Students who make music learn how to be attentive

US music educator Walter Bitner writes in praise of the wholehearted attention displayed by students who make music, and how it can be applied to other moments in their lives.

He says that beyond the content of the music curriculum, there is something fundamentally different about the process of learning music to learning most other subjects that makes for dynamic, flexible, and responsive individuals:

  • Students who sing in choir or play in band or orchestra must simultaneously perform a complex set of operations that call on more aspects of the human being than any other activity they face in school. Only dance and theatre come close.
  • At its best, musical performance demands a complete absorption in the moment in which all other thoughts and concerns disappear. And the teacher must exhibit this wholehearted attention herself in the classroom, consistently modelling a kind of behaviour which may not be required of them in the other learning environments they are exposed to.

He continues that in our ever more distracted world, with so many stimuli vying for our attention, the ability to concentrate completely on the present moment sets an example for how one could live differently and may be the music teacher’s greatest legacy.

Source: Walter Bitner blog – Off the Podium:

The power of music: its impact on intellectual, social and personal development


In August 2010, Professor Susan Hallam of the Institute of Education at the University of London, published an overview paper on the impact of music on intellectual, personal and social development. Drawing on the results of numerous studies, she concludes that playing an instrument can lead to a sense of achievement; an increase in self-esteem; increased confidence; self-discipline; and provide a means of self-expression. While participating in musical groups promotes friendships; social skills; a sense of belonging; team-work; co-operation; commitment; mutual support; increased concentration and provides an outlet for relaxation.

She is about to (December 2014) publish an updated research paper.


Richard Hallam: International Journal of Music Education: [SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED]