Taking our cue from the exciting news that the world-renowned Halle orchestra is planning to open a free school in Stoke-on-Trent – with a specialism in Music, of course – we explore the footprint music leaves on the school curriculum.
The universal language of mankind
Listening is the central tenet of Music Education. Whether whilst belting out a rendition of the Skye Boat Song in a recorder group or practising the nuances of a Haydn string quartet, in any performance children need to hear how they fit in with the rest of the ensemble by taking in tempi and dynamics – not to mention tuning! Research shows that just one year of musical training has a profound impact on a child’s auditory development.
Neural networks in both hemispheres of the brain are strengthened as evidenced by brain scans showing an increased cortical thickness among those receiving musical training. The benefits children receive from this encompass increased understanding of language such as a heightened awareness of phonics and enhanced literacy. Nor is this only an asset for first language learning, it also greatly aids in second language acquisition.
Music of the spheres
Connected to this is the complementary effect music Education has on reasoning skills. In particular, music helps students recognise patterns of rhythm and melody (or a combination of the two – imagine strains of ‘Glo-o-o-o-o-o-ria’ from Ding Dong Merrily on High from the annual school carol concert).
In addition, music is notated and presented in an inherently logical way, for example the subdivision of beats in a bar or even the layout of the piano whose keys repeat neatly every octave. Indeed, these are essentially abstract mathematical structures and it is of no surprise that studies have documented the positive influence of music on students’ algebra and numerical reasoning. Moreover, musical experience develops spatial intelligence which is linked to how children perceive the world around them, comprehend 3D images, create mental pictures and other quasi-perceptual experiences.
Work of art
Music also advantages children by improving their working memory, this supports manipulation of stored information whilst performing other cognitive tasks and is critical for reading comprehension and mental arithmetic. Likewise fine motor skills – which involve coordinating the movements of small muscles – are enhanced by music training. These skills are crucial for many classroom activities including writing, using a computer and also playing sport.
Music education can develop the scope of children’s imaginative thinking and intellectual curiosity. This may lead to a lateral approach to problem solving and an increased appreciation of the possibility of multiple answers or arguments. Therefore children are better prepared for the modern workplace in which creativity is noted by employers among the top five key skills for success.
To recapitulate, the neural effects of music education have a tangible influence on the linguistic and mathematical development of children within the classroom. The advantages of which extend into adulthood by producing creative individuals ideally suited to excel in the contemporary workforce.
If you are in need of any further convincing, the final word is left to Albert Einstein describing the astronomical impact of music on his most famous discovery.
“The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition. My parents had me study the violin from the time I was six. My new discovery is the result of musical perception.”
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