Mozart, Multiple Intelligences, and the Vienna Method

Musicians utilize far more than just musical intelligence in their daily practice and performance. As Joshua Lange of Vienna Virtuoso explains in the following article (which originally appeared in the ASCD Multiple Intelligences Network Newsletter), MI theory has strong implications for the overall value of music education and MI informed pedagogy can create more skilled and developed performers.


Mozart, Multiple Intelligences, and the Vienna Method

By Joshua Lange

 Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and many other masters studied and worked in Vienna, and the city still today boasts many of the best music tutors in the World. On the other side of the globe, in his work on prodigies and savants, Harvard Professor of Education Dr. Howard Gardner covered Mozart’s 'musical intelligence' and showed how talent development mixes with genius through context and culture. I show here how Vienna Virtuoso, the new and official online classical music academy of Vienna, is turning the old school of identifying musical genius locally into the new school of  creating musical genius globally through Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences.

In Gardner’s well-established work in neuropsychology, he found not a single, general intelligence, but several ‘brain potentials’ that could be verified. He showed us how creation at higher levels of human knowledge - such as orchestral composition - require a combination of ‘intelligences.’ Gardner stresses to educators that ‘an intelligence never works in isolation,’ and although he has repeatedly warned about the profiling of students as ‘musically intelligent,’ he himself characterizes the ‘orchestra violin player’ as a striking example of how Multiple Intelligences are combined on stage and in practice.

Gardner goes further in his conception of recognizing individual talent in music, suggesting that bodily-kinesthetic intelligence can be observed in how the player interacts with the physical form of the instrument and presents himself while playing; visual intelligence observed in sight-reading, the ability to present oneself with style and elegance, and the composition of music; logical-mathematical intelligence observed in the coordination of time and symbol in the thousands; interpersonal intelligence observed in the constant communication across the orchestra or ensemble; and intrapersonal intelligence observed in the discipline to follow something through and the self-confidence to perform publicly.

At Vienna Virtuoso, we believe that using MI Theory with learning management software and video-enabled tutoring can advance a music student’s skills exponentially. Our online program in Vienna makes the practice process faster, more convenient, and global, while also collecting data about MI in action and using it to develop talent. The tutor reviews short video practices, looking for improvements on several areas of ‘intelligence’ that relate to the pupil’s self-defined goals. For example, if the pupil is on a concert musician track and already has strong musical intelligence (aka ‘talent’), more attention will be given in feedback sessions to observations of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence - poise and the way he ‘touches’ the strings or keys, and interpersonal intelligence - the way he ‘communicates’ his music to different audiences.

In our understanding, musical intelligence relates to what is normally referred to as the musician’s “ear,” which is the element that differentiates the average from the extraordinary. Yet, particularly for competition and audition preparation, we find that musicians are judged on a range of features that go beyond a single "musical" intelligence. Whether the focus on the performer’s hand movements or the performer’s interaction with the audience, intelligences work together to create greatness. For an example of this, watch the sample video on our website where Professor Stefan Vladar responds to a student’s Mozart 20th Piano Concerto practice by showing him when to be prominent and when to soften his touch and allow the orchestra to be prominent.

By using MI Theory, Professor Vladar is focusing on the bodily-kinesthetic interaction with the musician’s "ear" and the interpersonal intelligence necessary to interact with the orchestra to take the student’s playing from above average to extraordinary. And having recorded 30 professional albums and performing as a soloist and conductor everywhere in the World, a tutor like Professor Stefan Vladar is not easy to find. In the European classical music tradition there are clear hierarchies of ability that restrict the best students to the best tutors. This system works to some extent, and the traditional Vienna School’s methods can be observed across cultures and time periods in the best conservatories and concert performers still today.

Thus a bridge needs to "connect" 21st Century uses of MI theory and a 400 year old tradition of individual talent development in music that seems to work well already. From a Vienna School perspective, to improve in music at a concert level, thus to firmly develop "musical intelligence," students have to be one-to-one with a competent expert.This is difficult, as noted in the MI research, because like the Viennese school of music tutoring, assumptions in MI Theory of how to develop talent is based on individual profiles of intelligence, and this can become quite expensive. In fact, most families today cannot afford a private music tutor.

However, it is the 21st Century after all, and we can now find tutors everywhere. But the quality of content depends on the people and the methods. For example, we hire Master’s Degree students at Vienna’s prestigious conservatory to use MI methods to tutor around the world in over a dozen languages, for one-third of the price of a face-to-face tutor, and directly from the same room in Vienna where Mozart taught his students! But without MI Theory, we wouldn’t motivate students nearly as effectively as with MI. We observed that when recorded in short video feedback form and aligned to an external rubric that accounts for MI, tutor observations over time can be translated into progress reports used for advancement within the program, result in better student awareness of their own intelligence strengths, and more importantly, result in better performance.

This leads inevitably to self-confidence, self-direction, and motivation to learn more about one’s strengths and weaknesses as well as technical skill. The traditional Viennese Method could do those things, but it wasn’t so much fun, nor was it so easy! We further find that MI Theory combined with leadership development, technology, and standardized curricula forms a strong foundation for assessment of instrumentation and performance in music. In sum, Vienna Virtuoso shows that with internet-based education technology, there are few limitations to implementing an MI-Informed pedagogy on a global scale at the same level of quality worthy of the name Mozart.


Josh Lange, MA, MEd, IDLTM

Josh Lange has held appointments as English Lecturer at two world-leading research universities before coming to Vienna. He holds a MA in English, a MEd in Interdisciplinary Higher Education, and the prestigious IDLTM from Cambridge University. He has won the 2012 International Teaching Excellence Award from University College London (UCL) and Columbia University. Josh has published in leading journals such as Stanford Social Innovation Review and Humanizing Language Teaching, and is Editor of the EU Guide to Utilizing University Intellectual Property for the Benefit of Society.

Readers who wish to contact Joshua can reach him at