Why You Should Consider Music Enrichment for Your Children
Courtesy of San Jose Youth Symphony
In this day and age, we, as parents, can be easily overwhelmed by the variety and abundance of enrichment activities available for our children. What should we have our kids try out? Soccer? Martial arts? Scouting? Art classes? Sure! But what about music? What are the advantages to introducing music into your children’s lives? As a parent of children who studied music starting from toddlerhood through school, and through my own personal experience studying and playing music, I’d like to share my thoughts on the advantages I’ve seen and personally experienced.
Music provides a positive outlet for expression and emotion
Music of any kind conveys some sort of emotion. Music may sound sad or happy, but also may sound scary, dramatic, suspenseful, majestic, or even funny. The differences in musical expression can be so subtle or nuanced, that it can be immensely satisfying on a personal level that is far different from expressing oneself verbally, with words.
Particularly for young children who don’t have well-developed vocabularies, music allows for another way to express themselves. And, as they grow and develop, they learn how to play music to achieve the exact emotional impact they want and also become aware of the variety and intricacies of emotion. Accordingly, music helps develop children’s emotional intelligence.
Music trains kids physically and mentally
Hand-eye coordination improves when learning to play a musical instrument. Not only do kids learn through music to play or sing the correct notes (making the correct sounds), but also to play the notes at the right time (rhythm and tempo) and at the right volume (loud or soft, also known as dynamics). There are other details to master, such as how to make the sound (i.e., staccato, legato, pizzicato, etc.), or how to reproduce the sounds in another key (transposition). So, just as in playing sports, children develop fine motor skills when playing music.
Similarly, playing music requires mental facility in skills such as memorization (for example, which piano key plays which note), pattern recognition (such as in repeats of phrases), and analytical skills (ability to see the structure of a piece – exposition, development and recapitulation; chords and their relations to each other – tonic, dominant, relative minor, etc.). All of these mental skills apply equally to school subjects, such as math and essay writing.
Music develops discipline, character and self-esteem
To master the playing of music requires practice -- with repetition and craftsmanship -- to achieve the desired effect and result. This requires making the effort a priority, which can mean self-sacrifice (less free time for other things), but it instills discipline and good, regular habits that are important life skills to tackle at an early age. If your child plays in a band or an orchestra, he or she must show commitment to the group by attending all practices and rehearsals and therefore learn to respect others and engage in teamwork. Performing music in front of others usually also brings feelings of fear and anxiety, which children must learn to deal with and overcome. When children achieve successful mastery of music and performance in front of an inviting and enthusiastic audience after putting in all the hard work and sacrifice, they build pride and confidence in themselves.
Most importantly, music is fun!
Music is ubiquitous in life because it is something nearly everyone enjoys. It brings people together at concerts, and adds an indispensable dimension to movies and TV shows. Listening to music can help with stress, and especially soothing music can be very relaxing. Learning to make music is a skill one can enjoy and keep for an entire lifetime. Even for those not inclined to play an instrument or sing, music education can enhance understanding of and appreciation for music.
Shoko Michael is the Executive Director of the San Jose Youth Symphony