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Music and Memorable Learning

Hello.  My name is Jeremy and I am rapidly approaching my 57th birthday (how did that happen?).  I have four children, my oldest daughter - Becky - is 33 and my youngest son - Sebastian - is 13 (how did THAT happen!).  I have two grandchildren, Cody is three and Eliza was one just two weeks ago.

Why am I telling you this? My job is Director of Warwickshire Music, but that’s not what I am. What I am and what I believe is defined by my circumstances and my experience. What I believe is that my children and grandchildren deserve an education at least as good as mine; and hopefully better.

As I look back over an increasingly long time span to my primary school education I have to confess that it was rather bland. I have very few vivid memories from that time.  One clear memory I do have is sitting in assembly and listening to one of the teachers playing the euphonium. He played in a local brass band and his performance clearly had a big influence on me.

There was no opportunity to learn an instrument in my primary school but there was when I went to secondary school. There was one instrument in the music cupboard - a rather battered old trumpet. So I took that and starting playing... and now I can look back on a kaleidoscope of vivid memories based around my musical experiences. I remember my first concert as if it was yesterday. I was terrified and am sure that I didn't play a note because my mouth dried up and I couldn't blow!

Although this perhaps is not a positive memory it was certainly a highly influential one and led to many more positive and pleasant memories to look back on.

We all understand the value of memorable learning; learning that is embedded because it is based on an emotional response.  I believe passionately in the power of music to create memorable learning that can influence a child for the rest of their life.

I have never talked to any colleague in schools who did not value music and the arts. I have spoken to many colleagues who are finding it increasingly challenging to give children the range of opportunities they deserve; and all too often it is music and the arts that have to disappear from a child's experience at school.

Emotional learning embeds memorable learning.  If young people are to become fully rounded adults they need a range of memorable experiences that will allow them to grow and develop; that will give them a richness of understanding and will give them wisdom and insight.   This is why music and the arts are so important.

Andrew Lloyd Webber challenges arts cuts

Andrew Lloyd Webber challenges arts cuts

Andrew Lloyd Webber says his new musical will challenge politicians to improve school music lesson funding.

School of Rock, based on the 2002 film, is about a group of schoolchildren who turn their lives around by entering a Battle of the Bands contest.

The young cast - aged between nine and 12 - all play their own instruments.

"At this time when there are cuts to music in schools, these are the kids that prove music is vital," Lord Lloyd-Webber told the BBC.

He said music "is a force for the good and empowers young people".

'Alienated from politics'

The composer, whose own foundation funds arts education programmes in the UK, said the government should rethink its "counter-productive" cuts.

"At a time when people are feeling alienated from politics, the arts cut right through that," he said.

Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who wrote the musical's book, picked up on the theme.

"One of the main purposes of the education years is to help children find out who they are and what they want to do, and the arts are one of the greatest means of allowing people to discover their identity," he said.

"It really is mad for the country to cut back on that and throw out a whole load of people from school who really haven't found out what they want to do."

Lord Lloyd-Webber and Lord Fellowes were speaking as they unveiled the cast for the West End transfer of School of Rock, which opened to enthusiastic reviews on Broadway last year, earning four Tony Award nominations.

The show, based on the Jack Black film, features three rotating casts of child actors, selected after a nationwide search earlier this year.

They range from experienced actors, drawn from the casts of Matilda and The Lion King, to complete newcomers.

Among them is Amelia Poggenpoel, from Formby, who made headlines last year when her singing reduced Shia LaBeouf to tears.

The 10-year-old approached LaBeouf at his #TouchMySoul exhibition in Liverpool and performed Who's Lovin' You by the Jackson Five. When she finished, the actor stood up and hugged her, sobbing: "You touched my soul."

She will play Shonelle in the musical, her first West End role after several appearances in Liverpool.

Amelia told the BBC she was living in a "School of Rock house" with other cast members, where tutors run lessons before and after rehearsals. The set up is "much better" than regular school, she added.

Other cast members include Isabelle Methven and Eva Trodd, both 11, who previously played Little Cosette in the West End production of Les Miserables, and Natasha Raphael, 10, who toured the UK in the role of Annie last year.

Toby Lee, an 11-year-old from Priors Marston who runs a successful YouTube channel showcasing his guitar skills, is one of three youngsters filling the role of Zack.

'Depth of talent'

The show revolves around failed rock star Dewey Finn who, in need of cash to pay his rent, fakes his credentials as a substitute teacher.

But what starts out as an excuse to get paid for slacking off turns into a life-affirming experience, as he prepares his pupils for a local battle of the bands.

"The reason I loved this story is every character in this story is somehow changed for the better through music," said Lord Lloyd-Webber, who first revealed he had bought the rights in 2013.

For the first time since Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971, he chose to premiere his new show in the US, principally because it has more relaxed child labour laws - meaning the production could have one permanent cast.

He previously expressed misgivings about bringing the show to London, saying he doubted whether he could find 39 children capable of pulling off the live musical elements of the show.

Instead, he said, "we could have found five bands to play".

"The depth of musical talent that we auditioned is something that I have to admit I didn't think we would find. I kind of feared they'd all be into their computers, but this proves that they aren't."

The role of Dewey Finn will be played in London by David Fynn, currently starring in US sitcom Undateable.

He said working with three rotating casts of children helped give the show spontaneity.

"It keeps me on my toes and, as a result, it helps them stay engaged."

The show begins previews at the New London Theatre on 24 October before opening night on 14 November.

Credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-37307116

Tags: BBC, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Musicals, Music Education, Politics, Entertainment

The Importance of Music Education

The Importance of Music Education

BY ALEXIS KALIVRETENOS • 18 MARCH 2015 (14665)

What if there was one activity that could benefit every student in every school across the nation? An activity that could improve grades and scores on standardized testing? An activity that would allow students to form lasting friendships? An activity that would help students become more disciplined and confident?

 

Fortunately, there is such an activity. Unfortunately, many schools will not make it a part of their curriculum, due to issues of funding and scheduling. This activity is something that everyone is aware of, but not everyone has a chance to participate in. This activity is music.

For years, music classes have been the ugly ducklings of school curriculums—the last courses to be added, the first courses to be cut. They have always taken second place to traditional academic classes. Music, however, has proved itself to be extremely beneficial time and time again, from the undeniable improvement in grades regarding traditional academic classes to the glowing remarks from music students everywhere. In an ever-changing world, the addition of music education in schools needs to be next on the academic agenda.  Music education should be a required component in all schools due to the proven academic, social, and personal benefits that it provides.

 

According to the No Child Left Behind Act, the following are defined as, “core academic subjects”: English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, the arts [emphasis added], history, and geography (Benefits of the Study 1). Although music, being a part of the arts, is supposedly on the same level as other academic subjects, it is not being treated as such.

 

Music education greatly enhances students’ understanding and achievement in non-musical subjects. For example, a ten-year study, which tracked over 25,000 middle and high school students, showed that students in music classes receive higher scores on standardized tests than students with little to no musical involvement. The musical students scored, on average, sixty-three points higher on the verbal section and forty-four points higher on the math sections of the SATs than non-music students (Judson). When applying to colleges, these points could be the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection letter.

Furthermore, certain areas of musical training are tied to specific areas of academics; this concept is called transfer. According to Susan Hallam, “Transfer between tasks is a function of the degree to which the tasks share cognitive processes” (5-6). To put this simply, the more related two subjects are, the more transfer will ensue. This can be evidenced with the correlation between rhythm instruction and spatial-temporal reasoning, which is integral in the acquisition of important math skills. The transfer can be explained by the fact that rhythm training emphasizes proportions, patterns, fractions, and ratios, which are expressed as mathematical relations (Judson). Transfer can be seen in other academic subjects as well. For example, in a 2000 study of 162 sixth graders, Ron Butzlaff concluded that students with two or three years of instrumental music experience had significantly better results on the Stanford Achievement Test (a verbal and reading skills test) than their non-musical counterparts (qtd. in Judson). This experiment demonstrates that music can affect improvement in many different academic subjects. All in all, it can be shown that music education is a worthwhile investment for improving students’ understanding and achievement in academic subjects.

 

Related to academic achievement is success in the workforce. The Backstreet Boys state that, “Practicing music reinforces teamwork, communication skills, self-discipline, and creativity” (Why Music?). These qualities are all highly sought out in the workplace. Creativity, for example, is, “one of the top-five skills important for success in the workforce,” according to Lichtenberg, Woock, and Wright (Arts Education Partnership 5). Participation in music enhances a student’s creativeness. Willie Jolley, a world-class professional speaker, states that his experience with musical improvisation has benefited him greatly regarding business. Because situations do not always go as planned, one has to improvise, and come up with new strategies (Thiers, et. al). This type of situation can happen in any job; and when it does, creativity is key. Similarly, music strengthens a person’s perseverance and self-esteem—both qualities that are essential in having a successful career (Arts Education Partnership 5). Thus, music education can contribute to students’ future careers and occupational endeavors.

 

Participation in music also boasts social benefits for students. Music is a way to make friends. Dimitra Kokotsaki and Susan Hallam completed a study dealing with the perceived benefits of music; in their findings they wrote, “Participating in ensembles was also perceived as an opportunity to socialize with like-minded people, make new friends and meet interesting people, who without the musical engagement they would not have had the opportunity to meet” (11). Every time a student is involved in music, they have the chance to meet new people, and form lasting friendships.

 

Likewise, in a study by Columbia University, it was revealed that students who participate in the arts are often more cooperative with teachers and peers, have more self-confidence, and are better able to express themselves (Judson). Through one activity, a student can reap all of these benefits, as well as numerous others. Moreover, the social benefits of music education can continue throughout a student’s life in ways one would never suspect. An example of this would be that “students who participate in school band or orchestra have the lowest levels of current and lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs among any other group in our society” (Judson). By just participating in a fun school activity, students can change their lives for the better. Music education can help students on their journey to success.

 

Chinese philosopher Confucius once stated, “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without” (Arts Education Partnership 1). Music education provides personal benefits to students that enrich their lives. In the study of perceived benefits of music by Dimitra Kokotsaki and Susan Hallam, it was found that “participating in an ensemble enhanced feelings of self-achievement for the study’s participants, assisted individuals in overcoming challenges, built self-confidence, and raised determination to make more effort to meet group expectations regarding standards of playing” (12). In an ensemble, every member is equally important, from the first chair to the last chair. Thus every person must be able to play all of their music and be ready for anything. When one person does not practice their music and comes to rehearsal unprepared, it reflects upon the whole ensemble. Needless to say, no one wants to be that person. So students take it upon themselves to show that they want to be there and come prepared. This type of attitude continues throughout students’ lives.

 

Furthermore, group participation in music activities can assist in the development of leadership skills (Kokotsaki and Hallam 13). One participant in the perceived benefits of music study stated that, “I have gained confidence in my leadership skills through conducting the Concert Band” (Kokotsaki and Hallam 28). Conducting an ensemble is just one of the many leadership opportunities available to music students.

 

Music can also be a comforting activity to many students. High school senior and school band member Manna Varghese states that for her, music is a way to relieve stress. When she is angry or frustrated, she likes to play flute or piano to relax. For students, music classes are not necessarily something they participate in for a grade, or to put on a college application. Students participate in music classes because they enjoy them and want to be there.

 

Even though it has been proven that music education benefits students, many people argue that it still should not be required in schools. They state that with the increasing importance placed on standardized testing, there is not enough class time to include music classes (Abril and Gault 68). However, it has been shown that the time students spend in music classes does not hinder their academic success. A study by Hodges and O’Connell found that “being excused from non-musical classes to attend instrumental lessons does not adversely affect academic performance” (Hallam 14). Thus, in reality, having students enroll in music classes would not be detrimental to their academic performance, and the students would then be able to reap all of the benefits that come with music education. Furthermore, funding for music education is an issue at many schools. The people in charge of determining funding for schools often choose to fund traditional academic classes over arts programs. Paul Harvey states, “Presently, we are spending twenty-nine times more on science than on the arts, and the result so far is worldwide intellectual embarrassment” (Hale 8). Clearly, the current system for the allocation of funds for schools is not adequate. By transferring some of the funding from traditional academic classes to music classes, this embarrassment could be avoided. Evidently, although some may try to argue against it, music education should be required in all schools.

What would life be like without music? Imagine it for a moment. No listening to music on the radio on a long drive. No music to dance to. There would not be any soundtracks in movies, and concerts and musicals would be nonexistent. Eventually, no one would even remember what music is. Many people do not realize it, but music has a bigger effect on their lives than they may think, and they would definitely care if it was to disappear. Without music, life would never be the same. To keep music alive, students must be educated about it in schools. Students will not only get to experience and enjoy what music has to offer, but will reap the innumerable benefits that come with music. Ancient Greek philosopher and teacher Plato said it best: “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to imagination, and life to everything.”

 

Works Consulted

Abril, Carlos A., and Brent M. Gault. “The State of Music in Secondary Schools: The Principal’s Perspective.” Journal of Research in Music Education 56.1 (2008): 68-81. JSTOR. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

Arts Education Partnership, comp. Music Matters: How Music Education Helps Students Learn, Achieve, and Succeed. Washington D.C.: n.p., 2011. Print.

Hale, Donna Sizemore. “Stay Involved to Protect the Arts.” American String Teacher 63.3 (2013): 8. ProQuest. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

Hallam, Susan. “The power of music: its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people.” International Journal of Music Education 28.3 (2010): 269-89. Print.

Judson, Ellen. “The Importance of Music.” Music Empowers Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2013.

Kokotsaki, Dimitra, and Susan Hallam. “Higher Education music students’ perceptions of the benefits of participative music making.” Music Education Research 9.1 (2007): n. pag. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.

National Association for Music Education, comp. The Benefits of the Study of Music. N.p.: n.p., 2007. Print.

Thiers, Genevieve, et al. “Music Education and Success…From the Band Room to the Board Room.” Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music. By Craig M. Cortello. N.p.: n.p., n.d. NME.com. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.

Varghese, Manna. Personal interview. 24 Oct. 2013.

Why Music? Prod. NAfME. Radio

 

Tags: 2014 Essay Contest Alexis Kalivretenos is the first-prize winner of the 2014 Humanist Essay Contest.

Tags: ALEXIS KALIVRETENOS, Schools, Curriculum, No Child Left Behind, Discipine, Confidence, Improve grades, Importance of Music Education

The Benefits of Music Education

By Laura Lewis Brown

 

Whether your child is the next Beyonce or more likely to sing her solos in the shower, she is bound to benefit from some form of music education. Research shows that learning the do-re-mis can help children excel in ways beyond the basic ABCs.

More Than Just Music

 
Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. “A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.

Making music involves more than the voice or fingers playing an instrument; a child learning about music has to tap into multiple skill sets, often simultaneously. For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, cofounder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.

“Music learning supports all learning. Not that Mozart makes you smarter, but it’s a very integrating, stimulating pastime or activity,” Guilmartin says.

Language Development

 
“When you look at children ages two to nine, one of the breakthroughs in that area is music’s benefit for language development, which is so important at that stage,” says Luehrisen. While children come into the world ready to decode sounds and words, music education helps enhance those natural abilities. “Growing up in a musically rich environment is often advantageous for children’s language development,” she says. But Luehrisen adds that those inborn capacities need to be “reinforced, practiced, celebrated,” which can be done at home or in a more formal music education setting.

According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.

This relationship between music and language development is also socially advantageous to young children. “The development of language over time tends to enhance parts of the brain that help process music,” says Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a practicing musician. “Language competence is at the root of social competence. Musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent.”

Increased IQ

 
A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, as published in a 2004 issue of Psychological Science, found a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons. Schellenberg provided nine months of piano and voice lessons to a dozen six-year-olds, drama lessons (to see if exposure to arts in general versus just music had an effect) to a second group of six-year-olds, and no lessons to a third group. The children’s IQs were tested before entering the first grade, then again before entering the second grade.

Surprisingly, the children who were given music lessons over the school year tested on average three IQ points higher than the other groups. The drama group didn’t have the same increase in IQ, but did experience increased social behavior benefits not seen in the music-only group.

The Brain Works Harder

 
Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a nonmusician. “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity........ Continue Reading

http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-benefits-of-music-education/

Tags: Music, Education, Learning, Language, Child Development

The Value of Partnerships

Warwickshire Music Hub is leading two exciting singing projects this year.  The first is a partnership with Ex-Cathedra, supported by funding from Arts Council England.  This partnership involves 11 primary schools and around 2,000 children and adults; culminating in a singing day at the University of Warwick Arts Centre on March 11th.

 

The second project is a partnership between Warwickshire Music Hub, Coventry Music Hub and 4 secondary schools, supported by funding from Youth Music. This project is creating a choir of 100 young people, ideally who are not used to singing in choirs, with the focus of two major performances in 2016.

 

By definition projects such as these, supported by external funding, are created with very definite start and finish dates and clearly quantifiable objectives i.e. how many children are involved and what rehearsals/events are due to take place.  This is all very worthy and very exciting for those involved.

 

But the big question has to be - what happens next?  All too often these excellent projects simply stop once the money runs out because they are time limited.  Our challenge is how to create a more lasting legacy and the reality is that money is needed, whether through further funding or sponsorship or simply creating new groups that require membership fees.

 

Getting the balance between time limited funded projects and creating something that lasts is a challenge - but one that is really worth exploring.  The planning has to consider the future and what structures - in this case choral - are already in place.

 

The primary school project 'Singing Playgrounds' should embed singing within the participating schools but that cannot be taken for granted and so discussions need to take place with the participating schools to see what support they might need to continue the positive outcomes of the project.

 

The secondary school project is called the 'Joint Choir Creation Project'. Wouldn't it be great if the legacy was to actually create a brand new choir that met regularly after the project itself comes to an end? At the very least the young people involved deserve the option of continuing to sing; whether as part of a school based group or within a singing strategy created by the respective Music Hubs.

 

This is where working in partnership with schools and other Hubs is potentially so powerful. The reality of creating lasting legacies is that all too often they are reliant on external funding.  Our challenge is to create internal structures that are self reliant; and this starts with partnerships.

Tags: Partnerships, funding, singing playgrounds, Joint Choir Creation Project, Singing

Musical Notes from a small island blog 83 Bacc for the future II

Musical Notes from a small island blog 83 Bacc for the future II

I think we can all be forgiven for feeling that arts education is seen as the poor relation of every other school based curriculum subject.

In this country the government is once again pushing forward on what it calls an ‘England Baccalaureate’.  Details have still to be published but the Conservative Party election manifesto states that: ‘We will require secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and and history and geography, with Ofsted unable to award its highest ratings to schools that refuse to teach these core subjects’.

It is the last statement that sends a chill down every educationalist concerned for the future of arts education.

Of course the government will argue that this still leaves plenty of curriculum time for art subjects but the reality has to be seen against a backdrop of declining numbers of students taking ‘arts’ GCSE and A levels and a very real decline in the number of ‘arts’ teachers in schools.

I am very aware of schools in Warwickshire that have moved from a music department of two to a music department of one teacher and a corresponding reduction in music teaching.

My sister used to work three days a week as an art specialist in a local secondary school. The school has chosen to increase the curriculum time dedicated to the core subjects in anticipation of the move to the English Baccalaureate.  This inevitably means a reduction in the amount of time dedicated to art subjects.

The school is contractually obliged to offer my sister 3 days of teaching, so they have offered her 2 days of art teaching and one day of English and Maths; for which she has never been trained.  Unsurprisingly my sister felt that this was not in her best interests and certainly not in the best interests of the students and has reluctantly accepted a new contract for 2 days teaching a week.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians ( ISM ) is my professional body and they are constantly advocating for better music and arts provision in schools.  Their Bacc for the Future campaign is gathering momentum and support from organisations such as Shakespeare’s Globe, The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) the Music Industries Association (MIA). Directors UK, the Design Council, The University of the Arts London (UAL and the choir Schools’ Association.

To get involved with the campaign please visit http://www.baccforthefuture.com and sign the vital petition.  You can also tell your friends, family and colleagues about the campaign and spread the word on social media using the hashtag baccforthefuture.

Tags: baccforthefuture, creativity in schools

How to get boys to sing

Number one - make sure the Musical Director is a genius.  Fortunately the MD of the Warwickshire Choristers is one.  Number two, create an organisation where the parents are totally committed and supportive.  Number three, remember that boys are not girls and they need a unique approach to rehearsals and concerts. Number four, work incredibly hard.

Garry Jones is a genius.  He is a great friend of mine and a former Director of Warwickshire County Music Service.  Since he retired from that job he has been working virtually full time creating the Warwickshire Choristers and, more recently, the County Male Voices; an equally excellent choir made up of all the boys that started singing with Garry 6 years ago.

The Choristers have been in the final of Music for Youth 5 times in the last 6 years and have received  Choir of the Day in every BBC Choir of the Year competition since reaching the televised final in 2010.  They produce CDs, go on tour and have featured on radio as well as television.  They regularly perform at major concert venues including Symphony Hall in Birmingham, Truro Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral and the University of Warwick Arts Centre.

It is perhaps two things that stand out for me as I watch and admire Garry at work.  A concert last night is a good example.  The care he takes over the choice of repertoire for the boys is extreme - but utterly worth while when you hear them.  Yesterday's concert started with a sublime rendition of Ubi Caritas by Albrecht.  The pure young voices of two solo choristers soared around the Parish church of Leamington Spa and set the tone for the rest of their performance; including music by Jefferson, Poulenc, Frank and Schwartz.

The boys, aged between 7 - 12, perform music that you would not think they have the maturity to manage.  Le Chien Perdu by Poulenc was simply sensational; unaccompanied and without a conductor.

The reason they can do this is because of the unique relationship that Garry builds with them.  This is developed in no small part by his rehearsing style.  I have sat in many rehearsals and it is not unusual for Garry to spend up to 10 minutes on one sound.  The boys come into a choir where excellent is simply taken for granted and the hard work needed to achieve that is there for all to see.

The Impact of Music on Teenager's Brains

Study shows music training started in secondary school can have an impact on teenager’s brains

The results of a research project by Northwestern University, published in July 2015, suggest that music training, begun as late as high school, may help improve the teenage brain’s responses to sound and sharpen hearing and language skills.

The research indicates that music instruction helps enhance skills that are critical for academic success. The gains were seen during group music classes included in the schools’ curriculum, suggesting in-school training accelerates neurodevelopment.

Professor Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at the School of Communication, and her colleagues recruited 40 Chicago-area high school freshmen (14-15 years-old) in a study that began shortly before school started, and followed them until their last senior year (18-19 years old). Nearly half the students had enrolled in band classes, which involved two to three hours a week of instrumental group music instruction in school. The rest had enrolled in Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), which focused on fitness. Both groups attended the same schools in low-income neighbourhoods.

All participants improved in language skills, but the improvement was greater for those in music classes, compared with the JROTC group. According to the authors of the report, high school music training might hone brain development and improve language skills. The stable processing of sound details, important for language skills, is known to be diminished in children raised in poverty, raising the possibility that music education may offset this negative influence on sound processing.

Tags: ,

Science Just Discovered Something Amazing About What Childhood Piano Lessons Did to You

If your parents forced you to practice your scales by saying it would "build character," they were onto something. The Washington Post reports that one of the largest scientific studies into music's effect on the brain has found something striking: Musical training doesn't just affect your musical ability — it provides tremendous benefits to children's emotional and behavioral maturation.

The study by the University of Vermont College of Medicine found that even those who never made it past nursery rhyme songs and do-re-mi's likely received some major developmental benefits just from playing. The study provides even more evidence as to why providing children with high-quality music education may be one of the most effective ways to ensure their success in life.

The study: James Hudziak and his colleagues analyzed the brain scans of 232 children ages 6 to 18, looking for relationships between cortical thickness and musical training. Previous studies the team had performed revealed that anxiety, depression, attention problems and aggression correspond with changes to cortical thickness. Hudziak and his team sought to discover whether a "positive activity" like musical training could affect the opposite changes in young minds.

"What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument," Hudziak told the Washington Post, "it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control."

The study found increased thickness in parts of the brain responsible for executive functioning, which includes working memory, attentional control and organizational skills. In short, music actually helped kids become more well-rounded. Not only that, they believe that musical training could serve as a powerful treatment of cognitive disorders like ADHD.

We need this sort of proof now more than ever. In presenting their findings, the authors reveal a terrifying truth about the American education system: Three-quarters of high school students "rarely or never" receive extracurricular lessons in the music or the arts. And that's depriving kids of way more than just knowing an instrument.

School systems that don't dedicate adequate time and resources to musical training are robbing their kids of so much. Prior research proves that learning music can help children develop spatiotemporal faculties, which then aid their ability to solve complex math. It can also help children improve their reading comprehension and verbal abilities, especially for those who speak English as a second language.

In these ways music can be a powerful tool in helping to close the achievement gaps that have plagued American schools for so long. It's even been shown that children who receive musical training in school also tend to be more civically engaged and maintain higher grade-point averages than children who don't. In short, musical education can address many of the systemic problems in American education.

Hudziak's research is an important addition to the field because it shows that music helps us become better people, too. One thing is clear: Learning music is one of the best things a person can do. Who knows — running scales may have changed your life. And it could change the lives of future generations too.

 

h/t Washington Post

Tags: Music Education, Development, Scales, Music Theory, Research

20 Important Benefits of Music In Our Schools

Nearly everyone enjoys music, whether by listening to it, singing, or playing an instrument. But despite this almost universal interest, many schools are having to do away with their music education programs. This is a mistake, with schools losing not only an enjoyable subject, but a subject that can enrich students’ lives and education. Read on to learn why music education is so important, and how it offers benefits even beyond itself.


1. Musical training helps develop language and reasoning: Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on young minds.

 

2. A mastery of memorization: Even when performing with sheet music, student musicians are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization can serve students well in education and beyond.

 

3. Students learn to improve their work: Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.

 

4. Increased coordination: Students who practice with musical instruments can improve their hand-eye coordination. Just like playing sports, children can develop motor skills when playing music.

 

5. A sense of achievement: Learning to play pieces of music on a new instrument can be a challenging, but achievable goal. Students who master even the smallest goal in music will be able to feel proud of their achievement.

 

6. Kids stay engaged in school: An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects.

 

7. Success in society: Music is the fabric of our society, and music can shape abilities and character. Students in band or orchestra are less likely to abuse substances over their lifetime. Musical education can greatly contribute to children’s intellectual development as well.

 

8. Emotional development: Students of music can be more emotionally developed, with empathy towards other cultures They also tend to have higher self esteem and are better at coping with anxiety.

 

9. Students learn pattern recognition: Children can develop their math and pattern-recognition skills with the help of musical education. Playing music offers repetition in a fun format.

 

10. Better SAT scores: Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.

 

11. Fine-tuned auditory skills: Musicians can better detect meaningful, information-bearing elements in sounds, like the emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have better auditory attention, and pick out predictable patterns from surrounding noise.

 

12. Music builds imagination and intellectual curiosity: Introducing music in the early childhood years can help foster a positive attitude toward learning and curiosity. Artistic education develops the whole brain and develops a child’s imagination.

 

13. Music can be relaxing: Students can fight stress by learning to play music. Soothing music is especially helpful in helping kids relax.

 

14. Musical instruments can teach discipline: Kids who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They will have to set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.

 

15. Preparation for the creative economy: Investing in creative education can prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The new economy has created more artistic careers, and these jobs may grow faster than others in the future.

 

16. Development in creative thinking: Kids who study the arts can learn to think creatively. This kind of education can help them solve problems by thinking outside the box and realizing that there may be more than one right answer.

 

17. Music can develop spatial intelligence: Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.

 

18. Kids can learn teamwork: Many musical education programs require teamwork as part of a band or orchestra. In these groups, students will learn how to work together and build camaraderie.

 

19. Responsible risk-taking: Performing a musical piece can bring fear and anxiety. Doing so teaches kids how to take risks and deal with fear, which will help them become successful and reach their potential.

 

20. Better self-confidence: With encouragement from teachers and parents, students playing a musical instrument can build pride and confidence. Musical education is also likely to develop better communication for students.

- See more at: Music Mark Website

Tags: Music Education

Does Singing Help Develop Language Skills?

County Music recently ran a very exciting programme to develop language skills through singing. We worked with children in nursery and reception (ages 3-4) and alongside their teachers.  The children were put into small groups and taught songs and exercises.  These songs and exercises were very carefully chosen to develop their listening and visual skills as well as teaching them specific vowel and consonant sounds suggested by their teachers.

There is plenty of evidence to support the use of singing to develop language skills within children.  'Parents should sing to their children every day to avoid language problems developing in later life', according Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education and director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology.

Singing traditional lullabies and nursery rhymes to babies and infants before they learn to speak, is 'an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional wellbeing', argues Blythe. 'Song is a special type of speech. Lullabies, songs and rhymes of every culture carry the 'signature' melodies and inflections of a mother tongue, preparing a child's ear, voice and brain for language.'    The Guardian Newspaper 2010

'Singing songs teaches children about how language is constructed. When you sing, words and phrases are slowed down and can be better understood by your baby. Singing regularly will help your baby to build up a vocabulary of sounds and words long before they can understand the meaning'.

 BBC CBeebies site 2014

The case for singing as the right approach to children with special needs is made by Dr. Michael Heggerty, an expert on literacy. 'How do teachers reach students with special needs that are included in their classroom? Music is a tool that is developmentally appropriate, facilitates language fluency, helps brain development and, above all else, is joyful’.  

 The Listening and Spoken Language Knowledge Centre 2010

The first results from our Early Years Language Development programme are encouraging.  One of the many interesting observations was that the behaviour of the children in the singing sessions was different to that in the class situation.  Teaching staff were able to watch and really observe how the children formed their sounds.  The school has requested a continuation of the project and other schools are also interested in exploring the use of singing to develop language skills.  We intend to work closely with Teaching Schools in the area to offer training programmes for colleagues working with Early Years and we anticipate considerable demand.

Tags: Music, Music Education, Singing, Language, Skills

Do Children Learn Instruments Quicker Than Adults

Do children learn instruments quicker than adults?

How often do parents praise their children's progress on an instrument with the words 'I could never do that'.  Is it true that children learn instruments quicker than adults?  There is surprisingly little research evidence to confirm or deny so opinion tends to be personal and anecdotal.

1. Neural connections.  We are told that as we age we lose brain cells and therefore neural connections.  Whilst it may be true that children have more neural connections than adults it is not just a question of how many connections there are in a brain but how well they are used.

2. Learning environment.  Children are in a constant state of learning and therefore perhaps more 'tuned in' to gaining new skills and understanding.  It is undoubtedly true that as we get older we can get into an environment where we are constantly repeating existing knowledge and experience rather than gaining new knowledge and experience.

3. Attitude.  If we create a learning environment we are more likely to absorb new ideas and information and be receptive to new learning. As with all new learning, wanting to learn is perhaps more important than simply finding the time to learn.

4. Natural aptitude.  It is always an interesting debate regarding nature and nurture.  Why do some people appear to excel in areas where others do not.  What does being 'musical' actually mean?  Are some children/people better at playing instruments or are they simply the ones who are more determined and practice for longer ?  There is a theory that 10,000 hours of practice as a child is needed to create a top class player so is it just about determination rather than so called 'musical' ability?

5. Distractions.  Adults tend to have lives that are well established in terms of filling up the day.  Things like going to work, cleaning the house, looking after children etc. create a timetable of activity that can leave little time for anything else without considerable self discipline to create that additional time.  Children can have a much better attitude to their time management and can be very single minded when it comes to setting aside time for what they consider to be important to them.

For what it is worth, my father starting learning the piano after he retired.  It is never too late and it always comes down to doing what you enjoy.

Don't Stop The Music

'Don't Stop The Music' is a two part documentary presented by pianist James Rhodes and is a heart warming celebration of the value of music on young children and a passionate plea for more music making to be made available to all children.

'In the last decade music education in this country has been decimated'.  This was the  claim by James Rhodes on national television.  In the very same week we have a major report from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music entitled 'Making Music'.  This report states that '76 per cent of UK children aged five to 14 say they ‘know how to play instruments compared to 41 per cent in 1999’.

Clearly there is a bit of a mis-match here.  The truth as ever lies somewhere in between. What is true is that government funding has dropped dramatically over the last few years and music services up and down the country have had to get smarter about how they use their dwindling funding.  What is true is that the Wider Opportunities whole class instrumental programme has meant that more children than ever before have had the chance to try out instruments.

What is true is that music services are having to learn how to run a music business rather than a funded 'service' in the future.  The final and most important truth is that here in Warwickshire the County Music Service is as strong as ever.  

We have seen a big increase in our teaching in Warwickshire schools this September.

We work with thousands of children involved in our whole class instrumental 'Upbeat' programme.  We involve hundreds of children involved in our after school and weekend area music centres and we have maintained and developed our County ensembles.

This has been achieved through good management, inspired teaching, supportive parents and highly motivated students.  'Making Music' is an aspiration for all children in Warwickshire so please support us in what we do and 'Never Stop The Music'.

Tags: Dont Stop The Music, BBC, James Rhodes, Making Music, Instruments

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