Music education in the public schools has been under attack for decades. Although parents and teachers have advocated for more and better music programs, having seen the benefits to students, music programs are often the first programs to be cut when a school is under-funded. Neurologists are now conducting brain research that substantiates what we’ve intuitively always known about the advantages of early music education.
detailing the brain activity of students with music training vs. students who had not received music instruction. Like other studies, their results were conclusive: studying music changes the brain in significant and important ways.
Their conclusion is that
“These findings provide evidence that childhood music training has a measurable impact in the development of auditory processes. Although the findings described here are restricted to auditory skills and to their neural correlates, such enhanced maturation may favor faster and more efficient development of language skills as well, given that some of the neural substrates to these different processes are shared. Our findings demonstrate that music education has an important role to play in childhood development and add to the converging evidence that music training is capable of shaping skills that are ingredients of success in social and academic development. It is of particular importance that we show these effects in children from disadvantaged backgrounds.” (emphasis mine)
I have blogged about similar research in these posts:
Science is confirming the “Mozart Effect” through new advances in brain imaging.
When I was a music student (not so very long ago!) nobody knew much about the effect of music on the brain. When The Mozart Effect by Don Campbell was first published in 1997, its thesis was revolutionary. Music could heal the body and make you smarter! I remember buying the book when it first came out in hardcover and sharing it with anyone who would listen. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Campbell when he gave a lecture at the University of Colorado when I was in graduate school. Although some of the “music as medicine” parts seem a bit voodoo to me now, I still find it an inspiring book. In fact, I still have the copy that he autographed that day in Boulder. He wrote, “For Marlene- Blessings in Sound, Don Campbell.” It is a blessing, a benediction, a prayer that I carry with me now.
The Mozart Effect
The Mozart Effect‘s greatest achievement may be that it touched off decades of research about music’s effect on the human body. Now, with advances in brain imagery and new understandings about how the brain works, it seems like there’s a new study being published every week linking music and mind.
A recent one that I find interesting is “The Musician’s Brain” from the Journal of Neurobiological Sciences (2012.) In a nutshell, researcher Wichian Sittiprapaporn has made three discoveries:
Listening to music engages multiple brain regions.
The brains of musicians are significantly larger than non-musicians.
Musicians hear and respond to music differently than non-musicians.
Because of the plasticity of the brains of young children, this study would indicate that early music education gives clear advantages in language, mathematics, memory, motor skills, and spatial abilities.
There is, of course, much work to be done in the fields of cognitive science and music psychology. Don Campbell set the wheels in motion. Now it’s up to the fancy brain imaging machines to confirm what we’ve known all along.
I am a musician living and working in Central Ohio. Like the musicians of times past, I make my living as a teacher, performer, conductor, and collaborator. Every week I teach private lessons, sing and strum the guitar in concerts for preschoolers, direct the North Unitarian Universalist Choir, laugh in music and movement classes, play my flute with ensembles large and small, and collaborate with other musicians on crazy projects. I stay sane by raising two incredible children and living with dirt under my fingernails.
Private instructor of flute and recorder since 1995.
Active calendar of engagements as a professional flutist.
Children’s Musician specializing in concerts and classes for ages 1-6.
Master of Music in Flute Performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder (2001).
Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance from The Ohio State University (1999).
Flute teachers include Alexa Still, Katherine Borst-Jones, and Tom Kennedy.