Development Through Music
Many parents often ask the question whether or not their child should take music lessons. Are there tangible benefits besides simply learning to play an instrument? It has long been maintained that music training produces significant non-musical benefits. In the last ten years, important scientific and educational research has provided convincing evidence of the extrinsic value of music education. Worth noting are neurological research studies published in the last few years showing that children who participate in piano/keyboard instruction demonstrate a dramatic improvement in spatial-temporal reasoning abilities - abilities crucial to the comprehension of math and science concepts.
This is understood to be a result of the visual-linear representation of the spatial relationships between pitches found on the keyboard, and the fact that two significantly different and challenging mental processes re working simultaneously while playing a piano keyboard.
Reading and interpreting abstract musical symbols from a two handed piano arrangement is a challenging 'receptive' process while playing the music on the keyboard is a challenging 'productive' process. A piano player learns to handle both these processes concurrently. Still, it may be surprising to discover that concert pianists enjoy, on average, 30% more grey-matter ( the thinking part of the brain ) than people without musical background who are considered intellectuals.
Researchers are currently conducting studies to determine whether musical training gives the elderly an edge in preserving cognitive function for as long as possible.
Research has also established a clear connection between involvement in creative artistic activities and the development of healthy self-esteem and self-confidence.
The following paragraphs summarize important recent child development studies:
- A research team exploring the link between music and intelligence reported that keyboard training is superior to computer or singing instruction in enhancing children’s abstract reasoning skills. Neurological Research, Vol. 19, Feb. 1997, Shaw, Rauscher, et al
- Under-achieving first grade students in two Rhode Island elementary schools who were given an enriched, sequential, skill-building music program showed marked improvement in reading and math skills. Nature, May 23, 1996, Gardiner, Fox, Jeffrey and Knowles
- A McGill University study found that scores on pattern recognition and mental representation tests improved significantly for students given piano instruction over a three-year period. The McGill Piano Project, Costa-Giomi, E., April 1998
- An Auburn University study found significant increases in overall self-concept of at-risk children participating in a music and arts program. Project ARISE: Meeting the needs of disadvantaged students through the arts, Auburn University, 1992, Barry, N.H.
- In the kindergarten classes of Kettle Moraine, WI school district, children who were given keyboard instruction scored 48% higher on spatial-temporal skill. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Volume 15, Issue #2, Sept. 2000, Rauscher, F. and Zupan, M.
- An analysis of the US Dept. of Education NELLs88 database, compiled over a period of ten years, showed that students involved in music scored higher than those with no music involvement in standardized tests and proficiency exams. Catterall,J., UCLA, 1997