Imagine a teacher is teaching in a noisy classroom full of bored, squirming kids. She is presenting her lesson but it seems the students aren't really listening.
They're looking out the window at the construction work going on in the street below, sneaking peeks at their cell phones, and discussing last night's episode of Family Guy. All except that ace student, who also happens to play the trombone in the school band. He hears the teacher above the drone of the drill outside, the beeping of electronic gadgets, the adolescent chatter and chuckles of his classmates. He gets it.
That's a scenario that came to mind after I read a Reuter's news article called "Music can boost language skills, improve learning."
The news item was based on an article in the August issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience that explores the link between musical training, the brain, and learning. Research by Nina Kraus and Bharath Chandrasekaran found that music training causes both functional and structural differences in the brain. The authors suggested that musical training helps individuals to be better at detecting and following a voice that is mixed in with other sounds.
Because music training involves pitch, timing, and timbre, and music is auditory, a musician's abilities can help in other auditory areas like learning and listening. The Reuters articles reports: "Children who are musically trained are better at observing pitch changes in speech and have a better vocabulary and reading ability than children who did not receive music training."
The researchers noted that classrooms are noisy; this affects academic achievement. They believe that music training programs in schools can help prepare students for everyday listening challenges.
Since some schools are cutting back on extras like music, it is even more important for parents to step in and give their kids the gift of an instrument and lessons and encourage a life-long love of music. Even if lessons are too expensive, there are ways to learn. There are Internet sites and phone applications that show chords and give lessons, many for free or a nominal cost.
If, as the research suggests, musical training does make better, smarter students, it will be well worth the investment. I end on that bright note.