Learning to play music has fringe benefits.
JoAnne Landry started taking guitar lessons when she was 10 years old. She knew at an early age she wanted to be a musician. Several decades later, she is living her dream. She loves to sing and perform, and she makes a good living teaching guitar lessons.
Not every child who studies music will become a successful career musician but there are many fringe benefits to learning to appreciate music and to pursue it as a hobby.
Researchers have found strong correlations between music and academic achievement, in reading, language skills and math. A study by UCLA researcher James Catterall involving 25,000 students over a period of 10 years shows students involved in music tested higher on standardized tests than those who had no music involvement.
Other research shows piano students are better equipped to comprehend mathematical and scientific concepts. In one study a group of preschoolers received private piano keyboard lessons and singing lessons. A second group received private computer lessons. The children who received piano/keyboard training performed 34 percent higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability than those who received computer training.
“Music (and the other arts) is part of a well-rounded education,” says Ralph McIntosh, the arts education co-ordinator for the Rainbow District School Board. Previously, he taught music for 21 years at Sudbury Secondary School.
Classes in music, drama, dance and visual arts are mandatory in elementary school, and students in secondary school must take at least one credit in arts. Sudbury Secondary offers four-year courses in music, drama, dance, visual arts and media arts. Other schools in Sudbury also offer excellent arts programs.
When children perform music together, they are learning team building skills as well as listening skills, says McIntosh.
“To be music literate, to be able to read music, this is a form of graphic notation. It reinforces mathematic skills.”
A study published in Australia in 2008 revealed on average, choral singers rated their satisfaction with life higher than the public.
“Research shows when you are singing you are using both parts of the brain; one side is processing the music; the other the words. Singing promotes brain development.
“When you sing, the feel good hormone, endorphin, is released. It is a positive body experience. You get a natural high,” says McIntosh, who studied music at the University of Toronto.
All children can learn music, he says. “Everybody can learn how to sing. Everyone can learn how to make music. Some will take it further because they have a natural interest or infinity with music.”
Landry, a former school teacher, says learning to play music gives children confidence.
“They have something that belongs to them.”
It can also help shy children overcome it. “I have seen with my own eyes shy children perform at the Kiwanis Festival.”
She teaches children and adults. Some students are as young as five and begin with the Suzuki Method, but ideally, a child is ready for lessons at about age seven or eight, she says.
Her classes are half an hour a week and she recommends daily practice.
McIntosh, who studied piano starting lessons when he was six. He recommends parents talk to their children about their interest in music before making a decision to enrol them in lessons.
In her music studio, Landry’s has a picture frame with the words: hope, dream and believe. These are words she lives by. Recently she had one of her dreams come true. She met her hero, hockey legend Guy Lafleur. The former NHL star is now the coach of the Canadiens Alumni team. They met Lafleur when she sang the national anthem at a cancer research fundraising game in Garson.
One never knows where music will lead them, she says with a smile.
The Mozart Effect
Don Campbell in his book, The Mozart Effect, condensed research on the beneficial effects of listening to certain types of classical music. He concluded music improves test scores, cuts learning time, calms hyperactive children and adults, reduces errors, improves creativity and clarity, ande heals the body faster.