The great philosopher Aristotle once proclaimed that music has the power of forming the character and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young. However, many teachers and parents are put off by the expense and amount of time required for musical progression. A recent report by the Royal School of Music revealed that a considerable proportion of children from poorer backgrounds have never had the opportunity to play musical instruments. Many of the nation’s headmasters are either unable or unwilling to invest in music.
The educational, social and developmental benefits of music are, however, substantial and should not be overlooked.
Music is a positive means of creative expression. It is a welcome release for young people who are unable to articulate their thoughts and feelings through speech or writing. Youngsters may choose to vent their expression while playing monster rock riffs on the guitar or relax with the gentle sounds of the piano. Pupils with special educational needs are likely to develop a sense of belonging and increased self-confidence when playing music together with their peers. Teachers and heads can establish wonderful school communities through shared musical experiences.
Research undertaken by the University of London has clearly demonstrated the cognitive benefits that music gives young children, especially in Key Stages 1 and 2. Children who actively listen and play musical instruments develop high levels of concentration and memory. These traits may enable improved performance during core school lessons. Teachers have found that the levels of productivity increase when classical and jazz music is played in the background. Young instrumentalists also stand a relatively better chance of achieving good exam results. Successful musicians are required to maintain high levels of motivation and organisation in their practice.
Music fosters better teamwork skills
Music can be an effective means of increasing feelings of empathy and broadening young people’s horizons. “Music engenders a sense of belonging, improves team work and encourages self-discipline and a sense of achievement,” says Lord Winston, Chairman, Royal College of Music
“It promotes co-operation, responsibility, commitment and mutual support. It provides an outlet for relaxation and a channel for emotional expression.”
Young musicians may work in teams, performing orchestral renditions and creating their own pieces. Teachers also have the opportunity to expose their young protégées to different types of music from across the world. Djembe drums could be played during lessons about the cultural identity of Africa. Students may gain an appreciation for the vibrancy of the Mediterranean during traditional Spanish dance lessons. Research has revealed that jazz players use the same area of the brain used for language processing when improvising on their instruments. Children who play music on a regular basis have also been found to have improved ability to understand vocalised sounds.
The experience of learning a musical instrument is wholly rewarding and satisfying. A sense of fulfilment may be enjoyed upon mastering guitar chords or performing in front of audiences. There are opportunities to discover and learn different styles of music throughout life. Musicians can feel part of a worldwide community and take part in a diverse range of local events. They can discuss and share music via the fantastic range of digital platforms. School teachers and parents should consider it a responsibility and priority to guarantee musical opportunities for the young.
It doesn’t have to be an expensive subject. Children can share all sorts of musical instruments and take turns to use them during the academic day or even have a rota for evening and weekend loans. If budgets are very tight teachers can pick up second-hand instruments relatively cheaply on online shopping sites or ask for community or family donations of unwanted instruments. The sheer pleasure of rhythm can be taught using anything, however – even drumming twigs on empty food tubs is better than nothing and can be quite fun!