With a new school year beginning I feel a need to address the importance of music education for children. As many know music education covers a wide array of topics in music. Playing a musical instrument is just one very important aspect of music education. Music education in the education system is always a hot topic among educators, administrators and parents. With so much emphasis being placed on math, reading and literacy, music education often gets bumped to the bottom of the list. In many circumstances it has been removed from the list. The need to cut budgets and teachers leave many children with no music education at all. As a mother, musician, and music educator this is extremely disappointing. While I know my child will always be immersed in the world of music, it is disheartening to think of the thousands of children who are loosing the opportunity to explore the musical world and all it has to offer.
So…..What is the importance of music education for children?
I truly believe that music is just as important as all other subject areas. Music education requires students to do many things including:
- Multi-task – Learning to play an instrument requires students to focus on playing an instrument while reading music. Both of these actions are often quite new to the child, meaning they have to exhibit great concentration.
- Team Work – Many activities or assignments will require students to work with fellow classmates either to create an original composition or perform an existing piece of music.
- Express themselves – Quite often students will be asked to explain how a piece of music makes them feel. Younger students are given ample opportunities to express themselves through movement or drawing while listening to music. As they begin to learn to play instruments children can begin to express themselves through the act of creating music either alone or with others.
- Evaluate – While listening to music students are given the opportunity to evaluate existing compositions, classmates compositions and works of their own. They are also always evaluating there own progress at a given task.
Music can be connected to other subject areas
Students can write short melodies for poems they are studying in English class and then perform them or explore the music of the country they are learning about in social studies. Music teachers can work with other teachers to create lessons that easily connect to other subjects.
Understand the World Around Them
Music plays an important role in many societies, thus learning about the music within their society, as well as other societies helps them to better understand the world in which they live. In music class students are introduced to music of many cultures. They learn the role of music and the value that each culture, including their own, places on music. A wonderful example of this is African Hand Drumming. Whenever I introduce hand drumming we discuss the materials they are made of, how they are made, and their importance to the African culture. I often show numerous videos which show people playing them, as well as, people dancing.
Playing Musical Instruments fuels the Brain
Most children receiving a music education will be given numerous opportunities to play musical instruments. It is believed and many studies have shown that reading music while playing an instrument exercises the brain on many levels. Playing a musical instrument (I also include the voice, as it is our most powerful instrument) can provide:
- Feelings of Accomplishment – It is a great milestone when a child learns to play a new note or a complete song for the first time. It is always a great joy to see children’s reactions after they have performed in their first concert or recital.
- Discipline – Learning a musical instrument requires practice outside of scheduled class time. Students who want to succeed must dedicate free time to practice.
- Self-Confidence – As children get better they begin to feel confident about what they are doing and achieving. Encouragement and praise from teachers and parents also help children build self-confidence.
- Emotional outlet – For many children it is a way to express themselves. As with all musicians, children can use music as a way to escape from the stress of homework and other school activities.
- Extra-curricular activity – Music provides an extra curricular option for those students who may not enjoy playing sports. Some of us were just not meant to be athletes. Attending rehearsal before or after school is a very important part of school life for many children who enjoy music. This also includes trips to performances and festivals. As a student one of my favorites things was school band trips whether they were only for the day or for a few nights.
- Desire to succeed in other areas – When children begin to experience success and accomplishment in music they begin to strive for the same feelings in other areas of their schooling.
- Career option – It is no secret that many students who receive music education in grade school continue on to music programs in college or university. Career options include performance, composition, education, and recording. These careers options are much less accessible to students who do not have access to music education.
Music For Life
There are so many reasons that music is beneficial to children. The benefits of a sound music education in school can reach far beyond the school years. Music is for life. We will all grow older and be less able to participate in physical activities such as sports but we can continue to play music well into our senior years.
The Last Word
There is no question that all children should have access to a music education. The many positives far exceed the negatives. My hope is that people who question the importance of music education for children can come to understand why it should have a place in the education system. I also hope that music educators and musicians continue to fight for musics place in all children’s education. All music educators realize that not all students will continue on and become a professional musician but at least they have been given the opportunity to make an informed decision. Just as they have been given the opportunity to choose science, math or English. Please feel free to add to these reasons in the comment section.