The Unseen Benefits of Music Education

The Unseen Benefits of Music Education“Musicians are more successful than non-musicians in learning to incorporate sound patterns for a new language into words. Children who are musically trained show stronger neural activation to pitch changes in speech and have a better vocabulary and reading ability than children who did not receive music training.” – article featured on The Science Daily

Time and time again I am seeing more and more research that shows the benefits of a musical education. I think one of the most frustrating things felt as a piano teacher in Vancouver is the feeling that music is always on the outskirts of an educational curriculum. The arts are the first programs to get cuts when the economy is down, and anyone thinking of a career in the music industry will not be guaranteed a passive income, if that exists at all. So why should our educational institutions encourage students to partake in such a seemingly “frivolous” endeavor?

The best answer I can come up with is summed up in one word: cross-training. Think of it like this. Say you start up a new fitness regime, involving heavy weights and 20 minutes of cardio. If you are starting up from scratch after not exercising for years, this is going to be a very difficult time for you.

Now lets say that previously, you had just trained for a running marathon. You don’t have the muscle yet that weight training would bring, but you do have a) really amazing cardio and b) mental toughness to stick it through. Now you go to the gym with an edge, and your new fitness regime at the gym will seem that much easier.

Music should be no different. Music trains our brains to hear sounds embedded in a rich network of melodies. This can mean the difference between having a slight accent when learning a second language, or a really bad accent. Musicians are constantly memorizing new chord progressions and song structures, which only aids us when trying to memorize new words in a new language.

There is a ton of math in music theory too. In fact, some of the tables I referenced while studying advanced jazz theory in college looked a lot like trigonometry diagrams! A recent Rockefeller Foundation Study found that music majors have the highest rate of admittance to medical schools, followed by biochemistry and the humanities. If that’s not enough, a musical education helped one doctor by the name of Leopold Auenbrugger develop an important diagnosing tool to be used on patience suspected of harboring fluid in the lungs. Music had given him the sense for tones, trained his mind to hear sounds with acute awareness, and he used these attained skills to tap upon a patience’s chest to listen for sounds of a fluid filled lung, like those found with pneumonia.

So don’t bypass a musical education. You don’t know where or how the benefits of a musical education will show up in later years!

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Lee Gellatly is a professional piano teacher living in Vancouver, B.C.