It is a well-established fact that children who play a musical instrument are more advanced academically and emotionally than their peers. Studies over the last decade prove that music stimulates the same part of the brain used in spatial reasoning and this simply makes children brighter. But what about the long term and wider ranging benefits of a solid childhood course of music study? Here are some of the reasons we have found.
1. Learning to play a musical instrument requires a level of self-discipline to maintain a daily practice schedule
(Christine) I began music instruction at such an early age that I don’t really remember having to force myself to practice. Of course, it got boring at times, but that only motivated me to finish an old project so I could start a new one.
(Leiticia) Starting piano lessons was a lot of fun. I had great enthusiasm and practiced all the time. After a while it started feeling like work to me, and children like to play not work. I had to learn to sit at the piano and follow through on my commitment to practice. Thanks to my mother (who made sure I practiced every day) I am now a piano and violin instructor.
(Krystle) And this self-discipline spills over into other areas of your life as you are growing up; it helps you to mature.
2. Students must deal with the negative emotions that come up and urge you to quit when you have reached a plateau
(Christine) The practice of a musical instrument is no different than any other lifetime challenge. The accomplishment will depend on the amount of effort expended during the learning process; once the teenage years and early adulthood are reached, music becomes an outlet for one’s thoughts, emotions, hopes, dreams, and so forth. The musically accomplished person can express his or herself in such a unique way; in fact, I have never once heard such a person wish that their musical gift didn’t exist.
(Leiticia) Mom made me practice everyday. Sometimes I felt so angry and bored and definitely wanting to quit, but what was happening was that I was pushing through typical learning plateaus and soon I was playing more difficult music and having fun again.
(Krystle) There is just no way around it; learning to play a musical instrument takes years of faithful practicing. Some music methods promise quick results, but that is not typical and certainly not real life.
3. Playing a musical instrument and learning to read music encompasses visual skills, auditory skills and physical co-ordination of the hands and fingers. The student must learn to observe many small details such as correct fingering, phrasing and dynamic markings
(Christine) Reading music came very easily for me, as my particular learning style thrives on such details as correct fingering. However, I was envious of those who had the creative ability to “play by ear” and improvise with ease, as my ability was limited to whatever music was written on the page. Learning to read music is usually possible for those who lack the skill, but the opposite is not always true.
(Leiticia) Reading music was rough for me. I hated looking at the page and much preferred to play everything by ear. But learning to read music fluently really paid off. After I could read music well, I added the violin, viola and voice to my instruments. I also delved into other styles beyond classical repertoire and started playing Irish fiddling and pop music that I like.
(Krystle) I took up the cello as a second instrument and since I could read both the treble and bass staves in piano music, it was just a matter of learning string technique.
4. Self esteem is raised as a child progresses and becomes musically competent.
(Christine) Again, this statement is true not only for music, but for any challenge that a child faces and overcomes. Music is unique, however, in that it is a lifetime pursuit and can consistently challenge a person until the time that their fingers are literally too old to play. In this sense, the pursuit of music can help keep a person’s self-esteem in a healthy state for a lifetime.
(Leiticia) There is nothing so rewarding as working hard for something and reaching your goal. You get that when you work for months on a difficult piece of music and finally reach perfection.
(Krystle) It’s also rewarding to share that music with an audience and enrich them.
(Jasmine) I really love being able to read and play a hard piece. I feel accomplished and I feel differentiated!
5. Many Activities, such as sports, take years to acquire skill and then reach a point where age makes it impossible to continue. Not so with music, you will improve and learn well into old age.
(Christine) I played music in a band with my sisters and Mom for years, and now I play the piano and violin with my church group. Even though some of the other musicians are in their fifties and above, they are still improving and even adding new instruments if they desire. I personally look forward to playing music until my body is literally too old to continue.
(Krystle) A few years ago I developed health problems that have left me physically weak; I loved to dance but had to quit my classes and competitions. But no matter how tired I get I can always sit at the piano or cello and not only enjoy playing, but continue to increase my skill level.
6. After a relatively short number of years, a music student can begin to draw an income by teaching music to beginners. Musicians are always needed at weddings and other social functions and a repertoire of appropriate pieces may be easily learned and performed.
(Christine) Looking back on the years that I taught music to students of various ages, I can see what a valuable tool to learning responsibility it is for a musician to take on the role of teacher. The saying goes, “You have not truly learned something unless you can teach it,” and teaching music provides a true demonstration of how deeply the principles and practicalities of musicianship have sunk. For the student who begins early enough, a musical instrument can be learned to proficiency before the teenage years, and the responsibilities of finance, teaching and social function can be learned.
(Leiticia) I have been teaching music for the last 8 years. I started in my mother’s music school when I was fourteen and now have over 30 students. It is a great income that is getting me through college.
(Krystle) I have been teaching for 4 years and have about 20 students. I am able to maintain a flexible schedule that works around my college classes. My teaching income is a supplement to the scholarships I have.
(Jasmine) My sister, Krystle, is my piano teacher. After I had been playing for a few years I wanted to learn the guitar. It has been a lot of fun because I could already read and understand music.
7. Playing a musical instrument creates a positive outlet for various emotions. Often a mild case of depression can disappear during a practice session.
(Christine) There have been many times when I’ve been feeling down and practicing just makes those feelings completely disappear.
(Krystle) When life gets really tough and I feel overwhelmed, I find that music provides an amazing release for all the pent up emotions. I enjoy writing songs – I can get it all out of my head and organize my thoughts neatly on paper.
(Jasmine) I’ve come to enjoy my practicing – it’s not an obligation – I love to be able to play beautiful songs that I’ve heard.
8. If a child learns to master a musical instrument, he also learns to master himself in many ways. He will understand what it takes to have a goal before him, to set his path and find his own way to attain it. These are life skills and what greater gift can you give to your child?
(Christine) I have started teaching music to the oldest of my 3 little ones, and it’s a rare and humbling privilege to experience the joy of helping the next generation acquire its musical talent.
(Leiticia) I hear so many parents of my students say that they wish they had never been allowed to quit their lessons – make sure your children don’t have to say those words!
(Krystle) I teach music to many adults and it is definitely harder for them to learn with their busy schedules. The best time for lessons is when you are young, and the benefits of a few dedicated years will last the rest of your lives.
(C) 2008 Pinnacle American Records, LLC