Monday, January 23, 2012

Music matters

Why every child should learn to read music and play an instrument
As children across the Far North prepare to return to school next week, I thought that instead of writing a cliched column about the first day of school, I would write about something close to my heart that is often overlooked by many parents in regards to their child’s education – and that is, music education.
There are multiple reasons why I believe music should be a part of every child’s education, and this involves learning an instrument, not just singing the national anthem at school assembly. 
Children who learn music have high self-esteem, high cognitive competence, and generally outperform non-music students in reading and maths. These differences become greater the longer the students participate in music.
This then has a flow on affect as high performing students contribute positively to the school environment.
Music is also a wonderful and meaningful way to integrate different cultural attributes into a curriculum.
Music instills positive attitudes, a positive self-image, a desire to achieve excellence, an ability to set goals, co-operation, teamwork and self-discipline.
In other words, children who learn music achieve greater success at school, and this will carry on into their adult life so that they have more chance at success in society and their chosen career.
Many studies have shown that music study actively contributes to brain development, so music does make kids smarter.
Children raised in cultures rich with music tend to develop learning and communication skills more quickly than other children.
Unfortunately, not every child has the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, and therefore learn to read music, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have music education.

If your child loves singing, please don’t hush them... encourage it and expand their vocal range.
Consider singing lessons, but more importantly, open them up to a wide variety of music from the latest rock and pop, to world music, classical, opera, jazz and many more genres.
Music has the most powerful effect on the human spirit.
Studies at Columbia University have shown that surgeons who use music during operations, on average, were better performers in the operating room.
And if I have come home from a shopping trip with two screaming kids and my hair falling out from stress, I find music helps us all to feel a lot less tense.
Music stimulates brain waves which help to release tension slow the heart rate and breathing, and this means that you can use music to help calm your children in times of stress (or simply to help baby get to sleep).
Music is also a great way to improve a child’s emotional awareness. For instance, play your children different music that represents different moods (pop for happiness, heavy drumming for anger, slow classical for sadness), and then ask them what feelings the music reminds them of.
The ability to identify emotions in yourself and in others, as well as the ability to express emotions will facilitate healthy relationships and helps their resilience. 
There are plenty of websites for children to play musical games, and this is an ideal stepping stone to find out if your child wants to learn music.
If the enthusiasm is there, deciding on a more specific musical education is easy – just choose an instrument, find a tutor and let them play.
If you really want them to become proficient at an instrument, it is vital that they learn to read music too.
Don’t forget that music is always meant to be fun. Whether your child is playing in tune or out, it is a great form of self expression, and the more they play, the better they will get.
Having played the piano since the age of eight, I understand the frustration kids can feel when they can read the music but their fingers just don’t play it right. 
At this point, you want to quit and you tell your parents over and over again that you don’t want to play music anymore.
But parents, please don’t give in!
It won’t be long before practice pays off and suddenly your child is playing music that they previously struggled with.
I remember so clearly when that moment happened, and I suddenly regained my love for playing music (it also coincided with me starting with a new teacher who was enthusiastic, instead of the previous one who used to go and do her washing while I was playing for her!).
I am now teaching my eldest daughter to play piano (that's her pictured above) and instead of boring her with repetitious scales and music she has never heard of, I have found some amazing resources online where we can play games, mini duets and have fun with music that she recognises and really wants to play.
And there’s the key: If learning music is fun, your child will thrive.


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