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Quality Music Education Advances Emotional Well-Being

We’ve all heard it said that music is good for the brain, good for math, good for school, good for kids.But do we know why? Do we know how? And Most Importantly, if this is true, how are we investing in music for kids?In this article I will provide an overview of how music education is very good for child development.

My insight comes from 42 years of experience as a music teacher, conservatory director, theatre producer, and most recently in the field of addiction medicine. The last 40 years has also been an exciting time for the field of neuroscience, as scientists have enjoyed notable advances in technologies that allow researchers to study the brain in greater detail. Most significant is the development of functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) and advances in tracking neurotransmitters (chemical signals) through the brain. I have found that the practical nature of my experiences over the decades is supported by the advancement of research in neurosciences over the same decades.

Children who experience quality and a minimum quantity of music lessons really do develop a greater sense of emotional well-being. When I use the term emotional well-being, I am referring to how well a young person can produce positive and productive emotions when setting and attaining self-defined goals, accepting change, dealing with adversity, whilst developing a sense of personal satisfaction and a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Yes, music can do all that.

How? By stimulating the most important areas of personal and social development. At YACM we refer to these areas as the 5 Core Domains of Human Development. During the process of learning music, a young person’s brain develops stronger connections between brain regions, more grey matter, improved brain structure and function, and stronger memory and attention. This brain improvement leads to the development of these 5 Core Domains as emotional assets.

  • Focus

  • Listening

  • Resilience

  • Teamwork

  • Self Confidence

Music empowers these 5 Domains because music activates our auditory neural systems which have been called the “superhighway of brain function.” Neuroscientist Dr. Nina Kraus explains that the processing of sound requires more brain function than any other of our 5 senses. It is when we make choices based upon what we hear that our brains actually conform to those choices, leading to transferrable patterns of emotional strength.

Through music, children experience healthy emotional growth as they learn to

  • Focus by understanding a goal and choosing which skills they’ll need to achieve the goal.

  • Listen with distinction, making choices about what part of what they are hearing is important to achieving the goal.

  • Gain Resilience by overcoming a challenge through practice.

  • Value Teamwork because they learn the significance of contributions of their peers and mentors.

  • Feel Self-Confidence when learning they can use their skills in performance and creative sharing.

Upcoming articles will unpack each of these 5 Core Domains in greater detail as they are applied to the development of musicianship and the well-being of young people.

Formal Music Instruction is the delivery system for the 5 Core Domains of well-being. In the past, these 5 Core Domains were an incidental by-product of good music lessons. Today at YACM I am working with instructors to intentionally incorporate these 5 Core Domains into our teaching procedures. With deliberate attention given to the 5 Core Domains in music, we expect to multiply their affect in advancing musicianship and well-being. The research and our experience has shown that human engagement found through the arts, and the experience of musicianship is a powerful engine of human capacity.

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