Music Matters in the Mind of a Child

pianolesson
Image via Katie Hurley

My 6-year-old son identifies as a musician. It seems strange to say that about a child so young and so full of big ideas, but he is drawn to music in a way that I never was as a child. It should be noted that he is also drawn to Legos, soccer, cars, creating complicated marble runs, card games, and football, but he is particularly drawn to music.

He began group piano lessons at age five, and his weekly lesson quickly became his favorite part of the week. By age six, we realized that the group lesson didn't provide enough instruction for a child who wanted to play Coldplay tunes, so we started private lessons.

He loves his weekly piano lesson. He's calm and focused when he plays. He feels confident and energized after a lesson. When he's tired, restless, or frustrated, he makes his way to the piano and practices. Within minutes, he feels better again.

Music gives him self-confidence, but it also helps him regulate his emotions. It soothes his soul. Sitting down to play the piano centers my son. 

{ MORE: Maintaining Motherhood Spirituality: Music }

Learning an instrument has many benefits, including improved spatial and fine motor skills, better sound discrimination, language development, creative thinking, and better problem-solving skills (to name a few). While all of that makes a great case for sitting through endless hours of missed notes on a squeaky violin, new research out of the University of Vermont College of Medicine found that music training also helps with emotional and behavioral maturation. This particular study found that the more a child trained on an instrument, the more the child showed better attention, anxiety management, and emotional control.

Sadly, there are disparities when it comes to the quality of music education provided at the elementary school level. Simply providing a music class is not the same as providing a high-quality music class and access to instruments, and music technology is not equal.

Not all children have the passion or drive to learn an instrument at a young age. In some cases, it can be frustrating. Early exposure to music, however, clearly benefits brain development. My daughter doesn't want the weekly lessons, but she does enjoy learning songs on the piano (score one for marrying a musician). Her weekly music education at school is always a source of inspiration for her, and she always comes home full of information to share. Her music class isn't just about singing and preparing for holiday shows. She learns history, she learns theory, and she learns about various instruments during that weekly lesson. It expands her worldview and helps her look through a different lens.

Sadly, there are disparities when it comes to the quality of music education provided at the elementary school level. Simply providing a music class is not the same as providing a high-quality music class and access to instruments, and music technology is not equal.

While private and group music lessons outside of school can be very beneficial to young children, they can also be very expensive. Sure, you can get creative at home to expose your kids to music, but it isn't the same, and it doesn't seem fair.

When music education so clearly benefits the growing brains of young children, why aren't we fighting to ensure that all kids in this country have equal access to high-quality music programs? Education reform claims to level the playing field, but it seems as if we might be missing an important component of a well-rounded education.

{ MORE: Music Matters: 3 Ways Music Education Supports Learning }

 

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Music Matters in the Mind of a Child

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about helping parents enjoy the ride, she provides parent education and simple strategies to take t ... More

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