12/3/2012: Why should my child have a music education?

There are standard courses that we all know should be a part of a well balanced education – math, English, history and science among others. Sports and/or exercise are also important for a child’s development. A music education is not usually on the tip of the tongue when basics are discussed. There are some very good reasons why it should be.

First, in the last few decades extensive research on the cognitive development of children has yielded dramatic findings regarding the benefits of a musical education. Learning music is like aerobics for the brain. A joint study by the universities of Wisconsin and Californian showed that children who learned to play music over a six month period performed 34% better than non-musicians in IQ tests. The sample groups were from diverse social and economic backgrounds. Many other studies have show significant improvement in motor, language and spatial skills by students involved in studying and making music.

Secondly, a musical education can yield a legacy that lasts a lifetime. The ability to play on a musical instrument is part of a rich tapestry of life that is a source of personal enjoyment and fulfillment throughout one’s life. In the decades that I have worked in music stores I have lost track of how many adults mentioned that they wished that they had learned to play an instrument or wished that they had continued learning. Never once in all those years have I met an adult who thought his or her lessons as a child were a waste of time.

Third, music helps with social development. Children who play music together are creating a piece of sonic art in cooperation with others. I can think of few teamwork experiences that can match it. Child musicians have greater self-esteem and greater confidence. Also, crime among serious music students is almost non-existent.

Some modern approaches like the Suzuki Method start children on an instrument as young as 3 years old. The key to interesting very young children in music making is to make it a pleasurable experience and a form of self-expression. Children should be encouraged to make up their own melodies as well as learning practice pieces. Learning music should be made an exciting and rewarding experience.

With all these positives it is apparent that a musical education has plethora of benefits that far outweigh the modest costs and there are few greater gifts that a parent can give a child than a musical education.

Craig Birchfield