Why I think music and its appreciation is one of the most important things, you can teach your child.
The way I see it, music is one of the original, fundamental languages.
If this world hit the reset button tomorrow and all our science and knowledge, education and economies were instantly gone, not just from the globe but from human memory, we would immediately reinvent music. It is part of the core of our being, it is in us, and we can not separate ourselves from it. Music is one of the only things we can guarantee will survive a full planet reset, music and math. After those two things, we could begin to piece science back together, but everything in known existence is mathematically related, and all things play their own soundtrack. If modern humans were gone, and civilizations were reverted instantly back to a cave, even before that cave had a fire, someone would start tapping on rocks, clapping their hands, grunting in time, and music would be immediately back.
You see, in all of nature, everywhere around us, there exist sound and rhythm. From the waves crashing on the shore to the beating of our own hearts, we are infused with and surrounded by sound and rhythm, and no creature alive can exist without contributing. Now you understand what I mean when I say music is part of our fiber of existence, but why is it so important to teach kids? Heck, they are surrounded and infused with it, why bother teaching it?
Let me break down my thoughts on that now in several essential and separate points:
First, teaching music fosters critical life skills. It teaches coordination, it teaches patience and introspection. It also teaches critical thinking and cooperation. It makes us learn to adapt quickly, listen intently, follow direction and grow from criticism. Allow me to explain. There are very few activities you can do with a child that will combine watching, counting, mimicking/imitating, thinking ahead, finding a pattern then being able to change that pattern all while disguised as fun. Kids love music. Kids love rhythm and singing. There is no explanation for it, they just love it. To actively teach it to them engages their mind on so many levels without them really thinking about work or learning. In a nutshell, music class, when taught right and by a proper instructor is the mental equivalent of chocolate flavored broccoli. Now, that instructor can make it taste like chocolate, or cardboard, broccoli or shit, but that is a thought I will save for the end of this.
Second, Music is art. There is no better way to put it. Music is a way to express yourself, and in a world where we are finally just learning the depth and breadth of teaching children to express themselves in a positive, constructive way openly, there are very few better ways to do it than thru music. You don’t need an art room or an apron, or a massive cleanup effort after a sing-a-long with kids the way you do if you let them paint, color, or sculpt, but the expression is no less complete, no less pure. It teaches them not to be afraid of feeling, and to not be fearful of critical feedback, and it shows them not to be shy. It helps them realize that they can make their sounds, their way, and own them proudly, as unique and individual as they are. Loud and Proud.
Thirdly, It builds teamwork. Nothing sounds more chaotic than a bunch of kids all playing different songs on different instruments all at the same time, however, with a small amount of direction, those same kids can all play together and few things on earth sound as impressive as an orchestra, each playing their own unique part, all combining to make an enjoyable whole. Even if they don’t want to play in the band, just sitting around jamming with a few friends really creates an incentive for cooperation and teamwork.
Fourth, and probably the most significant, music calms the mind, soothes the nerves and makes us feel better. With all the unrest in the world and all the uncertainty of modern life, nothing allows a child to focus and center their thoughts like just listening to a song. It helps us get thru scary situations, that is why you always hear the cliche of whistling when you are scared. Not just that, music can relieve stress. So many kids already prefer to have a radio on in the background when studying, or in the car, any time when they are prone to be unsure, off balance, or stressed out. Teaching them how to make music, how to hear it for what it is and how to manipulate it can be an invaluable coping mechanism for children and young adults. The American Music Therapy Association have done several studies involving music therapy interventions in areas including trauma, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and PTSD. While the findings are varied and not wholly conclusive, they all point to a general overall improvement in patients and a reduction of symptoms or symptoms severity when music therapy is utilized in conjunction with standard treatments. More tests are ongoing and should continue to bring more and better information regarding the exact effects of music as a treatment in the future, but for now, music helps. It heals us or at least allows us to heal ourselves more readily. (for more information check out the American Music Therapy Association website at www.musictherapy.org )
To this point, music, except for specific fast, aggressive and repetitive pieces, bring a net gain to society as a whole and to individuals in varying ways. These reasons are why I consider music to be one of the most essential curriculums we can teach, one of the greatest loves we can foster and one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. So, how do I do that you may ask? How do I foster this love and appreciation for music in my children and those around me? Well, in my opinion, there are a few simple steps you can take. First, spend time with your children listening to, watching and even playing music. How you do that doesn’t matter as much as that you do. Play an instrument for them, teach them how you do it. If you don’t play an instrument, connect them with someone in your family or friend group that does. If nothing else, listen to the radio with them and talk about what you hear. Discuss music with them, share the emotions and feelings that the music makes you feel. Open a channel with them so they know they can communicate with you, offer to take them to musical events, show interest in the music they like, and be involved with them.
Another great way to get them fired up about learning music is thru music appreciation and outreach programs hosted at local schools, art centers, and community organizations. My favorite of these outreach groups is The Young Americans. (not to be confused with any of the other groups operating under similar names like young Americans for liberty or any other group of that type). The Young Americans are a nonprofit performing arts college in Southern California that sends casts of 30+ college performers to local high schools all over the North American and the world to work with middle and high school aged children to build confidence, teach music appreciation, theory and artistic expression. They hold three day and weeklong workshops working with the kids in a positive environment and end each with workshop with a show performed by the kids themselves. It is incredible to see, and the growth and confidence gained by the kids positively affect their lives for years after the show. These workshops, which are part of a “Turn Up the Music” campaign in partnership with the Country Music Association to keep music in schools have generated over a million dollars over the last few years, which they have donated to each participating school’s music and arts programs which are historically underfunded. Our own local school, which has hosted workshops each year for the last six years has received over $40,000 which it has used to replace band equipment, start a choir program, and bus kids to other art and music performances around our area. Programs like this are available in your town, and if they are not, you can contact them to start a program at your school. You can learn about The Young Americans and their Turn Up the Music campaign by visiting their website at www.youngamericans.org.