Music Makes a Difference
By: Karen SmithMusic Instructor at Mission Hills
Music education is a vital component in developing well-rounded students. In fact, British neurologist Oliver Sacks said, “In terms of brain development, musical performance is every bit as important educationally as reading or writing.”
I recently read that music is one of the only activities that activates, stimulates, and uses the entire brain! Current research has shown that when a person has participated in music lessons during childhood, they reap the benefits later in life. Even individuals with Alzheimer’s disease respond to speech more quickly and demonstrate clearer thinking when their brains connect to music and past memories.
Music activities develop the whole child. Personal growth happens through the development of language, listening, coordination, concentration, self-confidence, and memory. Learning with movement, pitch and rhythm can be used to reinforce learning in other areas of their education. Musicality improves through listening, moving, singing, and playing. Brain growth (the brain literally grows larger) occurs because multi-sensory stimulation develops multiplied connections across the sections of the brain. More connections means faster thinking. Interpersonal growth happens through music education as children learn about the social skills, respect for others, and sharing that occurs as a part of musical instruction class. Creativity is enhanced through opportunities to explore their ideas through music. Finally, music makes children happy, and if a child is happy, the brain is more open to learning!
One of the most effective ways to teach music, and the method we use at Mission Hills Christian School where I teach, is the Orff-Schulwerk method. As a certified Orff-Schulwerk music instructor, I enjoy watching children learn music by doing what they instinctively do naturally—play! I attend four workshops a year to learn new ways of teaching my students music using unpitched percussion instruments like drums and shakers as well as barred instruments such as glockenspiels, metallophones, and xylophones which are specially made in Germany. In an Orff-Schulwerk class session, we combine movement, drama, speech, and playing the recorder so that we can spark every student’s interest through active participation. If movement and dance are not their favorite activities, it’s OK because they will soon get to switch to the xylophone or recorder during the same learning experience. According to the AOSA (American Orff-Schulwerk Association), “Imitation, experimentation and personal expression occur naturally as the students become confident, life-long musicians and creative problem solvers. The Orff approach to teaching is a model for optimal learning in 21st Century classrooms.”
The Composer Countdown program is another wonderful way we are helping Mission Hills students develop their minds through music. Composer Countdown introduces classical composers and their works to elementary age children. By introducing the students to the personal lives of these great people, they will catch a glimpse of who wrote these famous works. Through listening, they will learn about style and form characteristic of Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Contemporary music. Ultimately, by having “hands on” experience with the making of their own music, they will become “composers/musicians” themselves!
Music education plays a vital role in the development of children. If your child’s school does not provide any type of musical instruction, consider enrolling them in an extra-curricular program such as guitar or piano lessons or a music and movement class. Besides discovering potential musical gifts, your child will learn an appreciation for music and his or her brain will develop important new neuronal pathways. It is worth the effort to make music instruction a part of your child’s life.