The Benefits of Music

As I reflect on working with school-aged children over nearly three decades, one of the greatest joys of this privilege has been to witness first-hand their on-stage performances in music across an array of instruments. These performances have ranged from stunning solo performances to large bands producing unimaginable sounds that stir emotion in a way few other experiences can. I marvel at what can be produced by those still so very young. Even Einstein is said to have considered music to be the greatest of all joys in his life. Granted, there is an early phase to endure (as some of us have experienced as parents) before the pleasantries are produced, but watching the excitement of a young child experiencing their own joy as they enter a whole new world can be gratifying too.

I am writing about this because of two reasons. The first reason is because learning music provides an abundance of tangible benefits, of which I have outlined some examples below:

  • Studies have consistently determined that learning a musical instrument improves both cognitive memory and muscle memory. Music engages both left- and right-brain activity and stimulates a child’s learning with enhanced memory. It also improves spatial-temporal reasoning. Music is further used in neurological brain rehabilitation.
  • Playing a musical instrument over time has a positive correlation with academic performance. There are multiple characteristics that contribute to this positive correlation, including spatial and abstract reasoning also used in other areas of learning, memory enhancement which is heavily used in academic learning processes, and even behavioural aspects such as the individual discipline required to engage and focus.
  • Learning musical instruments (including reading music) requires one to intentionally improve, which involves correcting errors and mistakes routinely made as part of the process. Learning to not only cope with, but to embrace, errors as a valuable learning experience develops resilience in learning carried over to other subject areas, and in life-learning too. Risk-taking in learning is key to improving in all areas and this a common trait when learning musical instruments that again has benefits for any area.
  • Participation in learning music leads to improvement over time, which in turn builds self-confidence, leading to improvement in self-worth. Of course, this overlaps into other areas for any individual and can be applied to all areas of learning new skills. Music is an excellent builder of confidence when sustained, as success is experienced.
  • Playing with others in a band teaches children many benefits, including some of these examples: how to compromise, how to work together for a common cause, to enable synergy to be experienced, to improve precision, improve patience and tolerance, enable organic sharing of knowledge-enhancing skills, to call upon self-discipline, provide additional motivation to practise and improve, create familiarity with performing in front of others, enable appreciation of those teaching and volunteering their time, instigate and develop relationships with peers, and provide a different form of fun and joy not experienced when working alone, and more.
  • Listening to music can help to relieve stress. Playing an instrument can further enhance that benefit and research has measured reductions in tangible areas of health such as blood pressure, anxiety and lower levels of the hormone cortisol. It also can stir many different emotions, as music is often ‘felt’ not just ‘heard’.
  • Participating in performing arts, including music, aids in creativity. Sometimes playing music is structured and at other times it has no bounds whatsoever, and original music can be created, even in developing novices. Creativity is a key characteristic providing many different benefits to an individual in life and in learning.
  • Learning an instrument improves hand-eye-brain co-ordination.
  • Involvement in music opens up opportunities to be exposed to rich learning, different cultures and history.

These are just some of the benefits of learning a musical instrument. The second reason I have highlighted all this is to raise further awareness of the opportunities available at Snowy Mountains Grammar School, including development of the new Junior School Music Program.

Please see further details within this edition for opportunities to be involved in our music program for all year levels, Kindergarten to Year 12. I am delighted that all students at SMGS have these opportunities available to them, and in particular the new initiatives created last year and enhanced further this year. I strongly encourage all our students to consider engaging in this marvellous skill for life and I commend all those who already have.