Friday, November 8, 2013

Old School After School


A generation or so before mine it was normal for a child to have some sort of formal music lessons outside of school.

Sometimes it was voice lessons...or violin.

Usually it was piano lessons.

Whatever the instrument, music was seen as being an important part of a child's development.

Despite the lure of other fun activities such as hearing one's friends playing outside whilst laboring over daily practice, many children, boys and girls, took music lessons.

(I find myself thinking of the Andy Griffith episode when Opie took piano lessons and was supposed to be practicing, but a friend who could already play took Opie's place at the piano so that he could go outside and play ball with his friends.)


As I was growing up I had voice lessons and trombone lessons.

I worked on my paper route and as a babysitter so that I could pay for them.

They were important to me - enough so that I paid for them when I could have spent the money on other things.

They were important to my parents - enough so that they made sure I was at each of these lessons.

They were important to my directors - enough so that I was able to have some pretty significant performance opportunities.

They were important to my career - enough said.

Unfortunately the trend of children taking music lessons has declined in recent years.

However, new research suggests that perhaps there should be a move back to "old school after school."

New research suggests music training as a child can lead to faster processing of sounds in senior citizens.  [Kraus, N., Journal of Neuroscience]

Results suggest music training, far from being an optional activity, helps shape the brain in positive and long-lasting ways.   After a year of training, children who have music lessons are better able to move to the beat and to remember the beat.  This can serve to promote other cognitive skills, such as reading and speech.

Musical training affects attention and memory, which provides a mechanism whereby musical training might lead to better learning across a number of domains. 

The younger children start music lessons, the stronger the connection between the two motor regions of the brain.  Crucial to this phenomenon is the high level of hand coordination involved in playing an instrument.  Therefore active engagement with an instrument, as opposed to passive listening, has proven beneficial in the long run.

Research aside, I heard an interview the other day where the comment was made that there are very few athletes who are active in sports when in their 60s, 70s, 80s, etc.

However, health issues...or death seems to be the only ways to stop musicians.

Just this morning I heard of a 95-year-old man who gave a piano recital.

Wait, there's more...
  • Ned Rorem (topic of a recent blog post) just turned 90-years-old.
  • John Williams, film composer, will turn 82 in February 2014. He has commissions for the upcoming Star Wars movies.
  • Philip Glass, minimalist composer, is 76 years old.
  • Placido Domingo, 72, is an opera singer who performs several times during the week (I follow his career on Twitter and Facebook).
  • Paul McCartney (no description is necessary for him) is 71 years old an still performing for sold out crowds.
  • Stevie Wonder, singer, is 63 and just completed collaborating with Celine Dion on her new album.
I could go on...

The music continues in the lives of these and so many more musicians.

If you have ever thought about taking music lessons, it is never too late.

What's stopping you?

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