Music is a big part of the Mayer Arts program of course because we teach dance and musical theater. I am a strong believer in the power of music which is why I do what I do. Music has always been a part of my life. I am married to a singer and we are always singing and dancing with our kids at home and taking them to activities that are music related. We not only enjoy music but deeply believe in its benefits. I will share with you what I have observed as a teacher and then what I found in my research of this topic.
As a teacher in the performing arts I have found that music is beneficial for my students in many ways. The first basic aspect that I have noticed is that music makes children happy! When a fun upbeat song comes on children start to move and shake. I have had students say to me that when the music comes on they just can’t help themselves! Their faces light up. They move and sing along. Music has such a powerful effect.
Children also naturally express themselves with different kinds of music. If children hear slow graceful music they will move slow and graceful. If they feel bouncy music they will bounce. They can even describe what they think a piece of music is trying to say or what story in their minds a piece of music makes. Children learn to really use their ears. In my oldest classes we try to go beyond that and think of the character of each piece of music. Who are we as we dance? What is the music trying to say and how can we communicate that to our audience?
Learning rhythm and counting music is just as important in my classes as feeling the music. I start asking students to try and find the beats of a song at an early age and then when they achieve that I ask them to try and count the music. I don’t think people think about math being a part of music but it definitely is! People who dance, sing or play an instrument must be able to move, sing or play on certain counts. They also must learn how counts of music are grouped together in phrases. How many counts are there until the music changes? As a choreographer I am constantly using counting, multiplication and division to create my dances.
In my research on this topic I wanted to go beyond what I observe in my classes. We keep hearing about schools that cut arts programs and whether or not this is good for our children. Obviously I am someone who believes that we need a good balance in our schools between the arts and academics. Therefore I was not surprised what I found on the subject of music and a developing brain. I found that when children study music they do benefit intellectually. Studies have found that children who study music have higher IQ scores than children who don’t. They learn languages easier, have higher test scores, and are better problem solvers. Basically the brain works harder in children who study music.
Why is this? When learning music, especially learning an instrument or in dance, children are challenged to use many skills at once. They must use their eyes and ears as well as using large and small motor skills. Therefore students who learn music have improved sound discrimination and fine motor skills. Their brains actually show changes to those parts of the brain.
When looking at languages, studies showed that music helped to stimulate the left side of the brain that is responsible for language. It helps children learn sounds and rhymes. Linking information that you would like a child to learn with a song will help them remember. My daughter has a long name and I was trying to help her learn how to spell it one day. I decided to sing the letters to her in a melody and she learned it at that moment and never forgot.
All this leads to learning in other areas. Studies showed that students not only had increased abilities in areas that directly linked to music but there is a causal link to understanding problem solving that would go with math, science, engineering, architecture, etc.
Finally, just as being a part of a club or sport, being involved in a musical activity children will have more discipline, feel a part of something positive, and have a sense of accomplishment. The focus should not be on making your child smarter but increasing their enjoyment of life! Being able to say that you can sing, dance or play an instrument is a great gift to be able to give yourself.
I think many parents believe in the benefits of music for their children. We have babies listening to music as soon as they are born and sometimes even before. We sing to our children and put them in dance and music classes. They hear music in school, in church, to celebrate events and countless other places. It is a part of our culture.
We just went to a Twins game this past weekend for Father’s Day and because I was in the middle of writing this blog I noticed the music at the game even more than I would normally. Music was used to get the crowd going, to entertain and to celebrate our country. All this at a baseball game! Music is everywhere. It really does make our lives better. I am so happy that music is a part of my life and I hope we can help make it a part of yours as well!