4 proven arguments explaining why music matters
I love teaching music for many reasons and I am a passionate advocate of why music matters. For me whilst getting a student to really ‘own’ a piece of music after weeks of hard work is really rewarding, I know that what goes on in my piano lessons goes far beyond the experience of learning a single piece of music and I consider it my duty to pass on this knowledge to everyone I meet.
How many instrumental teachers and parents though are fully aware of all the benefits of making music and learning an instrument? The evidence is wide spread and very strong as you will read.
Like many teachers I use the summer holidays to replenish my musical soul and I have just returned, refreshed and inspired from the annual Voices Foundation Training Conference. As well as having the opportunity to re-connect with my musical community through making music and a few late-night chats over a glass of wine, this year we were fortunate to have Professor Susan Hallam giving our keynote address.
Professor Hallam is one of the world’s leading music education academics and and is the author of The Power of Music, a research synthesis. The book looks at all the signifcant music education research available and comprehensively outlines why music matters so much and is so special – for access to the Executive Summary or full document CLICK HERE.
Yet, despite the masses of positive and compelling evidence the book brings together, Professor Hallam began her presentation by stating that, with only a few exceptions in the world,
‘Music is under threat in schools more than ever before’.
This is clearly not a desirable situation and, even though we are ‘mere’ instrumental teachers, I do believe there are ways we can help to maintain the profile of music in education.
One positive step in the right direction is to educate ourselves as to the benefits and then to educate all parents we come in contact with.
So here are 4 key points explaining why music matters, that I have selected from Professor Hallam’s synthesis, and that I encourage you to share with your piano parents and your local community. I have deliberately simplified them but it is important to stress there is strong research evidence for all the following.
1. Music* reshapes the brain.
‘Active engagement with music produces structural changes in the brain related to the processing of sound’.
- Music can help with phonics
- Learning to read notation may have direct transfer effects to reading text as many of the underlying principles are the same
- There is lots of evidence that musical training provides individuals with better overall aural memory
- There is strong evidence that making music has an impact on spatial reasoning
- Rhythm and movement seem to be particularly important for us as a species
* All references to ‘music’ means the aural experience of music. Notation is referred to separately.
2. Musical training matters.
‘Children who experience musical training have an advantage across all subjects except sport’
- In research studies children who learnt an instrument made better progress in school, no matter the level they started from
- Start young!
- The longer the training the bigger the impact
3. Music has a direct link to our emotions
‘It reaches the parts of the brain other things can’t do’.
- Music can improve our mood – how many pupils come into lessons with a frown and go out with a smile?
- Music can reduce anger
- Singing and playing with others gives a sense of belonging
4. Music improves self belief
‘When children engage in music and get positive feedback it helps them to develop a stronger self belief’
- The opportunity to perform with positive and constructive feedback can be highly motivating (performance can cover a variety of contexts including informal and more formal settings)
It all adds up to a very persuasive argument doesn’t it?
But what about the teaching?
But, and this is really quite a big BUT, all this comes with the following health warning:
‘if the quality of music tuition is poor and unstructured there is no impact’.
Actually the impact of poor music tuition goes even deeper and may have:
As independent instrumental teachers we have to improve our knowledge of what good quality teaching looks and sounds like and, this is I believe one of the long term challenges facing our profession at the current time.
In the short term there is much we can do as instrumental teachers to educate parents as to why music matters.
I call on all of you reading this blog to get out there and share with everyone you know your love for the beauty of music, your passion for making music, and your understanding of why music is so special and why every child should have access to high quality music tuition
I would love you to tell us how will you share with your piano parents and your local community the evidence that shows why music matters?