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Why is music important?

by Jon 5. May 2011 11:14

I am writing this because I have just had the umpteenth conversation with the parent of a young student which illustrates that certain important messages are not being received. This particular parent had elected to organise music lessons outside school hours on the basis that, while they thought music was a ‘nice’ thing for their child to do, it certainly wasn’t going to be at the expense of missing something ‘important’ like Maths or English.

I recently emailed Ed Balls (Secretary of State for Education) pointing out that if parents really understood the benefits of music they would be forming a queue. I suggested that maybe his department should stop preaching to the converted (the Education system and Music industry) and start telling those who would benefit most. (I have yet to receive a reply!)

So, why should parents form a queue?

Research into the effects of practical music making concludes that the player will have:

  • Higher all round test scores, regardless of socio-economic back ground. Yes, even if you miss a weekly maths lesson because of an instrumental lesson, you will be better at Maths and indeed everything else! (It is also true that there is a considerable correlation between musical ability and proficiency in mathematics and the sciences.)
  • Better concentration
  • Increased creativity
  • Improved memory (short & long term)
  • Better self esteem
  • Greater physical coordination
  • Increased self discipline
  • Improved social skills
  • Greater self reliance
  • More positive attitude

Research also shows that students who participate in a school band or orchestra will have the lowest levels of current and lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs of any group in society. How much is that sort of contribution to enhancing your child’s life worth? As if this isn’t enough, studies have also shown that making music will help to:

  • Relieve stress (Many universities offering courses in high stress careers like medicine view having music as a hobby very favourably)
  • Reduce burnout
  • Enhance mood
  • Improve overall feelings of well being
  • Alleviate the symptoms of asthma and other related breathing conditions (if you play a wind instrument)

Clearly many of these benefits are for people of all ages, but children are different in that they are going through a rapid developmental process. Music making requires the child to think quickly, often 4 or 5 decisions per second. It teaches them to manage information, to think about and solve problems, to be adaptive, to learn continuously and to work with others. It reinforces self-discipline, teamwork, creativity and self-expression.

In summary making music can make you smarter, healthier and better balanced. This isn’t speculation. The scientific evidence is absolutely overwhelming… So, if you are:

  • A parent of a school age child, please form an orderly line outside the office of the Head of Music at your child’s school.
  • An adult, please form an orderly queue outside your local music shop
  • A carer of the elderly or anyone with learning difficulties or breathing disorders, get professional advice and then head for the music shop or school.
  • Feeling unmotivated or depressed, see if there is any room left for lessons at school or join the others at the music shop.