By Mary Kozicki, BScN
From an early age, children love to make and hear different sounds, and developmentally, music activities involve the whole child.
While on my walk yesterday, I contemplated what the world would be like without music.
Music is everywhere, from concerts to advertising. And who can forget Commander Chris Hadfield sending us music from outer space? It is interesting to note that music making throughout most of human history was as natural as walking and everyone participated. Even in the dark days of men marching off to war, music was being played. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, “The inexpressible depth of music … easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote of pain … Music expresses only the quintessence of life and its events, never these themselves.”
Would we as a society, I wondered, still experience joy, sorrow, gratitude, and humility in the same manner as we do when listening to the many genres of music?
Everyone responds instinctively to music. Music therapy is like food for the soul. It can bring joy to the heart and fresh air to the lungs. Singing songs and letting rhythm move both body and mind to better health and happiness is a therapy that is free!
I questioned if music was vital for children and why.
There is evidence that musical responses begin even before a baby is born. During the fifth month of pregnancy, the fetus can hear voices and music, move in rhythm to music, and react (by kicking) to loud noises—and even be disturbed by rock music (Whitwell and Riddell, 1991:1).
From an early age, children love to make and hear different sounds. They are curious. You name it, they love to try it out to see and hear what it sounds like! Children love to sing and play instruments, create, and respond to music in all sorts of interesting ways. They dance and twist to music every chance they get. They sing familiar songs and new creations of their own while they play. It does not take much to spark a young child’s delight and their sense of accomplishment. Are your pots and pans still shiny as new or scraped from the pounding your young child gave them in their quest to explore all kinds of sound?
Canadian researcher Dr. Sylvain Moreno has answered a resounding “yes” to another question I was exploring: Is musical training beneficial? His research showed that 90 percent of young study participants exhibited a remarkable gain in intelligence after only 20 days of musical training. It was found that music engages the brain in different areas, stimulating pathways associated with improved information processing speed, reasoning, memory, and creativity. In the past decade, numerous scientific researches have proven that music education is a powerful tool for enriching children’s intellectual, social, and creative potential.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) have given researchers a better understanding of exactly what happens inside the brain when it processes music and how this activity contributes to better learning and functioning. Research is showing that learning to play an instrument leads to changes in a child’s brain that make it more likely they will reach their full cognitive and academic potential. Developmentally, appropriate music activities involve the whole child, the child’s desire for language, the body’s urge to move, the brain’s attention to patterns, the ear in initiating communication, the voice’s response to sounds, as well as the eye-hand coordination associated with playing musical instruments. It has been said that music lights up our entire brain.
Studies have also shown how musical learning can help children to apply themselves, supporting the processes involved in teamwork and appreciation of working toward shared goals. Children learn important life skills: leadership, discipline, how to relate to others, how to work as a team, and sharing in the rewards that come from working together.
Read what experts in their fields replied to the question of music in the lives of children.
“Music brings people together. Through music, children take an inner experience and move it into a shared creative experience. Group music-making releases energy which can be channeled in creative, productive directions. Children learn about themselves and others by playing music together and by listening to each other—tapping into hidden courage that can be played out by singing together or discovering the inner resources to listen quietly to another child’s playing.” (Judi Bosco, board certified music therapist)
“Resiliency—to bounce back after a disturbing event—is not something we are born with; it must be learned, and sometimes that takes many years. There is no vehicle more joyful and playful for providing such training than early childhood music and movement.” (Dee Joy Coulter, Ed.D., neuroscience educator)
Another question that I pondered was this: Is music education valued in schools? In 2010, the Coalition for Music Education in Canada undertook a survey of 1,204 schools across the country, wherein principals documented the musical standards in their schools. This survey revealed that the delivery of quality music education varied considerably across the regions due to the key challenge of funding.
The report indicates that “self-esteem, self-discipline, creativity, and musical ability are the four benefits that received the largest number of ‘very important’ rankings” from survey respondents. Valuing music education includes nurturing the development of these abilities, skills, and mindsets, which is why developing a culture of creativity and musical learning in our schools should be a key part of our children’s lives. The Coalition for Music Education in Canada has been stressing this fact for many years in its advocacy efforts.
New research shows that music can communicate basic human feelings regardless of the listener’s cultural and ethnic background. Music education transcends the limits of language because music is the language of the universe. As one of the greatest writers in history, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, observed, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” There are no boundaries to understanding it. Children often do not have the words to express themselves and music can provide the means. Music offers effective experiences for all children to develop listening skills. Music is both informative and emotional and is a way of expressing every aspect of human experience, from joy to despair. The level of communication, trust, and friendship through music is phenomenal.
How can we even perceive a world without music? Can there be any doubt that music plays an important role in our lives, from the unborn to the very old? In answer to my question, I believe that music is the essence of our soul spanning a lifetime and the benefits are numerous and still unidentified. Every new piece of research shows that music really does help to bring out the best in young people, creating a respectful community in the process. We must continue to fund our music programs for the betterment of society itself; we have the data confirming that music is vital in all aspects of life.
International award winning composer and music producer Hans Zimmer once stated that the world without music would be unimaginable. But perhaps award-winning author Yasmina Khadra says it best: “Music is the true breath of life. We eat so we won’t starve to death. We sing so we can hear ourselves live.”
Mary Kozicki, BScN, has been in the nursing and business world for many years. Before moving to Penticton in 2011, Mary owned and operated a home support business. She witnessed many aspects of poor nutrition while visiting her many clients. Mary was introduced to the importance of whole food nutrition by her daughter, a medical doctor who saw firsthand, through her practice, the benefits of good nutrition. Mary enjoys knitting, reading, and cheering on the Penticton Vees. Phone 778-476-2469 or email email@example.com.
*Reprint from our Fall 2017 Issue.