It is important to a child's success in music education for the parent to remember that talent is not inborn; a child's ability is nurtured by their environment. What does not exist in a child’s environment cannot be developed in the child.
“Even a Mozart had the possibility of becoming tone deaf depending on the way he was raised.”
- Shinichi Suzuki (founder of the Suzuki philosophy and Talent Education)
Starting Early Changes The Brain
Brains are plastic, which means they can learn and develop throughout a person’s lifetime. If an action or piece of information is repeated enough, your brain understands it as worth remembering.
Children have even better brain plasticity than adults. At their young age, they have a greater amount of nerve cell connections in the brain. Starting music education during childhood will more likely develop permanent changes to the way information is processed, “hard-wiring” the brain to a musical disposition.
Research into music's effects on the brain suggest that the development of musical skills transfers to other areas of development, such as:
- Children with musical training tend to perform better on language tests as well as music tests.
- Training in melody and pitch can lead to positive effects in speech processing (pitch contour is present in speech; think of the difference in sound between a question and a statement.)
- Reading comprehension/vocabulary can be improved as a result, especially with rhythmic training.
- Rhythm in music involves simple mathematic skill: counting, subdividing beats, and accurately reading rhythmic notation.
- Music instruction lasting two years or more leads to better visual-spatial intelligence.
- Musically-trained children perform better on memory and intelligence tests.
- The longer the training, the higher a person’s creativity can be. This is visible in toddlers, but the greatest difference can be seen in adolescents who have trained for many years vs. those without training.
- Music lessons must be based on creative musical activity for this to be most effective.
- Success in playing an instrument can increase confidence and feelings of self-esteem and identity.
- Just listening to music in a classroom increases positive attitude and social cohesion between classmates.
- Music is fun and therapeutic, helping to express the self and facilitate group work.
- Physical Health
- Rhythmic music in physical education classes can improve performance.
- Fine motor skills are learned and honed when playing an instrument.
- Other benefits of musical education include relaxation/release of physical tension, reduction of stress, emotional release, increasing mood and well being, posture, etc.
Why Do These Musical Skills Transfer so Easily?
Motivation is a crucial factor in success. If a child gains confidence and finds motivation through music, developing the ability to persist in their studies despite any setbacks, this motivation for success may transfer to the other areas of study noted above.
A Healthy Environment Raises Healthy Kids
Studies on music's influence on general wellbeing often show positive results, but they vary greatly; studies on children and students are often skewed in favour of some students' more supportive, happier home environments. Thus, it is important for parents to create a healthy home in order to raise the smartest, most talented children.
Where Does the Teacher Come in?
The success of a child is the teacher's responsibility as well as the parents! As teachers, we must create a nurturing, healthy learning environment for the child while they attend their lessons, as well as an encouraging, positive attitude towards practice at home. Repetition is essential for the brain to learn any task, and the teacher must be respectful and exhibit patience while the child works towards their goals.
Music lessons are successful when there is an optimal combination of interest and training in a happy, supportive environment, and children do not only benefit musically; they learn important skills that will help them in the classroom, and throughout their lives.
Hallam, Susan. “The power of music: its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people.” International Journal of Music Education 28.3 (2010): 269-289.
Suzuki, Shinichi. Ability Development from Age Zero. Los Angeles: Alfred, 1981.