Why Study a Musical Instrument?

The benefits of studying music reach far beyond the development of skill.  Music is an integral part of our lives.  We listen, we celebrate, we socialize, we worship, we mourn, we even learn through music.  Music has the power, to calm, excite or even change our mood.  It helps us communicate when words fall short. When we play a musical instrument, we learn to recognize and create something beautiful.  We grow richer as human beings.   

Recently, I had the privilege of working with Edward Kreitman, a well known Suzuki Teacher Trainer.  He told a story of how he was giving a talk at a summer Suzuki institute a while back and decided to poll the audience (full of parents of the young musicians at the institute) to find out how many parents had enrolled their children in music lessons for the specific purpose of creating professional musicians.  None had.  So he followed by asking the question, “Then, why did you enroll your child in music lessons?” Mr. Kreitman repeated this experiment at multiple institutes over time and got the same results each time.  Below is the list of reasons why parents enroll their children in music lessons...  

(You can read this story in detail plus much more in Mr. Kreitman's book Teaching with an Open Heart)

 

  The List....

  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Develop poise and the ability to present themselves in public, whether performing music or speaking
  • Gain a lifelong love of music
  • Develop problem-solving skills and a healthy confidence in the face of struggle
  • Learn to break a complex problem into small, achievable step.
  • Develop fine-motor skill and good eye-hand coordination
  • Gain a sense of endless possibility
  • Find open doors of opportunity
  • Develop a healthy sense of self-esteem tied to feelings of accomplishment
  • Learn to strive for excellence
  • Transfer music’s unique learning skill set to other subject matter
  • Develop an individual “voice” on their instrument that would allow for self-expression
  • Build self confidence
  • Learn to create something beautiful
  • Develop sensitivity to beauty in the world
  • Share a positive emotional experience with their parents around the study of music
  • Learn to manage their time effectively
  • Choose a social circle of friends who enjoy making music together (which would help them to stay out of trouble during their teen years)
  • Enhance their memorization skills
  • Become calm and centered

To conclude, Mr. Kreitman then asked the parents to imagine a young adult with all of these traits.  What an amazing person this would be! I agree! But wait, That's not all!  The Music Therapist in me has to mention that playing a musical instrument enhances brain function with far reaching effects. (Here's a link to one recent study- www.jneurosci.org/content/29/10/3019.full)  Children who play musical instruments develop more neural fibers across the corpus callosum which connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  The increased connectivity helps to better integrate the functions of the two hemispheres. We have only scratched the surface in discovering the full impact music training has on brain function.  In general there are links to improvements in communication, abstract thinking, nonverbal reasoning, learning, motor skills and coordination. Wow!