There are two dates on our calendar that celebrate parents, but one seems to get far more attention than the other. While Mother’s Day arrives with flowers, fanfare, and marketing campaigns galore, Father’s Day seems to get short shrift.
Mental health – thankfully, in recent years, it has become more acceptable to talk about it in public. The stigma of dealing with a mental health issue lessens with each day that passes. This is a good thing.
As it turns out, singing in groups has a very strong impact on mental health. Without question, we are not implying that singing is a replacement for seeking help from mental health professionals. Rather, we seek to simply highlight the positive effects this activity can have, and they are numerous. Let’s explore them together.
We’ve said it many times, and it’s kind of become my catchphrase…music is magic. We bring you lots of studies about music’s positive impact on learning domains, on brain development, and on academic achievement. We highlight these important aspects of an early childhood rich with musical experiences in many different ways – because we really want to hammer home the point: music should be a vital part of growing up.
Few people in the western world don’t know who Ed Sheeran is. The 26-year-old English musician is an international superstar, selling out venues everywhere he goes.
A failing school in the City of Bradford, West Yorkshire, England needed to do something. The staff was unsure what to do. Parents were not happy with the progress and success of their children. There were issues with funding. The surrounding area was one of the poorest in the area. What to do…what to do…
It’s that time of year when everyone is talking about resolutions. Losing weight. Exercising. Spending more time with family. Working less. The list goes on.
So we thought we’d put a musical twist on making resolutions and suggest four musical resolutions that are easy to make and stick to!
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I’m guessing that if you are here, reading this blog, that music is important to you. Your kids might take part in Kindermusik, or perhaps music lessons. You may attend concerts or listen to music on a regular basis. I probably don’t have to convince you about music’s power and its importance in the human experience. I’m not worried about you. It’s the folks that might not know what music can do – the impact it can have on a person’s life – those are the folks I want to reach.
You may know some folks that might not know the benefits of music education or the effect music has on the developing brain, particularly in young kids. So…I want to turn you all into advocacy experts. I want to provide you with knowledge you can pass on to others when they ask “why is this so important?”
Here we go.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Music Makes You Feel
I bet you’ve had this experience. You are at a concert or you are listening to the radio and a song comes on that you have never heard before. I have had many of these experiences – many of them on the podium while conducting. But the most intense instance was about a year after my father passed away. I was living in Hawai’i by myself. My wife had relocated back to the mainland in anticipation of my discharge from the Navy. I hadn’t really processed my father’s death. I hadn’t cried. I hadn’t really mourned.
As I was driving home from an event in Honolulu, Tracy Chapman’s The Promise came on the radio. Take a listen.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnjegFZGBDk”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It was the combination of Tracy’s voice and the following lyric that got to me:
If you think of me
If you miss me once in a while
Then I’ll return to you
I’ll return and fill that space in your heart
I lost it. I actually had to pull over to the side of the interstate (yes, there are interstate highways in Hawai’i) as I couldn’t see the road through the tears. A year’s worth of bottled emotion all came flooding to the surface because of this song. The music released my previously padlocked feelings about my Dad. How? Music causes chemical changes in the brain. As far as emotion is concerned, music causes the nucleus accumbens, the amygdala, and the cerebellum to light up. These areas are related to emotion.
In this instance, music acted as a key to a lock for me. It was incredibly therapeutic.
Music Builds Bridges
I’ve told stories about students at festivals sharing why they sing. The answers range from sweet and silly at the beginning of a festival to deep and complex toward the end. Recently, I was in Wisconsin conducting a middle school choral festival. These young musicians had just met each other – 100 seventh, eighth, and ninth graders came together to make music. During breaks, I would ask my question – why do you sing? These kids felt safe enough to share some very meaningful reasons:
“My grandfather passed away three years ago. We would sing together in church choir. It’s my way to stay close to him.”
“It’s the only place I feel like I can really be me.”
“Music makes me realize that I am powerful.”
“Music is my home.”
Last month, I conducted a county high school choral festival. One student wrote the following:
“Music has prevented me from making a decision that could have altered my life (multiple times). It has brought me pure happiness in times of endless sorrow.”
To share these things with folks you have just met doesn’t happen too often. Making music with others builds compassion and empathy. It’s a pretty amazing thing to be a part of.
Experiencing music at a young age starts this process. It helps with social development in ways that other activities do not.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]If you have a second, head over and read my friend Elliot Cole’s post about why music matters. He shares the story about a prison inmate letting his guard down because of music. It’s quite the tale.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
Music Fertilizes the Brain
Music for music’s sake should be reason enough as to why we should study music. John Adams gave us this gem in a letter to his wife, Abigal Adams:
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
It’s right there – one of the United States’s founding fathers told us – music is a noble art and worthy of our time. But, in the interest of advocacy, music has a positive impact on how we learn other subjects. The National Association for Music Education provides a great list for music advocacy superheroes. Here is a selection:
- Musical training helps develop language and reasoning: Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on young minds.
- Students learn to improve their work: Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.
- Better SAT scores: Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.
- Kids stay engaged in school: An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects.
Music Positively Impacts Health
Physical and mental health. Study after study reinforces the fact that music can have very strong, positive effects on our overall health.
- A recent study found that listening to classical music helped college students with insomnia.
- Scientists have found that music may improve heart health.
- Multiple researchers believe that music can reduce pain perception.
- Music can reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, thereby reducing overall stress.
- The symptoms of depression can be relieved by listening to music.
The list goes on. Music can reduce recovery time after surgery and working out. It can improve cognitive brain function and help folks manage anxiety. I’ve said it before – music is magic.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Go Forth and Advocate!
Now that you have the details – spread them far and wide! And if you are looking for more ways to pull music into your life, take a class! Get your kids involved with Kindermusik! Write a song! Don’t wait any longer – go see that band you’ve been wanting to see or maybe head to your local symphony.
Remember friends…music makes it meaningful.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Close to 200 Kindermusik Educators from across the globe gathered together at the mind-blowing Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota July 27-29 for three, fun-filled days of learning, connection, friendship, and, of course, shopping!
Wednesday evening Maestros were treated to a memorable reception at The Hard Rock Café joined by President and CEO, Scott Kinsey.
Thursday morning special guest, former Kindermusik kid, and the youngest candidate to ever be elected to Minnesota’s House of Representatives, Drew Christensen, opened the conference sharing how his Kindermusik experience attributed to his successful political career.
We were then introduced to Occupational Therapist, Paige Hays, who skillfully led us through The Brain Architecture Game, developed through a partnership of the Center on the Developing Child and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Look for an interview with Paige later this month!
A conference highlight was meeting Stephanie Johnson, educator, therapist, and author of Baby Bare: A Bottom Up Approach to Growing Strong Brains and Bodies. Her informative presentation explored the body’s role in early learning. Educators took away valuable insights to share with families.
Other conference highlights include: hearing from special guest and marketing guru, Kari Switala on the importance of storytelling in marketing, class demonstrations led by Robyn Pearce and Helen Peterson, and watching Kindermusik legend, Carol Penney, and Maestro Louise MacDonald’s powerful presentation on Intergenerational Learning.
Outside the conference, Minneapolis offered a relaxing retreat to Minnehaha Falls with breathtaking waterfalls.
We can’t wait until next year’s conference in the Big Easy – New Orleans! Hope to see many of you once again – and perhaps some new faces as well!
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]You might know the classic song from Mary Poppins with the line, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Well, we’d like to propose that music can be wonderful medicine, especially when it comes to enhancing our mental health. Let’s explore a few of the many reasons why music is so good for our minds and hearts.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLkp_Dx6VdI”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Music Increases Dopamine Levels
Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that affects our emotions, behavior, attention, learning, feelings of pleasure and pain, and even our movements. Research studies have demonstrated that listening to music can increase dopamine levels significantly, providing a documented link between the enjoyment of music and our overall well-being.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Music Provides an Outlet for Self-expression
The famous quote by Hans Christian Andersen says it best, “Where words fail, music speaks.” Music can help even young children understand how they feel and give them a way to express those feelings, even at a young age.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Music Can Help us Relax
In our fast-paced, busy lives, we all need to deliberately make time to just relax and do nothing. This is especially true for young children and precisely why our Kindermusik classes include listening and quiet time activities with beautiful, gentle music.
Music Can Enhance our Ability to Focus
Sometimes tired or distracted minds just need a little boost, and the right kind of music can do just that. Classical music and music with no lyrics playing softly in the background does wonders for increasing attention span and improving the brain’s processing efficiency.
Music Connects us with Others
Especially when you share a musical experience with others, like a Kindermusik class, music brings people together and creates opportunities for meaningful social interaction. In Kindermusik, we purposely include Meet-and-Greet dances and Circle Songs to build a strong sense of friendship and belonging.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][blockquote cite=”Ludwig van Beethoven”]“Music is the mediator between the life of the senses and the life of the spirit.” [/blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Music Motivates Us
When you’re feeling tired or unmotivated, or you have a child who has trouble getting going, turn on some lively, happy music so that you can help but feel energized! For young children, a routine of using music to get up and going or to make a car ride go faster can make all the difference.
The bottom line? Music is great medicine! Music has the power to soothe, to inspire, to energize, and so much more, contributing significantly to the health of our mental and emotional well-being, both as children and as adults. The well-known classical composer Ludwig Beethoven put it beautifully, “Music is the mediator between the life of the senses and the life of the spirit.” [/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, has been a happy advocate for the benefits of music for over 20 years now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]One afternoon, I walked into the living room and my very active 3-year-old daughter was just laying on the couch with a blanket. “What are you doing? Are you OK?” I asked her. “Yes mama, I’m just listening to the music,” she replied. And she stayed there for a good 20 minutes. Mind you, this is the child who barely sat down for more than 30 seconds at a time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Listening to music is something of a lost art. Taking the time to just LISTEN with your child can help you to reconnect after a long day and teaches them that listening to music can be the main activity and not just background noise. Babies and young children especially benefit from mindfully listening to music. We forget that they are also exposed to stressors during their day and that relaxation is a LEARNED skill that we need to teach. It doesn’t have to be very long, try listening to 1 or 2 songs, especially if your child is very young and on the move! The idea isn’t to get them to “sit down and listen,” but to create an environment where they are able to enjoy the music.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
A Few Tips for Mindful Music Listening
- Start the music and then put your phone and all other technology away and out of sight.
- Make eye contact with your child and smile.
- If your child needs movement, try rocking with them on your legs.
- Add some intentional touch such as rubbing their back or ears, or massaging their feet.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Quietly talk about the music. What instruments are being used? Is it a man or a woman singing? Is the music fast or slow? Does it sound happy or sad? If there are words, what language are they speaking? Even babies and toddlers benefit from you labeling these sounds for them, and children in preschool and beyond will enjoy having a conversation about the music they are hearing.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Make music listening a special part of your daily rituals, whether it’s when you come home from work, or before bedtime. Your entire family will benefit from a few minutes of mindful music listening![/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Jessica Solares and her husband Luis own Bucktown Music in Chicago, IL, which is recognized by Kindermusik International as one of the top studios in the world. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Elmhurst College and has been a licensed Kindermusik educator since 2008. She joined the Kindermusik University teacher training team in 2016 and is proudly sharing her expertise with the newest generation of Kindermusik educators![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]