I’ve just been thinking how learning to play an instrument can enhance a child’s educational life. Most of us nowadays have an inkling that instrumental music lessons help child children with school work, but few of us know much about its far reaching effects. Here is a tiny taste.
Music reaches into the memory, helping us to retrieve import information in all subjects. It also provides us with an extra mental boost when we need it. Do you know anyone who can sing the table of the elements song?
• Mental arithmetic: I hated tables when I was a child and never learnt them successfully. More recently, I finally mastered them with my children, as we sang along to a musical version every day, while driving to school. It was easy!
Music is mathematical. You probably won’t even notice, that when playing music, you are automatically subdividing rhythms into exact fractions, on the spur of the moment, without doing sums on paper.
• Science: Through learning how to tune and play instruments, you will learn the principles of acoustics. How variations in temperature, tension, length and thickness of strings, pipes and other resonators affect pitch, tone, volume, intensity and quality of sound.
Our local amateur orchestras are full of doctors and scientists and a Rockefeller Foundation study in 1990, stated that there are more music majors admitted to medical school than specialists in any other subject area, including Biochemistry, chemistry and physics. If you want to be a doctor, learn music!
I also have heard that almost all the foremost designers and engineers in Silicon Valley are practising musicians. Howzat!
• Languages: Music isn’t just a load of dots. It is a language. On top of this, many of the performance instructions written in Italian, French, German and English. Imagine growing up speaking Music, and understanding 4 European languages!
When I was at college and doing a lot of choral singing, I learnt much more Latin, French and German than I had ever picked up at school.
• History: Each period of history has it’s own music which reflects the times in which it was composed. For example, the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, The Agincourt Carol and Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony.
• Geography: Folk music is used by many composers, e.g. Vaughn Williams, Sibelius, Kodaly and Dvorak. World music can give us a good sense of place and culture.
• Physical Development: Our kinaesthetic senses are awakened, when we notice the relationship between our technique and the sound we make. It teaches us a lot about how the body works: how the brain and nerves function, how muscles oppose each other and how to co-ordinate posture with breathing, fingers and facial muscles.
• Art: Music is an incredible tool for expressing the complete range of human emotion. It helps us to become more sensitive, increasing our ability to appreciate beauty and goodness. It can motivate us to high achievements, or lift us from the depths of depression. The ability to create music is part of what makes us human.
• Scholarships: Many young musicians win music scholarships to top schools, where they are expected to cope with a rigourous academic timetable, as well as with practice, orchestra, chamber music, instrumental lessons and concerts etc. These same children often achieve excellent results in their exams.
• CVs: I noticed the other day, that one of the partners at my local Lawyer’s Office is a Bachelor of Music. Strangely, his law credentials are not mentioned.
• Deep Focus: I have saved the best till the last. Children who learn to practise effectively, will, by default, learn the magical art of dropping into instant deep focus. Anyone who regularly practises this art, can reach for the stars!
It is beginning to look as if the “side effects” of instrumental music lessons can increase the value of academic education. In fact, children I know, who have done really well in their music lessons, have all graduated from formal education, with hugely increased all round abilities.
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