In our educational system music is seen as an extra-curricular activity, one of many others, that can only be attempted by the smart and the talented. According to Anita Collins (PhD on the link between music education and brain development) this is a dangerous myth, namely that music is only for the smart and talented.
She explains in her TEDx talk (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueqgenARzlE) that neuro-scientists have proofed by Magnetic Resonance Imaging of newborn babies’ brains (1 to 3 days old) that every baby is born with an innate musicality. The neural circuitry is present at birth to be able to hear and understand music before we are able to understand or process language. Newborn babies recognise their mother’s voices by hearing them as musical notes. This ability is the first step in language processing.
Anita Collins also cites another study in her talk where neuro-scientists have shown that children who had music education, that is learned to read music and play an instrument with weekly formal lessons over a minimum of two years, scores 7 and a half IQ points higher than children who has had no music education. This is a 20% jump in intellectual functioning which is significant. She claims that if all children received music education in these critical years the cognitive capacity of an entire generation can be raised significantly.
MRI scans have also shown very clearly that music education, and learning to play an instrument, is like a full exercise workout for the brain. Both hemispheres light up and the corpus callossum (nerve fibres) that connect the two hemispheres is engaged and activated.
Today we sit with an epidemic of learning disorders and labels like ADHD. Music Education can be a powerful rehabilitating force. Most learning disorders is understood as a disconnect between the two brain hemispheres. ADHD is understood as a disconnect between the visual, auditory and motor cortexes. Learning to play a musical instrument integrates all these areas of the brain in a beautiful harmonious way.
The discipline of learning to play a musical instrument also helps us in many other ways with general learning. Learning to play an instrument helps us to learn to be comfortable with discomfort. This flows through to all other learning, which is not supposed to be pleasant all the time. But the sense of achievement and of creating something beautiful is a strong motivator.
On a more personal note I can vouch that learning to play the piano and later the flute has enriched my life in many ways. I have excelled academically at school and also at tertiary level and I am sure that my involvement over the years with music and playing instruments had a lot to do with my achievements.
Currently I am privileged to home school my own children and my daughter started with violin lessons at age 4 and a half. She has been playing for just over two years and the brain development I have observed is astounding. I help children with learning readiness so I know what to look for. My daughter has taught herself to read and write and count from 0 to a 100 without intense drilling and lessons. I am convinced that the rewiring of her brain by the discipline of learning to play the violin has primed her brain to assimilate literacy, numeracy, languages and other learning almost effortlessly.
I facilitate a music education program for young children, intake ages 4 to 6 years. Please contact me should you be interested to find out more about the classes or if you would be interested to give music education its essential place in our pre-and elementary schools.
Please visit this link to find out more about the curriculum I use: