In Your Right Brain: The Mind’s Response to Music

In your right brain

The brain is a mysterious organ. It is responsible for all the functions of the body, processes pain, yet has no pain receptors of its own. It’s 73% water and produces enough energy to light a small LED bulb. An infant’s brain is constantly growing but is already about 80% of the size it will reach in adulthood. If you had a piece of your own brain the size of a grain of sand in your palm, it would contain over 100,000 neurons (the cell type that transmits information) and over 1 billion synapses (the junction between neurons). There is much we don’t know about the brain, but after decades of high-level research, we have learned a great deal.

Continue reading “In Your Right Brain: The Mind’s Response to Music”

Reunited: A Short Film About Music and the Human Spirit

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Friends, I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll continue to say it: music is magic. Below, you’ll find a short, five-minute film about Edward Hardy, a retiree in Somerset, England, and Sam Kinsella, a young man looking for a few extra bucks. Sam’s search lead him to Mellifont Abbey, a residential care facility in Somerset and the position of activities coordinator. What happened next was nothing short of amazing, a word that gets tossed around a bit too casually for my taste. But for Sam and Mr. Hardy, no other word will do. Together, they discovered how music can heal the spirit.

Mr. Hardy had been suffering from dementia for some time. He would pound on the floor and call for help for no reason. His interaction with others was limited and strained. He was depressed and detached.

Sam eventually disclosed to Mr. Hardy that he was part of a band in Somerset. This bit of information seemed to pique Mr. Hardy’s interest. He told Sam that he played piano for years.

This gave Sam an idea. He had a keyboard brought in for Mr. Hardy. This was the beginning of a new light in the 93 year-old’s life. To everyone’s surprise, Mr. Hardy came out of his shell and played for everyone.

But Sam wasn’t done.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Spirit
Mr. Hardy plays with former bandmates.

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We’re Getting the Band Back Together!

Sam decided to seek out some local musicians so Mr. Hardy could make music with a group again. People came out of the woodwork to make music with Mr. Hardy. To Sam’s surprise, among them were some of the original members of Mr. Hardy’s band. They gladly came out to Mellifont Abbey for a jam session. You’ll see Mr. Hardy make music with them in the film, and the obvious joy on his face when he does.

This lead to the idea of having the newly reformed group give a concert at Mellifont. This not only brought joy to Mr. Hardy, but to the other residents as well.

Mr. Hardy’s story was featured on the BBC and other news sites across the UK. Music, that magical art form, is now a more regular part of life at Mellifont Abbey. And Mr. Hardy, he found a little bit of himself that was lost.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/Tp6c_oG1SBk”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][class_finder_form css=”.vc_custom_1500644816485{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Alex and Music’s Magic: A Kindermusik Story

Kindermusik Story

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Mark and Kim Elicker and their son Ethan were a wonderful family, but they all had so much more love to give. About six years ago they traveled to China to adopt two year old Alex. This is his story – a story of endless love and musical magic.


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Kindermusik for Ethan

Before Alex came home to his family, Kim, an early childhood educator herself, took her son Ethan to Kindermusik from the time he was a baby until he aged out. Lydia Klinger was their Kindermusik educator and really drew the family in. Kim shares why she choose Kindermusik:

Lydia was the reason we started and fell in love with the program. With Ethan I admit I valued the social benefits of being with other Mom’s and families. As an early childhood educator I connected with the developmental appropriateness of the curriculum. Years later when we adopted Alex, I once again became a stay at home mom and I wanted that connection to other families. I chose Kindermusik again with Alex because I loved it so much with Ethan, but I honestly, remember seeking activities that I believed would foster our bond and attachment.

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The day Alex legally became a member of the Elicker family!
The day Alex legally became a member of the Elicker family!

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Alex Comes Home

When Alex came home with the Elickers at age two he wasn’t very verbal. He was a child surrounded by sounds he had never heard. Occasionally, he’d speak a word or two of Mandarin, like mā-ma (mother), bà-ba (father), gē-ge (older brother), and siè-sie (thank you).

Dr. Boyle: When Alex came home with you, how would you describe him?

Kim Elicker: He was quiet and energetic, though when he first came home he didn’t have a lot of stamina. He was curious and resourceful! He could play with a bucket, a box of crayons, and a paper bag. That was just him – he didn’t need anything fancy.

DB: You mentioned he wasn’t very verbal.

KE: He wasn’t. And that’s a typical very typical of children who are adopted into a family who speaks a different language than he was born into.

DB: Right…so what he had been hearing for the first two years of his life, he’s wasn’t hearing that any more and was a completely different environment for him.

KE: Exactly. In our situation, everything changed – what he saw, what he heard, what he smelled, even what touched his skin. It was all very different.

DB: So…you shared with me that on days he was going to Kindermusik, Alex tended to be more verbal.

KE: Yes. In the beginning, receptively he picked up English rather quickly. He was following simple one step directions.

DB: Little kids are sponges.

KE: Yes! But his communication pretty much shut down verbally. We expected that from classes we took before the adoption. His brain was switching gears. We read to him, we talked to him, we engaged him all the time, but he didn’t attempt to speak a lot.

When we started Kindermusik, in the beginning much of it was listening in that particular first program he was in. I noticed his concentration level – his focus – was very intent. He would be very tired those afternoons after Kindermusik in the morning!

By his second set of classes, I started noticing a change. We’d go to Kindermusik, we’d have lunch, and the rest of the day he’d be much more talkative. He’d attempt new words. Anytime he tried new words, it seemed to be on Kindermusik days. Once I noticed the pattern, I really started paying attention to it. It followed this trend for about a year.

DB: And did you take part in the classes with him?

KE: Yes.

DB: That’s great. There’s all this research out there that tells us that because of the way music impacts the brain, when you make music with another person, it builds empathy between you and the other person, it builds trust between you and that other person. You can become more comfortable with that person when you share a musical experience.

KE: That’s an interesting take on my situation. When you are first adopting you need to build trust. That’s part of the attachment process. It’s an interesting thing for me to hear you say – it makes total sense![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Alex and Ethan
Ethan and Alex having fun in the band room.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]DB: Sounds like Kindermusik was an important part of Alex’s process.

KE: Yes! I remember sharing the news of Alex’s increased verbal activity with Lydia, our Kindermusik educator. She said it just gave her chills! She was excited to get that feedback.

DB: I would imagine! Kindermusik is certainly fun with music and movement, but the mission is really to help kids develop socially and emotionally…getting them to interface with other kids and have positive interactions with adults. It helps them move through those developmental domains.

KE: Certainly. And in our case, it was quite obvious because he wasn’t really verbal at all…it was very easy to pick up on when was happening.

DB: It’s just so cool to hear about this – a very specific situation in which music helped a child affected by a rather involved transition find his voice. That’s music reaching parts of the brain that everyday speech or conversation does not. I would imagine that music coupled with music was helpful.

KE: Yes! That was his other area. According to the typical US standard, he would have been lacking in gross motor. Within six months he had caught up. The movement in the class was beneficial.

DB: That’s great. So how long did Alex do Kindermusik?

KE: He was five, almost six when we stopped. When we love something we stick with it![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Kindermusik Educator
Lydia Klinger, the Elicker’s Kindermusik Educator, with Ethan, and guest trumpet player Allen Vizzuti.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Kindermusik was a very important part of the Elickers lives. Ethan, now 15, lives for the trumpet and plays as often as he can. And Alex? He’s going into third grade this fall. He’s taking piano lessons and singing in church. His ultimate goal is to play organ!

Lydia, their Kindermusik Educator, retired after 20 years of serving musical smiles to her community. She now plays with the Harrisburg Symphony. The Elickers still keep in touch with her. Recently, she arranged a meeting with the Symphony’s guest trumpeter, Allen Vizzuti and Ethan.

For the Elickers, participating in Kindermusik classes helped smooth the complex process of an international adoption, helping Alex open up and explore his verbal possibilities in his new language. As an educator, Kim knew exactly what was happening. As a mom, she got to see music work its magic in her son’s young life. Friends, that’s why Kindermusik Educators do what they do. They are in it to change lives.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Ethan prepares to play a duet with a friend.
Alex prepares to play a duet with a friend.

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Music’s Effect on the Developmental Domains

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]When we say that music is a powerful tool for learning, one of the biggest reasons is because music positively affects every area of a child’s development.  And for over 30 years, one of the strongest advocates for early childhood development through music and movement has been Kindermusik International.

With a music and movement curriculum entrenched in research and infused with joyful activities that make learning effortlessly fun, it’s no wonder that parents, experts, therapists, and doctors have recommended Kindermusik over and over again for an experience that inspires giggles, bonding, and learning in every critical area of a young child’s development.

But don’t just take our word for it.  For some enlightening and fascinating resources, here are the links to some of that incredible research that is at the core of all that Kindermusik was founded, created, and built upon – research that continues to be affirmed over and over by further research and advances in technology.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Cognitive Development

Graphic-Learning-Domain-Icons-single-cognition-144x144[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/222523817″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Language & Literacy Development

Graphic-Learning-Domain-Icons-single-language-literacy-144x144[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/222523998″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Math & Logic Development

Graphic-Learning-Domain-Icon-Math-Logic-144x144[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/222524206″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Social-Emotional Development

Graphic-Learning-Domain-Icons-single-social-emotional-144x144[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/222524484″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Physical Development

Graphic-Learning-Domain-Icons-single-physical-144x144[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/222524639″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Creative Development

Graphic-Learning-Domain-Icons-single-creative-144x144[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/222524801″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Musical Development

Graphic-Learning-Domain-Icons-single-music-144x144[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/222525015″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It doesn’t take an expert to see how every part of a child’s heart, soul, and mind can be powerfully impacted for a lifetime by early childhood music and movement classes.  That’s why so many of us believe in the power of music, and because of that, believe in everything that is completely delightful and utterly magical about Kindermusik.

Want to learn more? Download these research studies from Kindermusik International.


[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case, who’s been making a difference in the lives of children and families through her award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, South Carolina, for over 20 years now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Science Center Stage: Kids’ Brains Grow Faster with Music

Brain

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We don’t just think music instruction has a cognitive impact; we know it does.  The science to prove it continues to pile up.  And it’s pretty exciting stuff when you’re talking about things like MRI’s, EEG’s, and behavioral testing being part of the proof.

A recent study, begun by the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC back in 2012 has just revealed some impressive findings.  The study actually showed that “…music instruction speeds up the maturation of the auditory pathway in the brain and increases its efficiency.”  In other words, your brain works better if you’ve had musical instruction!

“Within two years of the study, the neuroscientists found the auditory systems of children in the music program were maturing faster in them than in the other children. The fine-tuning of their auditory pathway could accelerate their development of language and reading, as well as other abilities – a potential effect which the scientists are continuing to study.”

Kindermusik International has long recognized the connection between music instruction and brain development.  You can’t teach a baby to play the piano or violin, but you can still give them rich and powerful early experiences with music that activate and actually change the brain through music and movement activities.

 

brains
That smile betrays musical fun…impacting brain development!

 

It is through a curriculum that combines the power of early music experiences for newborns to big kids in a developmentally appropriate setting that Kindermusik is able to deliver a unique music learning experience that puts a song in each child’s heart, helps parents and children bond, and gives kids a chance to play and be kids – all while giving them an early cognitive advantage through singing, dancing, playing instruments, and moving.

But don’t just take our word for it… check out the science for yourself.  Kids’ brains really do grow faster, stronger, and happier with music and music classes like Kindermusik!  And you’ll both have a lot of happy memories of songs, giggles, and together time to treasure forever too.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case who loves that kids’ eyes, hearts, and brains have been lighting up for over 20 years now in their Kindermusik classes at Piano Central Studios, where she is the Director.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Bilingual Babies: Musical Benefits!

Bilingual Baby

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]An article with a title like, “Bilingual Babies Are Better at Detecting Musical Sounds, Research Shows”, definitely captures our attention here at Kindermusik!  What’s just as fascinating to us as anything else is how this article identifies benefits of bilingualism that are also benefits of beginning to learn the universal language of music at a very young age.

For example, our Kindermusik library of music includes songs in other languages and music from around the world.  And just like “exposure to multiple languages may sharpen infants’ music sensitivity in the first year after birth,” according to new research cited in the article, exposure to the language of music through a variety of music sung in other languages and music from other cultures also enhances both language development and musical sensitivity.

But it’s not only language development that’s enhanced by being musically “multilingual.”  Other benefits also referenced in this article include:

  • Enhanced listening skills
  • More abstract thinking skills
  • Heightened ability to discriminate between sounds
  • More sensitivity to visual cues in language
  • Better social communication skills
  • Increased capacity for working memory
  • Greater cognitive functionality

It’s clear that early exposure to the language of music has some surprising short- and long-term benefits.  But with over 30 years as the world’s leader in music and movement education, all of us here at Kindermusik know from all of the smiles, giggles, and hugs that there are also lots of happy together time and magical moments of bonding and together time as a result of learning music in a class like Kindermusik too!


 

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Science Center Stage: Music Improves Brain Development in Children

Brain

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We talk often about how music impacts our lives in countless ways. With our little ones, we focus on the positive effects of music as children grow – specifically development in the language, social, emotional, fine and gross motor, and cognitive domains. All of these domains are controlled by that mysterious organ – the human brain. Science tells us that the brain LOVES music and responds in wonderful ways. Dr. Boyle shares recent research on the topic in today’s post. 


[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Music is like an intangible vitamin for the brain. It’s not just listening to music that’s key; participation in musical activity unlocks accelerated brain development. When adding movement to the equation, benefits increase.

Movement + Music

As we move and increase our heart rate, the brain receives more oxygen. Research indicates that improved oxygenation of the brain improves cognition. Adding music into the equation lights up important areas of the brain, which have already been primed with physical activity. While listening to music, parts of the brain responsible for motor skills, emotions, and creativity glow when viewed with magnetic resonance imaging.

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What’s Going on in There?

Think of it this way – taking part in musical activities is like a “work out” for the brain. Here’s what’s going on:

  • The visual, motor, and auditory cortices are activated.
    • When these areas are activated regularly through music, they are strengthened. That strength can be applied to other tasks.
  • Increased activity in the corpus callosum – the pathway between the brains two hemispheres.
    • This allows for information to travel throughout the brain more efficiently.

All of this can lead to greater executive function and problem solving skills. While recent research in neuroplasticity tells us it’s never too late to change established brain function and learn new things, it certainly is highly beneficial to start musical activities early. Birth to age seven is such an important period in brain development; music’s benefits on the brain are particularly impactful during this time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Oliver Sacks, author and neurologist, wrote extensively about the impact of music on the brain. In this video, Dr. Sack’s became the subject of his own research. He had himself scanned while listening to different music – specifically to see if his love of Bach’s music would show up on MRI scans. His emotional response to Bach was actually observed on the screen![/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/AUT9UTVrwp8?t=10s”][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]So…don’t wait! The brain knows what it wants…music music music! Get your young ones started early. Listening is wonderful. Partaking in musical activities is better. Involving the body and having a parent join in on the fun is the best! Find a Kindermusik class near you and start building those neural connections today![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Big Brains! Music Feeds Brain Development

brain on music

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Science tells us what we, as music educators, already know: music is good for brain development. We constantly see study after study that verifies what we see on a daily basis in the young musicians with whom we interact. Recently, a study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute indicated that early exposure to musical instruction increases the development of the brain in children below the age of seven. The study reenforced the connection of music and stronger math, language, and reading skills. And we also know that when you make music with another person, you are more likely to empathize with them.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This study began in 2012 and over the course of the past 5 years, the researchers followed the progress of  3 groups of students, all six to seven years of age at the study’s outset. Dr. Assal Habibi explains:

We started the study when one group of children were about to begin music training through the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles program. This free community-based music program was inspired by El Sistema, a music program that was started in Venezuela and proved to be “tranformative” in changing the lives of underprivileged children.

The second group of children were about to begin a sports training program with a community-based soccer program. They were not engaged in music training.

A third group of children were from public schools and community centers in the same areas of Los Angeles. All three groups of children were from equally underprivileged and ethnic minority communities of Los Angeles. 

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So What Happened?

The researchers constantly checked in with all students in the study, measuring different points of brain development. The findings have been promising, and indicate that musical instruction during early childhood can have a positive impact on how quickly the young mind develops and acquires new skills. Sound processing, as you might imagine, is a big part of music, but also language acquisition. Dr. Habibi expands…

Children in the music group…had stronger brain response to differences in pitch compared to the children in the other groups. We also observed that musically trained children had faster development of the brain pathway responsible for encoding and processing sound.

This finding supports previous findings and highlights music’s important benefits particularly in the development of language and reading.

Check out this TEDxYouth Talk at Caltech on music and the brain by Dr. Beatriz Ilari. Dr. Ilari is a music education professor at USC.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLQbqXJF-2M”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Life Long Benefits

As it turns out – these benefits can last a lifetime. Musical experiences like Kindermusik, can increase brain capacity and the level of active connection between different areas of the brain. So much of brain development occurs in the first seven years of life; these are the years that music can have an incredibly positive impact on the process and well beyond.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]So get involved! Check out a class near you and see how our award-winning curriculum can enrich the life of your child…and you. Our classes involve music, movement, and lots of fun. We help your kids develop big brains![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][class_finder_form css=”.vc_custom_1479179928634{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Sound First – Symbol Second

Music and reading

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It’s how we acquire any language – sound first – symbol second. We learn to speak before we learn to read. Music is the same way – we mimic what we hear before we can read it on the page. We learn by rote before we learn through understanding. Our last post talked about music’s positive impact on language learning. Well…music also has a positive impact on reading skill. Dr. Boyle explores the latest research on music and reading.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Think about your musical experiences as a child. Whether you realized it or not, you learned new words through music. In my main profession as a choral conductor, I learn new words through music regularly; poetry drives what I do. I keep a dictionary right by my piano so I am able to look up words I don’t know as I come across them. I am grateful for this extra gift music gives me.

We have shared research many times that point toward music’s role in increasing cognitive skills in children. Cognition, the ability to form and process memory, learn new information, also includes understanding written information. Music is about patterns, particularly music to which young children are often exposed. Lots of repetition is found in this type of music, and regularly singing this music helps kids recognize patterns elsewhere.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Research on Music and Reading

Studies conducted at the University of Toronto and Johns Hopkins have supported the concept that participation in musical activities increases cognitive skill. Drs. Nina Kraus and Samira Anderson of Northwestern University produced a study that indicated the ability to keep a steady beat related to reading readiness. In the study, subjects were separated through assessment into two groups: those who could keep a study beat (synchronizers) and those who found it challenging (non-synchronizers).

“The synchronizers also had higher pre-reading skills (phonological
processing, auditory short-term memory, and rapid
naming) compared with non-synchronizers. Overall, the results
supported the idea that accurate temporal processing is
important for developing the foundational skills needed in order
to learn how to read.”

– Beat-Keeping Ability Relates to Reading Readiness/Kraus and Anderson

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What does this mean?

Developing musical skills early has a positive impact on reading ability. The reality is this: those non-synchronizers? It is completely possible to improve their rhythmic ability through regular musical activity. This then has a clear effect on cognitive skill and all that that encompasses.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

When is the right time to start?

Now! Start now! Get those kids involved in musical activities – and Kindermusik is a perfect place to start. In a recent articleDr. Robert A. Cutietta, Dean of the USC Thorton School of Music, lays it out plainly:

“There is a growing (and convincing) body of research that indicates a “window of opportunity” from birth to age nine for developing a musical sensibility within children. During this time, the mental structures and mechanisms associated with processing and understanding music are in the prime stages of development, making it of utmost importance to expose children in this age range to music.”

PBS Parents/Robert A. Cutietta

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]From birth to age nine! Don’t wait. Get them involved as soon as you feel comfortable doing so and your son or daughter will reap a host of benefits from their involvement, setting the stage for a lifetime of musical appreciation. Not everyone will go on to be the principal violinist of the New York Phil, or sing at Lollapalooza, but the stronger the musical foundation a child has, the more enjoyment will be found in the vast world of music.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][class_finder_form css=”.vc_custom_1469711353415{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]