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:
Frequent small victories. Find ways to feel you have accomplished something – no matter how small – several times a day. I like to keep a to-do list but always include simple items that I can easily check off. Instead of writing “do laundry,” I will have smaller tasks on my list, like “gather laundry from kids’ rooms,” “start load of darks,” “hang laundry on line,” “take laundry off line,” “sort clothes,” “fold and put away.” Studying a musical instrument gives you the opportunity to make small gains everyday.
Physical activity. The brain is healthier when our whole bodies are healthy. Take a walk, do a yoga video, ride a bike to the store. The exercise does not have to be intense or lengthy. Just 20 minutes is enough to keep the brain happy.
Consider your posture. An upright posture allows for more oxygen and has a subconscious positive effect on our bodies. Hunching, rounding the shoulders, and slouching in a chair inhibit learning and make us feel inferior. Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on this subject is fascinating. Most, if not all, music teachers will encourage good posture when playing a musical instrument.
Get plenty of sleep. Our brains need time to recharge. Researchers have two hypotheses about why sleep is necessary. Some have suggested that rest is necessary for the brain to organize the day’s experiences. Others argue that the brain needs resting time to flush out toxins. The book “How We Learn” also asserts the value of good sleep habits.
You’re never too old to begin music study. My most mature student was in her 60s when she decided to take up flute. If you are already a musician, be sure to change up your practice routine and learn something new every day. Healthy brains equal a long, productive life!
stimulation and variety – he usually plays piano but decided to try the bass flute.
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.