SPARC was founded in 2010 by Professor Stephanie Pitts as part of the strong profile of music psychology research at the University of Sheffield. The founding members were recent PhD graduates of the Department of Music, Melissa Dobson and Kate Gee, and their co-supervisor from the Department of Psychology, Christopher Spencer. Together, they completed a research project with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (Pitts, Dobson, Gee & Spencer, 2013). From the outset, therefore, SPARC has been committed to investigating interdisciplinary perspectives on audience engagement, and to collaborating with external arts organisations.

Members of the SPARC team have conducted research with organisations including: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Buxton Festival; CAST, Doncaster; City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO); Classical Sheffield; Contemporary Music-Making for Amateurs (CoMA); Derbyshire County Council; Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival; the Firebird Trust; the London Chamber Orchestra; Making Music; Music in the Round; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; Sheffield City Council; and the Spin Jazz Club, Oxford.

See our research pages for more information about SPARC projects and publications.

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Our aims

At SPARC, we study audiences, performers and live music, using empirical approaches in order to understand arts experiences. Our aims are:

  • to explore the purposes and practicalities of empirical research with audiences and performers;
  • to consider the roles of audience members as musical participants;
  • to illustrate the musical, social and personal richness of audience experience in different contexts;
  • to investigate the perceived relationships between audiences and performers;
  • to explore musicians’ perspectives on live performance;
  • to consider the relevance of our research for arts organisations, musicians, educators and researchers.