December 18, 2013 by Don Russo
I often tell people my guitar teacher changed my life forever. I loved taking guitar lessons so much! I love teaching music lessons even more! There are more benefits to taking music lessons than I have space for. So, I am going to try and narrow it down…wish me luck!
I remember overhearing Luke in his voice lesson at Freeway one week. He sounded so amazing that I had to poke my head in and compliment him. He never sang in front of a crowd before, and was frightened to do so. It came time for him to perform at his first showcase, and he was so nervous that he was shaking. Luke couldn’t go through with it. So he bowed out. Then, this past Sunday we had a Christmas recital for our music students. It came time for Luke to perform again. He was so nervous. At first, he said he couldn’t do it. His voice teacher, parents, other teachers at Freeway and myself encouraged him to do it. Luke stood on stage and sang his heart out. There were tears all throughout the audience. He crushed it! I watched a student’s confidence grow right in front of my eyes. I have witnessed this time and time again. There is no doubt that music helps kids grow in confidence.
Music is such a great tool to spark creativity. Students can create melodies, lyrics, riffs, songs, and much more. There are so many elements of music that you can manipulate such as: time, meter, dynamics, tone, pitch, and even the instruments themselves. Music doesn’t stop at performance. There is writing, arrangement, production, promotion, etc. The creative possibilities in music are endless and available to all music students. I constantly challenge my students to take what they learn from their lessons, apply it, and create with it. This makes the lesson material stick better, and urges students to create their own signature within music. Michael Cammarata comes to mind. He is a guitar student of mine. He started playing guitar in his 50’s. He began writing, recorded an album, and released it recently to his church and friends. This is a great example of how any student can begin the creative process at anytime.
Music lessons are a weekly commitment. Students must come at the same time each week, and be prepared for the previous week’s lesson. I give my guitar students practice schedules detailing what they are to practice each week. Then, I have them check off the days they practiced. I even go a step further and make them sign the schedule as an extra level of accountability. Recitals and showcases force students to be accountable for a certain part they must have prepared. I don’t know any student who wants to stink it up in front of a crowd, or let their fellow students down by not being prepared for a group performance. That is a great Segway into the next benefit.
Recently, our music students marched and performed in the Blythewood Christmas parade. The students that were performing on the float called each other and rehearsed together. Once at the parade, other students came early to help set up and carry equipment. While we were marching, students were carrying the banner, making sure the equipment was safe, clapping and singing, and handing out candy. The energy was so positive as students supported and encouraged one another. The various outreach opportunities, showcases, rock band classes, and all star bands give students the chance to learn how to work together. This is a skill that will translate into school, athletics, jobs, and more.
There is a lot of research showing that musical training has various cognitive benefits. These quotes are from the Journal of Neuroscience
“If you took piano lessons as a child but never continued with them in adulthood, they could still provide brain benefits later in life”
“…And the positive effects seemed to be stronger the longer a person took music lessons as a child”
“…people could stand to benefit from starting music lessons at a very young age”
“…musical training before age 7 is linked with more white matter in the corpus callosum part of the brain, as well as better performance on visual sensorimotor synchronization tasks compared with people who started music training after age 7”
A study of 7,500 university students revealed that music majors scored the highest reading
scores among all majors including English, biology, chemistry and math
~ The Case for Music in the Schools, Phi Delta Kappa, 1994
I could list facts all day long. It is very apparent that music has incredible benefits to the brain. I believe the research speaks for itself.
If you are an adult trying to stretch your brain, or a parent considering signing up a child for lessons, I urge you to do it as soon as possible. Music lessons are a great way to make people more well-rounded. The benefits are endless. Start your music journey today!