Tuning up childhood: The power of playing music in the lives of kids
"The main thing I have found with music is it enriches (children's) nature in a way that sports and other things can't. There are wonderful things about sports, but they don't bring out the same qualities, like gentleness," said Laura Yeh, director of the St. Louis School of Music, who started teaching her son to play violin recently, at age 3.
"Kids who learn to play a musical instrument gain an outlet for their creativity that can bring them joy. They also reap tangible benefits that can help them as students and throughout their lives," she said.
Yeh bases her claims largely on watching student after student give himself or herself over to the art. She said music brings out generosity of spirit, consideration of how others feel and the ability to discern emotions. When she talks to parents, they are inevitably more interested in the intelligence aspect, though, she said. They love the idea that music enhances a child's memorization skills, for example.
Because learning an instrument requires commitment, it becomes natural and translates into discipline and other life skills, Yeh said, adding that she's seen it repeatedly in students.
One of her favorite benefits is the ability to become a great listener. "The idea of really listening carefully, I find, is not something we do well as people," Yeh said. "We think of things we're going to say while other people are talking. We are not listening at a deep level, instead composing our to-do list. Music really is so important to training one how to listen deeply." It is, she believes, "a skill unique to music, whatever the instrument is."
The concept of peace drives many music teachers, Yeh said, including her. "Making music together is harmonious, not fighting with each other or taking from one another. The love of harmony and peace we are cultivating — we want children to be good and harmonious and happy. The other skills important in being able to function well in society are side effects."
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