Why Music ?
Many different answers to this question exist. Here’s a few of his:
The academic answer:
Bloom’s taxonomy has been my primary reference point in lesson planning. Instrumental music in particular, constantly forces students to engage all six levels of learning outlined by Bloom. Sometimes, students must engage them all simultaneously. It is no mistake that Bloom’s revised taxonomy has creativity as the top of his list of higher order thinking skills.
A student must recall all of the basics of musical language and decipher them while reading the music. These include knowing musical expression terms dealing with how notes are to be played, note values and key signatures. Comprehension and application are virtually merged during the process of playing an instrument. The student playing the instrument must almost instantly interpret the dynamic marking forte (meaning loud), for example, in relation to how loud or soft he/she was previously playing and then execute that dynamic on the instrument immediately afterward while applying the right lip pressure, the right fingering for the right note and the right amount of air. He/she must do the same thing for every measure of music on the paper while also considering whether or not he/she is blending well with the remainder of the ensemble.
So what we have is scaffolding. A student must build level upon level of musical concepts which must be remembered, built one on top of the other and then assembled and executed within the context of a group activity (playing an instrument with others).
The student is constantly engaged in analysis and synthesis while playing the instrument. He/she is constantly listening to others around him/her and attempting to make adjustments to his/her mouth placement on the instrument in order to stay in tune, as well as considering whatever necessary adjustments to the instrument need to be made. Naturally, this also involves evaluation, as the student is judging his/her own performance of the music as it occurs, listening and comparing his/her own part against that of other students and making changes to his/her playing as the piece of music progresses.
These higher-order thinking processes occur naturally in music. Study after study (Rich, Goldberg, et. al. Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain, 2009) have shown that students actively and correctly involved in music, especially instrumental music, increase their capacity to learn in other subject areas.
The academic answer from professionals and research:
- Music training in childhood “fundamentally alters the nervous system such that neural changes persist in adulthood after auditory training has ceased.”
Skoe, E. & N. Kraus. (2012). A little goes a long way: How the Adult Brain Is Shaped by Musical Training in Childhood. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32(34):11507–11510.
- Scientific American’s (2010) board of editors asserted, “Studies have shown that assiduous instrument training from an early age can help the brain to process sounds better, making it easier to stay focused when absorbing other subjects, from literature to tensor calculus.”
Hearing the music, honing the mind. (2010). Scientific American, 303(5), 16.
- The cognitive structures developed through music instruction “exposed and illuminated more general organizing structures relevant for multiple disciplines.”
Portowitz,P., Lichtenstein, O., Egorova, L., & Brand, E. (2009). Underlying mechanisms linking music education and cognitive modifiability. Research Studies in Music Education, 31, 107–29
- The combined results of 12 experimental studies indicate a positive relationship between voluntary music study and math achievement.Vaughn, K. (2000). Music and mathematics: Modest support for the oft-claimed relationship. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 34(3/4), 149-66.
- Multiple studies indicate that early music instruction is linked to significant improvements in students’ spatial reasoning abilities. Hetland, L. (2000). Learning to make music enhances spatial reasoning. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 34(3-4), 179-238.
- Graziano, A.B., Peterson, M., & Shaw, G. L. (1999). Enhanced learning of proportional math through music training and spatial temporal reasoning. Neurological Research, 21, 139-52.
- The combined results of 30 studies indicate that music instruction is linked to significantly improved reading skills.
Standley, J. M. (2008). Does music instruction help children learn to read? Evidence of a meta-analysis. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 27(1), 17-32.
- Researchers have found a correlation between three or more years of instrumental music training and enhanced auditory discrimination, fine motor skills, vocabulary, and nonverbal reasoning.
Forgeard, M., Winner, E., Norton, A., & Schlaug, G. (2008). Practicing a musical instrument in childhood is associated with enhanced verbal ability and nonverbal reasoning. PloS One, 3(10), e3566.
- Playing a musical instrument significantly enhances the brainstem’s sensitivity to speech sounds. This relates to encoding skills involved with both music and language.
Patrick C M Wong, Erika Skoe, Nicole M Russo, Tasha Dees, & Nina Kraus. (2007). Musical experience shapes human brainstem encoding of linguistic pitch patterns. Nature Neuroscience, 10(4), 420-422.
- Children with music training had significantly better verbal memory than those without such training, and the longer the training, the better the verbal memory.
Ho, Y. C., Cheung, M. C., & Chan, A. Music training improves verbal but not visual memory: cross-sectional and longitudinal explorations in children (2003) Neuropsychology, 12, 439-450
The answer from my heart:
Look around at the joyful times of your life. I can almost guarantee that there was music there – from the day of your wedding, to your prom, to your wedding, to the best party you’ve ever been to, the best times you’ve had with friends…. think of your favorite movie. The music made that car chase scene come to life and not just simply remain as images on the screen. Think of the worst times of your life – a loved one has passed on, a relationship ended….. music was there to help you express the sorrow built up in your heart as you cried your eyes out.
At your favorite sporting event, music was there to help you cheer on your favorite team to victory.
Music is part of the core of human existence. It is a gift from God given to humans to express both their devotion to Him and the emotional depth of their life experiences.
The Facebook/Twitter/G+ status answer:
Imagine a world without football. Now imagine one without music.
The pragmatic answer:
Do you realize how much of an asset being in instrumental music or vocal music can be to you ? People like myself have gotten a free ride through college because of music. My school district graduates roughly 480 football players from all of its’ high schools every year, and while some of them go to college and still play football, only 1 out of 40 (modest estimate) end up on full or partial scholarship to a Division II or III school playing football. The statistics for basketball players are lower. The 480 from my district are competing against schools with students ranked in their state from the rest of Maryland, not to mention the rest of football programs or basketball programs across the country. The students in the state of Maryland are competing against ‘football towns’ like the ones in the movie Friday Night Lights where the athletic budget is on a par with some college and some university programs.
On the flip side, most school systems graduate anywhere from 15-40% of their band members every year. The skill level of the student, their attitude and musicianship all work together in determining whether or not in many cases, will determine what schools court them for scholarships. But the truth of the matter is – even if you’re an average player, if you have the right attitude and you’re willing to work hard, a good band director will take you into his program at the college level.
Sure, you’ll be required to be at all the rehearsals, all the practices and play for everything. But you can major in whatever you want in college…..and let band pay for it. And while in college, instead of wasting time working in the cafeteria or the bookstore, you can make much more of an income by giving private lessons to someone’s child from the local middle school.
Parents, think of buying your child a good instrument as an investment. While their minds are not currently focused on the future, work with them and talk to them about learning to think and plan on a long-term basis, not just based off of what feels good now. So practicing right now may not feel good. But if the time you invest now turns out to be a huge advantage to you 4-5 years from now at Senior Year of high school, then be wise and invest the time. I can guarantee that it will pay it off.
The other pragmatic answer:
Ever been to a gospel play with a live band ? You know most of the time, they don’t have a traveling band, but use local musicians, right ? You know some groups have been known to put ads in the paper where they’ll pay you $300 per rehearsal (just the rehearsal) and then $500-1000 per night for performing, right ?
Ignore your ‘friends’ who tell you that being in band is stupid. Most of them will be working in McDonalds five years from now while you’ll be making better money playing your instrument. Secretly, some of them wish they could do what you do.
The one sentence answer:
I didn’t choose music. It chose me.
The philosophical answer (and the one that’s most convincing):
Music is one of the few disciplines that requires a student to be perfect. Listen to Jack Stamp explain it and demonstrate it: