In our busy and competitive world, is there a place for music education?
Every parent wants their child to succeed in life. Today’s families are dominated by increasingly busy schedules, from school, to sports, to church, to social gatherings, to summer camps. We try to give our children every advantage that might help them get a leg up on the competition later in life. With so much pressure to prepare them for the future, do kids really need to learn the arts - particularly music? How can that possibly help them succeed?
It may come as a surprise that studying music helps kids succeed on many different levels:
First, studying music early in life promotes healthy brain development. It’s true - studies show that students who study music during their developmental years have improved language and reasoning skills, as well as increased motor and auditory functions. Music literally encourages the brain to develop in the best way possible. Even if you're past adolescence, learning to read music can help preserve cognitive functions in older age!
Next, music builds character. This may sound cheesy, but the truth is that studying music (or art of any kind, in fact) has been shown to aid in developing positive characteristics in children such as discipline, perseverance, teamwork, patience, self-control, problem-solving, and empathy. Music also teaches kids about conquering their fears and taking risks (the good kind), which can help them avoid troublesome behavior as they get older (alcohol, drugs).
As a personal example, I discovered after leaving school that my years of musical performance helped me feel comfortable speaking in front of a crowd of people. Public speaking is one of the most common fears, and maybe learning to perform in front of others can help kids learn to cope with this anxiety, just like it did for me!
Music education can also contribute to improved overall academic performance. As we just learned, study of the arts helps children learn discipline, problem-solving, and perseverance. Going one step further, music has been linked with higher grades and test scores among students. One study suggests that students with at least two years of private music lessons show enhanced cognitive control and enhanced executive function.*
In addition, studying music teaches children about different cultures. Most of the greatest classical composers are not from America, which means that as kids study each piece of music, they will learn a bit about the history and culture surrounding the music. This encourages cultural empathy, and can eventually result in an adult who is comfortable interacting with people from all over the globe — a very desirable trait in the business world.
Finally, music is an outlet for self-expression. Even kids need to get away from the world sometimes! Whether its striving to do well in school or a busy home life, music can be a great way for a child to relax and step back from stress. Along the way, they will stretch their imaginations…because in music there may be many correct answers for a question. Creativity and self-expression will lead to increased self-esteem as well, as kids become more confident in their abilities.
And the benefits of studying music go way beyond the five I've listed here!
Setting science and research aside, I have personally never heard anyone lament the fact that they took music lessons as a child. I have, however, heard far too many adults tell me that they wish they would have studied music when they were younger, or that they would have "stuck with it" longer.
If you can relate, the good news is it’s never to late! I teach adults all the time, and we have a great time during lessons.
The even better news is that it’s never too early to start our kids in private music lessons, or in a school music program.