Humans are affected in profound and transcendent ways by music. There is strong archeological evidence that ancient humans probably gathered in a circle around the fire to chant, sing and play crude percussion instruments. Perhaps they sang or chanted to strengthen the sense of community or group solidarity as we do now with religious hymns. We know that Native Americans celebrated nature, the harvest and the animals that they harvested for survival in song and dance.
Most people can remember a song that was popular at a time when something important was happening in their lives. I can remember listening to Neil Young songs like “Ohio” and feeling as rebellious as he sounded. Sometimes songs just get stuck in your head and you can’t get them out, like “You can’t touch this,” a song that I detest which episodically haunts me.
Today we know that music can help people to process grief, meditate, reduce stress, manage pain and some evidence suggests that music can help us to heal. In fact, Music seems to transcend our circumstance, whatever that circumstance might be. Many infants connect with music well before they can walk or talk. Turn music on around an infant and it really gets their attention and though they may not speak words yet they will hum or make noises along with the music. Infants will also move their feet and hands to the music and sometimes they become very excited. I have observed senior citizens who cannot remember much about their day’s events but can sing every word to the World War II era song, “Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me.” While listening to music is enjoyable, making your own music can be enjoyable and fun. Like all artistic expressions, music is mostly subjective and Mozart maybe the greatest music in the world to some listeners while others may swoon to Etta James or Anita Baker, two of my personal favorites.
Any parent considering music lessons for their child should know that children that take music lessons become better readers, improve their spelling skills and show great improvement in math skills. Students that participate in band or instrument lessons are 52 percent more likely to attend college and graduate from college. A Rockefeller Foundation study found that music students had the highest admittance to medical school above all other variables. Music can help a student to build self-confidence as well. Mastery of a musical instrument takes discipline and dedication but once you have seen a young person smile after or during playing their instrument no matter which one it is, you can literally see their confidence growing. It is well known from educational research that success in one area can be transferred into other areas and additional self-confidence can result. Music unlike traditional sports and many extracurricular activities can be enjoyed across an entire lifetime. Sports are not the only area where teamwork can be learned, playing in a band or orchestra requires teamwork, conflict resolution skills and selflessness.
In high school I had several garage bands and I would say that the only way to describe them was loud. It was great fun and to this day I play guitar and if I am really lucky I play and sing with my daughter and if I am really, really lucky, we harmonize together and sound pretty good. I believe that her early piano lessons and teacher and a guitar in her presence at home probably spawned her interest in playing and singing music. Now her music is a lifelong gift she gives herself and to others.
Remember all kids count.
Reach the writer at Hurlburt@wildblue.net