Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.
A useful article from UK’s The Guardian newspaper, collecting together many sources of evidence about the beneficial effects of music in developing brain function.
“Music reaches parts of the brain that other things can’t,” says neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday of the University of Westminster. “It’s a strong cognitive stimulus that grows the brain in a way that nothing else does, and the evidence that musical training enhances things like working memory and language is very robust.”
Studies show that learning to play a musical instrument not only increases grey matter volume in various brain regions, but can also strengthen the long-range connections between them. Other research mentioned in the article shows that musical training also enhances verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and literacy skills, such that professional musicians usually outperform non-musicians on these abilities.
The article concludes that playing a musical instrument is a rich and complex experience that involves integrating information from the senses of vision, hearing, and touch, as well as fine movements, and learning to do so can induce long-lasting changes in the brain.
Peter Greene, a teacher and writer, asks people to stop ‘defending’ music education in an article on the Huffington Post. He says that there are many more reasons for music education beyond having an impact on other areas of a young person’s development.
Would you want to live in a world without music? Then why would you want to have a school without music?
Listening to music is profoundly human. It lets us touch and understand some of our most complicated feelings. It helps us know who we are, what we want, how to be ourselves in the world.
Making music does even more. Humans are driven to make music as surely as we are driven to speak, to touch, to come closer to other humans. Why would we not want to give students the chance to learn how to express themselves in this manner?
Music is big business precisely because it is something that everybody wants. it does not need to make excuses for itself, as if it had no intrinsic worth. It has deep, powerful human value, and all of us who love it should be saying so.
He says that defending a music program because it’s good for other things is like defending kissing because it gives you stronger lip muscles for eating soup neatly, and finishes “A school without music is less whole, less human, less valuable, less complete. Stand up for music as itself, and stop making excuses.”
A new study by the Rotman Research Institute in Canada, led by Dr. Gavin Bidelman, suggests that music lessons taken in high school could have some seriously long-lasting effects. Researchers observed that individuals who practiced a musical instrument during their adolescence and kept it up for at least a decade exhibited better cognitive functions in older age. The reason for this seems to be that musical training has a protective effect on the brain.
Making Music – which supports and champions voluntary music in the UK – has a resources section which includes links to research about music and wellbeing.
Making Music’s 3,000 members include choirs, orchestras, music promoters, jazz and wind bands, community festivals, samba groups and more. It provides expert help to anyone who wants to set up, run and develop music in their communities.