There are countless studies showing the cognitive benefits of studying music, especially at an early age, when the brain is still developing. There are also benefits from participating in school music ensembles throughout the primary and secondary years of academic study.
Students’ brains function differently after studying music. Both sides of the brain are active when looking at notations on a page and physically producing sounds to make that music come alive. Many student musicians also gain personal confidence from positive individual or ensemble music performances. They learn problem-solving skills and the ability to work collaboratively with a team, as well as gaining enhanced imagination and creativity through participation in music.
Student musicians learn to create the music on the page, but also have opportunities to compose or improvise their own melodies. Reflecting on my own music studies as a child, I found the desire to create a greater depth of imagination in story lines, which enhanced my creative writing abilities.
Music study is different for each student. There are students who find great value in an emotional release they experience while participating in music ensembles. Other students benefit from great academic stimulation. There are many musicians who benefit from and are pleased when they experience joy in music participation. Some musicians in my classes have been able to use their music participation in assisting their writing assignments and project completion in other academic settings. Many students benefit from greater confidence that helps them excel in public speaking or class presentations. Many of my current students find they are motivated to complete their daily academic studies by even listening to music.
As a choir director in my twentieth year of teaching, I can say that my top musicians frequently excel in their math and science courses. They are also successful in art and drama, and many of these same students have moved on to leadership positions in their collegiate years and future careers. I know that my classroom instruction strategies are deeply creative due to the opportunities my brain had to participate in music.
In my personal history, I am truly thankful that my parents desired for me to study music in so many ways. They helped me study what my instructors asked me to complete, and then they helped me find other enjoyable ways to utilize the skills I had. You can always follow your instrument practice with studying your favorite music genre. I know several music students who enjoy perfecting piano or vocal duets with friends. There also seems to be a lot of enjoyment when students create their own original music; they like to create recordings or videos with or without the use of popular music applications.
Musicianship is truly a skill that we can use for our entire life, long after our bodies may need to stop being active in our favorite physical activity. The benefits seem limitless.
Darcy Hendriks is the Middle School Choir Director
at Concordia International School Shanghai.