You've probably heard that "learning music makes you smarter". But is that really true? It might not make you a genius in everything, but it definitely has many benefits. According to Jill Fox and Robert Schirrmacher, there are five ways that music helps people grow and develop, and is why you should be learning music if not already doing so.
1. Cognitively: Music may be connected to a young child’s emerging literacy. Children practice listening and auditory skills like discrimination and memory or attending to music’s repetition, rhythm, or when learning the words to new songs and rhymes. Active music performance relies on a demanding action-perception-loop calling for long periods of focused attention on dynamic visual, auditory, and motor signals.
2. Physically: Small muscle and fine motor control as well as eye-hand coordination are enhanced as children play musical instruments. Music therapy is also used to help patients with balance and coordination. A program designed to train older adults to walk and perform various movements in time to music helped improve their gait and balance when compared with their peers.
3. Socially: Children take turns, cooperate and share musical instruments. They learn to listen to each other, develop empathy, compassion, and acceptance. When playing in an ensemble, students must work together as a team to achieve their goals.
4. Emotionally: Music creates self-acceptance and self-expression. It promotes positive self-esteem and provides an outlet for feelings such as calming effect on an upset child. Music can relieve stress. It can improve mood, even in people with depression. And it can lower heart rates, breathing rates, and oxygen demands in patients who have recently suffered a heart attack.
Where war has raged, people need everything to return to life: food, water, shelter, clothing, medicine. But more than anything, people need hope. To reconcile, people need empathy. To heal, people need connection and community.
• Music creates empathy, builds connection and gives hope.
• Music crosses ethnic divides and provides neutral space to meet through shared talents and passions.
• Community music-making is a direct and accessible tool for connecting people and engaging and mobilizing communities.
• From drum circles to choirs to rock bands, music can be practiced by any person at her/his own level regardless of musical skills, whether in small groups or in a setting of hundreds or even thousands of people.
5. Creatively: Playing music gives students an outlet in a non-verbal way to express themselves. Composing music should be encouraged, as they begin to listen to what they are playing more because it is their own piece, trying to figure out what sounds right to them. It also lets them apply what they have already learned and allows them to explore new chords and harmonies.
(Adapted from Art & Creative Development for Young Children: 7th Edition (2012) by Jill Englebright Fox & Robert Schirrmacher).
One final point to leave you with, made by Schirrmacher, is that “There is ample evidence that music helps students develop the attitudes, characteristics and intellectual skills required to participate effectively in today’s society and economy. The arts teach self-discipline, reinforce self-esteem and foster the thinking skills and creatively so valued in the workplace such as teamwork and cooperation. (Schirrmacher 1991).
In ancient Greece, Aristotle and Plato recognized that music plays an important role in a person's life, and that it should be taught to everyone as is math, science and literature. Music helps form the person's whole. Lately, however, we are witnessing music programs in our schools diminishing and vanishing all together. Our education system in North America no longer sees the importance of music in a student's education. Our education system is more of a business and not about what is actually best for the student as a whole person. With all the above ways that music helps develop, music should be compulsory rather than seen as just an 'extra curricular'. Our students are losing all the benefits music has to offer, and it is our job to continue to promote the vital role music has in our society.