Adam Ockelford
  • 135 Queen's Building, Southlands


Research activity per year

Personal profile


Adam has had a lifelong fascination for music, as a composer, performer, teacher and researcher. While attending the Royal Academy of Music in London, Adam started working with children with special needs - a number of whom, he noticed, had special musical abilities too - and he became interested in how we all intuitively make sense of music, without the need for formal education. Adam pursued this line of enquiry, and gained a PhD in music at Goldsmith's College in London in 1993, in which he set out his 'zygonic' theory of musical understanding. This theory has proved a valuable tool in music theory and analysis, in investigating musical development, and exploring interaction in music therapy and education.

Adam is Secretary of the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research ('SEMPRE'), Chair of Soundabout, an Oxfordshire-based charity that supports music provision for children and young people with complex needs; and founder of The AMBER Trust, a charity that supports visually impaired children in their pursuit of music.

Research interests

Adam's research interests are in music psychology, education, theory and aesthetics - particularly special educational needs and the development of exceptional abilities; learning, memory and creativity; the cognition of musical structure and the construction of musical meaning. He welcomes enquiries from PhD students with any of these or related areas of interest.

Research projects

Sounds of Intent - investigating early music development in children with severe, or profound multiple learning difficulties: a model, curriculum framework and interactive resources and assessment materials for teachers - in partnership with the Royal National Institute of the Blind (Sally Zimmermann) and the Institute of Education, University of London (Graham Welch and Evangelos Himonides), with financial support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the QCA and the AMBER Trust. The current phase of work is due to conclude in 2012.

Focus on Music - investigating musical development in children with identified syndromes: (i) Septo-Optic Dysplasia and Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, (ii) Retinopathy of Prematurity, and (iii) Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, in partnership with Goldsmith's College (Linda Pring), with support from the AMBER Trust, Soundabout and SEMPRE. Due to conclude in 2012.

Fragments of Genius - exploring the skills of musical savants and the consequences for our understanding of learning, memory and creativity, in partnership with Goldsmith's College and the IoE, with support from the AMBER Trust and SEMPRE. Due to conclude in 2015.

Music in Mind - investigating and modelling how musical structure and content relate to musical meaning. Ongoing.

Adam is series editor (with Ian Cross and Graham Welch) of 'SEMPRE Studies in the Psychology of Music', Ashgate, publication commencing 2008.

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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