Music Matters – But Why?

Music matters

[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=””][/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]brain on music[/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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

National Association for Music Education

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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.

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]

Music in our Lives: Imagine a World without It

Music in our lives

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Have you ever stopped to think about what our everyday lives would be like without music? Try it: no music at all. I’m going to walk you through a world devoid of music. In the end, I’m going to ask you a few questions that will hopefully get you thinking. Grab a cup of coffee. Things are going to get dry really fast. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]You wake up in the morning to your usual beep-beep-beeping alarm. As you stretch, you turn the dial (or ask Siri…Alexa…or Cortana) to play some music. The response is “I’m sorry, I’m not sure what ‘music’ means.”

So you listen to talk radio. All morning. Now, this in and of itself isn’t bad. It’s great to stay informed, right? But…there is no theme music, no transitional music, and no closing music. It’s just a voice, droning on about stock prices and politics. Have you run screaming to the hills yet?

You turn on the TV to check the weather. Before the report, a giant green man is trying to sell you peas, but there’s no fun little jingle to tie everything together. Peyton Manning is selling insurance, but not with a catchy tune to which he keeps changing the words. Nationwide is on your side, but not with any music. Red Robin…Yum! is just spoken by a man in a three piece suit holding a hamburger. Nothing gets stuck in your head, making you smile when you share it with your neighbor.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Boring. Uninteresting. Dull.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As you drive to work, it’s nothing but people talking at you…no breaks to hear any people singing or playing instruments. There is no Prince to mourn. There’s no Adele as you know her – there was no music for them to create. All you hear are people chatting – and it all sounds the same.

As you enter the elevator, there is no music to calm your nerves or remind you that things will look up as the day begins. It’s not just another manic Monday. Ruby Tuesday never made an appearance. Billy Joel can’t sing about crashing your party on Friday.

At lunch, you decide to watch a quick episode of Seinfeld on Hulu – but there’s no jerky bass line to transition from scene to scene, almost commenting on the hilarity of the nothingness. And what’s more…when you were watching that movie the night before, there are no cellos and string basses to announce the approach of a great white shark. There are no trumpets, trombones, and French horns to underscore the arrival of Darth Vader. He just walks into the room and says, “Hey guys…I know you can’t tell with all the breathing noises, but I’m pretty evil. Don’t get on my bad said, ‘kay?” There’s no dark musical theme from the orchestra…because in a world without music, there’s no composer and no orchestra to play that theme.

There’s no Take Me out to the Ball Game at the seventh inning. There’s no “fail music” from the tuba, softening the blow when contestants lose on The Price is Right. Jeopardy contestants actually have to look at the clock to see if they are running out of time. At the Olympics, people just stand on the podium in silence as flags are silently raised into the air. People stare at each other uncomfortably.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]There’s no Soft Kitty or little girl nailing a dramatic performance of the Alphabet Song.

There’s no protest music…no Woody Guthrie, no Public Enemy, no Bob Dylan. Pete Seeger never asked where all the flowers have gone…because music doesn’t exist.

There’s no Carpool Karaoke clips the morning after and no fanfare when a certain Italian plumber saves a princess from a weird, evil turtle. That turtle probably had a bad day because of…oh, I know…no music.

Music touches every single part of our lives. It’s around us all the time, and even when it’s not, it’s in our head. We hum and tap our feet. We drum out a rhythm on the steering wheel. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Okay…here are our questions – we’re back to a world with music:

Where do you think all that music comes from?

Right – from people who trained to be musicians. Most of them started young. They spent countless hours practicing and studying to become the best musical versions of themselves.


If music obviously makes everything it touches better, why is it almost always the first thing to go?

You know what we know: research tells us that kids involved in music are smarter, possess a greater level of social and emotional development, and are, on average, happier. These kids test better in math and science. They are advanced readers and have larger vocabularies.

All these things are great, but remember: music for music’s sake is just as viable of an advocacy statement. There are things music does in ways that are completely unique and have unending value.

What can I do?

Get them involved early – as early as you are comfortable doing so. Really – getting that newborn exposed to music and movement right away is a gift. And once your kids are in school, be a booster! Be a vocal supporter for music in the schools. Yes, we need insurance agents and nurses and construction workers and lawyers and engineers (and music can help your daughters and sons get there!)…but we also need poets and artists and dancers and actors…and musicians.

Friends, a life without music is grey and silent. Kindermusik wants the world full of musical color. We’re waiting for you and your little ones. Like the poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy wrote:

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams

Join us. Dream with us. Make music with us. The world will be a better place because you and your child both had a song in your heart.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][class_finder_form css=”.vc_custom_1473077312836{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Where did I read that? A wrap up of bilingual stories online

Expats Since Birth: Bilingual Siblings and Their Language Preferences, Expats Since Birth

You can’t choose whether your child will like Mozart or Madonna – and you can’t choose which language your child will prefer to speak. Each child develops his or her own preference for language at his or her own pace. And in a family of multi-lingual siblings, children will make choices. Parents can choose to support that process.

For example, Uta is a multi-lingual parent of multi-lingual children living in the Netherlands. She recently wrote about an experience with her toddler who refused to speak Italian as a reaction to moving to the Netherlands.

"In my experience, you sometimes have to adapt your language situation within your family to the individual needs of your children," Uta wrote on her blog, Expats Since Birth.

Uta shared some support she’s received on the topic in a book, Bilingual Siblings: Language Use in Families by Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert.

In Defense of the Bilingual Child, On Raising Bilingual Children

If you’re in the process of raising a bilingual child, you might discover a range of reactions from loved ones, educators, even friends. Research continues to support the long-term benefits of a bilingual education for children, showing improved brain functions, problem-solving skills, and language acquisition. Regardless, it’s still a new concept for many people. This blog post helps parents be prepared for some of those surprised reactions.

The Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism, Psychology Today

As interest grows in bilingual research studies, new areas of interest are being discovered, such as the Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism. In Psychology Today, psychoanalytics professor Francois Grosjean, Ph.D. talks about a new book on the topic. Grosjean and co-author Professor Ping Li explore how many languages might be involved in the language process of listening or talking; how learning a second language might actually affect behavior; and what happens when a word is literally "lost in translation."