How many times have we heard the phrase “A great gift idea.”? This is a tag line that warms the heart of every retailer and every suit on Madison Ave. If we are honest many of these great gifts we were talked into buying wind up stuffed in a drawer somewhere and eventually land in a land fill. What are the goals for these great gifts? Yes, there are the rather selfish aims of making someone like you or easing your conscious because, after all, they gave YOU a nice gift on YOUR birthday and you don’t want to seem like a complete Scrooge, but the ultimate aim is usually to make someone happy or improve their life to some small extent. What if you could give a gift that could make a DRAMATIC – HUGE – MONUMENTAL change in someone’s life? What if you could change their life for the better in just about every way possible? Here are the benefits:
- A higher IQ
- Better grades in school
- Better language skills
- Greater self-confidence
- Higher achievement
- The ability to relax after a stressful day
- Greater creativity
- Better social skills
- Greater self-discipline
- A better over-all quality of life
Quite a pocket full of perks, huh. Unless you just fell off the turnip truck you must be a little skeptical. Here is the qualifier: you can do this for your children, especially if they are young. The gift is the gift of music.
I have been wanting to do some blog pieces on music and its impact on child development for quite a while now (blatant self-promotion – check out my other music education blog on my site at greatviolins.com). My hesitation has been that there is way too much material. There have been dozens and dozens of authoritative studies in the last few decades that have shown the benefits of music to children. If you name any area of child development there has probably been a number of scholarly studies by esteemed universities, done by men and women of many letters offering dramatic proof that children who are involved in the study of music excel over their non-musician peers in that area. I confess that I am not a scholar so my blog pieces may not be as heavily footnoted as you might like but if you crave articles that are suitable for a Masters Thesis you will find no lack of them on the Internet or in the library.
The point is that this is the real deal. Learning about music and learning to play music really does all those great things I mentioned. I don’t think any educator or child development expert, familiar with the findings of all these vast number of studies, could possibly dispute the enormous impact of a music education on children as they mature into adulthood. The findings are so dramatic, so indisputable in fact, that many of those in charge of curriculum our public school have taken dramatic action. They have cut funding to music educational programs (irony drips from his poisoned pen). This puts the onus on loving parents to make sure that their kids learn about music and learn to play an instrument. I know that household budgets being what they are today not everyone can do everything they might like for their children in this area but we can all do something – we just have to get creative. If you cannot afford private lessons right now look into group lessons. If you can’t afford to buy a decent instrument (please get them a playable instrument and not merely a loud object shaped like an instrument) then we should look into renting. Where we put our discretionary cash says a lot about our priorities: motorcycle or music lessons, dinners out or decent instrument. Still, not everything costs money. We can expose them to great music for free on YouTube or Pandora and I mean all kinds of great music – classical, baroque, jazz, samba, folk music, bluegrass… be eclectic. When they are very young we can sing to them and help them learn to sing and dance. This will build their innate musical sense and have the double benefit of helping us bond with our kids. The rewards are all out of proportion to the effort. After all, it really is a great gift idea.