My parents forced me to learn the flute when I was young. I say ‘forced’ – I probably had some initial excitement at the thought of learning a musical instrument, but after dragging myself through year after year of scales torture, exam anxieties and weekly lessons, the overwhelming feeling upon emerging was one of exhaustion rather than satisfaction.
It turns out that I have a lot to thank them for.
Recent research has discovered that learning a musical instrument can do wonders for developing brains, with links to a whole raft of significant improvements from long-term memory, reaction times, mental alertness and an increase in the wiring between the hemispheres of the brain. Other studies show that even 14 months of musical training for children is enough to make a difference. You can check out this short TED Ed video ‘How playing an instrument benefits your brain’ for an animated explanation of the process. Children can benefit from exposure to music even before they can walk or talk. It is never too early to start!
It is hard to overstate the implications that simply learning an instrument can have on our mental abilities. In fact, far more effective than brain games or other ‘brain training’ activities, the complexity that music offers allows us to make connections between concepts, multitask more efficiently, learn to read faster and respond more quickly to speech sounds. If you missed out when you were young, don’t worry, the benefits don’t cease just because you start later in life. Playing an instrument helps your brain stay agile and decreases the effect of aging, and it can even help speed up recovery from a stroke.
At Belgrave Heights Christian School (BHCS), we place a high value on music. From the constant accompaniment of our talented musicians at our assemblies, events, productions and Celebration Nights, we also offer individual instrumental options to our students. Thanks to the expertise of Darryl Thompson, we run a vibrant Year 7 Music Program that allows students to discover their talents and giftings in a variety of instruments. In Senior School, students can choose to expand their musical aptitude through our VET program. Music is such an important part of who we are and it connects us in wonderful ways.
If you haven’t yet invested in any musical training for your kids, don’t worry. All the benefits are merely a click away with the huge range of exceptional apps that offer at home training. Our family has become enamoured with the Yousician app – a user-friendly program that offers real time feedback and tailored lessons in guitar, piano, bass and ukulele. You can find a list of other great app options in this article, and the best part is that most of them are free! We have found that our kids beg to practice playing (something I never remember doing) and we hope that the program will be a great supplement to individual lessons down the track.
So, if you are weighing up whether to crash in front of Netflix tonight, or dust off the guitar… maybe it’s time to rediscover some hidden talents of your own – experiencing all the joy that music can bring, while engaging in some super-powered brain training the whole time. Who knows, maybe your example could also be the key to helping your kids embrace the wonders of music?
Now, excuse me while I go and offer a well-overdue ‘thank you’ to my own parents – who supported me and encouraged me through all the ups and downs of musical training all those years ago.