According to research gathered as part of NAMM’s (National Association of Music Merchants) “Wanna Play?” campaign, 85 percent of those who do not play music wish they did. Why? People think playing music will make them happy.
There may be truth in this statement, for aside from gaining the joy music itself brings and that of possessing performance skills, what can be gained through music lessons are life skills that contribute toward the ability to reach our fullest potential—in terms of better health, relationships, and more meaningful work.
Fortunately, it is not too late to learn due to the many programs, networks, and schools available throughout the United States.
TakeLessons, available in over 2,800 U.S. cities, links people to the right music teachers to suit their needs. Their S.T.A.R. program teaches organizational skills, how to set goals, and manage time. In fact, S.T.A.R. stands for: S—Setting musical goals; T—Tracking your progress; A—Achieving a little more each week; R—Rewarding accomplishments.
Kindermusik develops and strengthens the relationship between parent and child, which contributes to the child’s overall ability to connect socially. They believe that the best teacher is the parent and they work to nurture this relationship through music. With a history of over 30 years, they give parents the tools to continue the Kindermusik experience at home.
Ann Storm, a Kindermusik teacher from Wheaton, Illinois, said in an email: "Musical activities are unique in that they stimulate every learning domain of the developing brain—i.e. physical, cognitive, social emotional, and, language."
"Why early childhood music? Because that is the time the brain is being hardwired—thus the things you pump into it, whether the practical or the unmeasurable benefits, are there for life and enhance/enrich the life of the child forever," she added.
Wanna Play? by NAMM has an online network forum linking people with the right teachers and various music events to participate in around the United States (www.wannaplaymusic.com). On the website, people share their own music stories hoping to inspire and encourage others to play. This allows people to have their passion for learning music validated, making them feel less alone by connecting to a larger music community.
Of course higher education in music is another option. At City Music Centre of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh students develop appreciation for music history by examining 500-year-old music, and, through the process gain cultural sensitivity. Students learn, for example, that music in Ghana or Ceylon functions differently than music in 16th century French courts or in today’s concert hall. Many non-western cultures believe that music is a necessary and integral part of daily life and as such many learn to sing and play an instrument outside of any formal setting.
Taking Time to Learn Music
Adults and children all have busy lives, so including music lessons in their schedule can seem like just adding stress. Classroom elementary teachers are afraid to allow students to miss class for electives in fear that they will perform poorly on tests. In addition, parents are becoming so concerned about their child’s progress in school that they are increasingly doubtful about taking the time away from regular curriculum to allow for music lessons.
Yet according to psychologists, neuroscientists, and experts in early childhood development, music helps brain cells connect to virtually every kind of intelligence. According to Children’s Music Workshop’s website, “After nine months of weekly training in piano or voice, … young students’ IQs rose nearly three points more than their untrained peers.”For young children moving and dancing to music and playing simple instruments improve gross and fine motor skills. Furthermore, activities that encourage freedom within a fun and friendly structure spark creativity.
Making time for music lessons does require that we change our habits, adjust priorities, and be more responsible—also skills essential in life. Not all life skills are gained through school and realizing this is part of taking responsibility for our own education and happiness. Music lessons are one enjoyable way to develop these skills.
Elaine Teguibon is a pianist and music educator.