Music to my Ears

The many benefits of music for children.

Most parents search for an entertaining way to pass the time with their children, as finding games everyone enjoys can sometimes prove difficult and discovering activities that help children learn and develop life-skills can be almost impossible. A lot has been written on the benefits of music, especially with regard to young children. Based on extensive research, it has been proven that children do gain enormously through the study of music.

A child’s introduction to music will build lasting memories and enable children to not only use their minds better, but also learn to think creatively. In addition, children who play instruments develop discipline, respect for others and learn to work as a team. Through this bonding experience, parents help their children to overcome insecurities, increase math and cognitive skills, and most importantly, feel more comfortable in their own skin.

The greatest reason for introducing children to music is to provide access to a creative mode for acknowledging and expressing thoughts and feelings. While listening, singing or playing music, children are lifted out of their ordinary frames of reference for a time. They are free to feel jubilant, romantic, morose, poetic or just plan silly— whatever the music and the mood evoke.

Music activates air waves, and the human response is immediate. It’s also preverbal, educational and, most importantly, very special. The cognitive benefits become more apparent as children learn music. And the joys in making music as a family and in experiencing new wavelengths of communication last forever.

Below are tips on how to interest a child in classical music:

  • Arrange a family listening time, with each person choosing his favorite music. Relax and enjoy what each family member selects.
  • Plan a special outing to a ballet, concert, folk music festival or a local production of a musical.
  • Read a music story to, or with, your child. This may be a story about composers or a classic music story.
  • Attend a performance of a local youth orchestra. Your child will enjoy hearing peers perform, and the music played is generally quite accessible to youngsters.
  • If your child has been studying his instrument for a while, consider enrolling him in a youth orchestra.
  • If your child listens to music while doing homework, tune in to the local classical station at this time.
  • Pop in a music store or a piano store; look at and try out instruments.
  • Visit a local music school; talk to teachers, and perhaps sit in on a lesson.
  • Play an educational music video game with your child.

Early musical training helps develop brain areas involved in language and reasoning. Perhaps the basic reason that every child must have an education in music is that music is a part of the fabric of our society.

It is thought that brain development continues for many years after birth. According to ClassicsforKids.com, recent research has clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways.

Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds. Students of the arts learn to think creatively and to solve problems by imagining various solutions, rejecting outdated rules and assumptions. Questions about the arts do not have only one right answer.

As further evidence of the benefits children receive directly based on their exposure to classical music, recent studies have shown that students who study the arts are more successful on standardized tests such as the SAT. The students also achieve higher grades in high school.

In addition, scientific evidence indicates that the reading level of students with one year of music was nearly one grade higher than their peers without such music training. Children with two years of music experience had scores equivalent to two years ahead of their reading age, and these statistics improved with music experience

A study of the arts provides children with an internal glimpse of other cultures and teaches them empathy towards the people of other lands. This development of compassion and empathy, as opposed to development of greed and a “me first” attitude, provides a bridge across cultural chasms that leads to respect of other races at an early age.

Another benefit of music in teaching new concepts is linked to motivation. A child who is interested and attentive when learning a new skill is much more likely to retain the information over time. In this way, music sparks children’s interest in learning, and creates an optimal environment for long-term skill retention.

Students of music learn craftsmanship as they study how details are painstakingly put together and what constitutes good, as opposed to mediocre, work. These standards, when applied to a student’s own work, demand a new level of excellence and require students to stretch their inner resources.

Music performance teaches young people to conquer fear and to take risks. A little anxiety is a good thing and something that will occur often in life. Dealing with it earlier in life often makes it less of a problem later. Risk-taking is essential if a child is to fully develop his potential.

In essence, an arts education exposes children to the incomparable. Music is a magical gift we must nourish and cultivate in our children. By reinforcing the benefits of music to the children of our community through education and outreach programs, we will see first-hand the power music has to unite and inspire our future generations.

Chicago Chamber Musicians (CCM) was founded in 1986 by a group of prominent musicians and chamber music devotees for the purpose of building an internationally recognized institution devoted to the study and performance of chamber music. Annually, CCM concerts reach 500,000 people in the Chicago area through live concerts and radio broadcasts. In April 2007, CCM launched its first nationally syndicated radio series on the WFMT Radio Network.