“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything” said Plato.
Music has a remarkable ability to affect and manipulate how we feel. Simply listening to songs we like stimulates the brain’s reward system, creating feelings of pleasure and comfort. But music goes beyond our hearts to our minds, shaping how we think.
There is a growing body of evidence among biophysicists that arts instruction can significantly strengthen students’ academic performance by forcing mental ‘stretching’.
Take the ‘five finger exercise’ as an example. Five finger exercises are musical compositions designed primarily to exercise all the five fingers of the hand. Even few minutes of five finger exercises will make functional and physiological changes in the brain. And a year of good training will produce physical and anatomical changes in the brain. The important thing to remember is brain is plastic, adaptable and trainable and amenable to experience and music can help.
Mozart effect is basically “listening to music makes you smarter”. But we need to go beyond this and there needs to be real engagements with music and a lot of it.
Here is a real example of how music is put to use to close the academic gap. Several times a week, a group of at-risk youth in Los Angeles reports to makeshift music rooms at Alexandria Elementary School near Korea Town for lessons in violin or cello or bass. As the students study their instruments, researchers study the students’ brains. They are all participants in the award-winning non-profit Harmony Project, which provides free instruments and instruction to kids in underserved areas of the city if they promise to stay in school. The study has proven that whatever gifts a person has or doesn’t have, musical training seems to be very important, the more so if it’s early.
My music teacher says “music is the best gift that parents can give their child”. The next time you have an opportunity to get a gift, ask your parents for musical training as the gift. In case you already have this gift, go home and thank them today!