are musically gifted and talented.  Music provides a rich area of study which is not reliant upon language development for initial assessment of a student’s musical potential.  Music is abstract and provides a variety of ways in which to identify and develop skills and knowledge within the discipline. (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2009).  The unique nature of this discipline requires a variety of methods to assess the skills and knowledge a student has in music as well as their potential in this area.  Students who respond to music in more sophisticated ways than their peers need to have an opportunity to be assessed for potential giftedness (Winner & Martino, 2000).  Our assessment of students should entail the identification of skills, knowledge, and potential in music while also being sensitive to how language, culture, family background, social behaviors, and student and family interests interact with a student’s predispositions to their giftedness in music (NAGC and CEC, 2005).  Understanding these differences and the overall potential a student has in music are elements which will assist in shaping a meaningful music education plan.   

The U. S. Department of Education established a definition for students with outstanding talent in 1993 that emphasizes the need to include students in the arts in this identification.

Wisconsin Administrative Rule on Gifted and Talented Education

Administrative Rule 8.01(2)(t)2. Each school district shall establish a plan and designate a person to coordinate the gifted and talented program. Gifted and talented pupils shall be identified as required in s. 118.35(1), Stats. This identification shall occur in kindergarten through grade 12 in general intellectual, specific academic, leadership, creativity, and visual and performing arts. A pupil may be identified as gifted or talented in one or more of the categories under s. 118.35(1), Stats. The identification process shall result in a pupil profile based on multiple measures, including but not limited to standardized test data, nominations, rating scales or inventories, products, portfolios, and demonstrated performance. Identification tools shall be appropriate for the specific purpose for which they are being employed. The identification process and tools shall be responsive to factors such as, but not limited to, pupils’ economic conditions, race, gender, culture, native language, developmental differences, and identified disabilities as described under subch. V of ch. 115, Stats. The school district board shall provide access, without charge for tuition, to appropriate programming for pupils identified as gifted or talented as required under ss. 118.35(3) and 121.02(1)(t), Stats. The school district board shall provide an opportunity for parental participation in the identification and resultant programming.

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What is Musical Giftedness?

“A musically gifted person is someone who shows, or has the potential for showing, an exceptional level of performance in creating music, performing music, and/or responding to music.”

-- Adapted from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) definition of “gifted”

The identification of musically gifted and talented students requires the recognition and assessment of the following four categories of criteria indicative of musical talent:

  1. Musical awareness and discrimination - includes:
    1. Perceptual awareness of sound
    2. Rhythmic sense
    3. Sense of pitch
  2. Creative Interpretation - includes performance elements as well as personal improvisation and composition
  3. Musical Behavior and Performance - awareness of the interaction of listener and performer; the impact of the performance through the student's involvement
  4. Intensity - the persistence, motivation, and commitment indicative of artistic focus

In simplest terms, musical talent is the ability to be keenly aware of sounds, to inwardly sense and manipulate these sounds, and to communicate these sounds to others with personal interpretation. Musical talent is readily recognizable from an early age through musical behaviors while engaged in performance, listening, creating, and reacting to music.

Musically gifted and talented students require differentiated opportunities beyond the regular school program. The identification of musically talented students requires recognition and assessment of the perceptive sensory capacities of music aptitude as well as the behavioral characteristics observable in musical performance and listening activities.

Musical talent identification procedures should reflect the recognition and assessment of potential as well as demonstrated musical talent. It is advisable to begin identification at an early age while music aptitude is in the developmental stage with ongoing identification to uncover potential talent as students develop music skills.

An effective process will include data from multiple sources in the school, home, and community to unveil biographical information about musical activities taking place outside the school. Identification tools should reflect a research base and be understandable and easy to use for an effective identification process.

-- Haroutounian, Joanne (2002) Kindling the Spark: Recognizing and Developing Musical Talent, Oxford University Press.

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