Article by: Devin Grant
Music. For many of us, imagining a world without it is unthinkable, almost tantamount to losing a part of ourselves. But while music is now so clearly a part of our lives in one way or another, it’s important to remember the gifts that it has given us along the way, and the benefits that it can bestow early in life. Finding myself working with music for the summer has made me think back on all of the ways that music has affected my life to this point, and being thankful for that past I feel the need to share these benefits, in the hope that young (potential) musicians can experience the same friendly, supportive helping hand that music has granted me.
In this section I aim to speak not from personal experience (that would be a tad pompous) but from the much more persuasive statistics. Many studies have shown a strong correlation between participation in music and academic success, particularly in mathematics. The links aren’t hard to find; it doesn’t take much effort to connect rhythms and fractions, mathematical formulae can be (and have been) written to mimic melodies, and the complexities of a skilled composition are mirrored in the many facets of a complicated equation. However, the academic benefits are not limited simply to mathematics; one study conducted in Southern California showed that students involved in musical extra-curricula’s such as band or choir on average had a GPA over half a point higher than their non-musical counterparts. Some studies have gone as far as to say that music majors have the highest SAT scores in all areas (as a math major I find that hard to believe, but we’ll leave it to the experts). Regardless, it is undeniable that music positively impacts academic success and it’s not hard to see why. Between building analytical skills from reading and understanding musical scores, to the work ethic gained by the necessity of regular practice, music teaches children many important skills for academia.
While a somewhat obvious benefit, this certainly merits mention considering its importance. Anyone who has been involved in musical groups can tell you that it is practically unavoidable that you will make new friends through music. Many of my friendships started and matured through music, resulting in some of my very closest friends, as well as having friends living all across the country. They say that an important part of a friendship is having common interests, and when meeting through music this first requirement is already met. Regular practices as well as performances and other occasions provide the perfect grounds to foster a new friendship. Speaking from personal experience, music offers a venue for many otherwise shy, introverted people to break out of their shell. Whether it be playing solos, belting out a spectacular note, or simply performing as part of a group, music allows these people to make themselves heard in a venue where they can feel accepted and comfortable with themselves.
This is perhaps one of the more overlooked benefits granted by musical involvement. As mentioned in the previous section, music offers a place where people can begin to express themselves socially and break out of their shell. What comes with this opportunity is a means to grow as a person, especially where confidence is involved. I for one was very unconfident throughout my elementary and junior high school years, until jazz band, choir, and musical theatre performances gave me a chance to push myself into roles that I had never seen myself filling up to that point, making solo performances and even resulting in performing a 60’s love song in a white tuxedo (anyone who knows me well remembers this event, whether fondly or not is a point of contention). It’s hard to find a medium other than music that allows someone to push and improve themselves as much as music does. Of course emotionally, music has always been an incredibly important mode of self-expression, whether one is performing, composing, or simply listening. The connection between music and the human psyche is one of the strongest there is, and having music as a part of one’s life is truly a gift at a time filled with emotional turmoil. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but often the way to your own heart is through your ears.
Despite everything written above, the effect music can have on a young person truly can’t be expressed in words. Those of us who have lived it know how it feels, and we can only hope that many more of future generations will experience it for themselves. My message to today’s youth: play early, and play often.
http://www.childrensmusicworkshop.com/advocacy/studentdevelopment.html (Children’s Music Workshop)