I started learning how to play guitar at a time in my life when I was failing math badly. Picking my way through the notes and songs was hard, but I liked it. The challenge was welcome, and it made sense, unlike math. As I learned to read the notes, I found there were music sheets available with visuals to help me through, and although I struggled to tune my guitar by ear, my music teacher showed me the tools available that compensated for it. I could still be a guitar player with them, unlike the mathematician status I felt I would never achieve. At a time when I was down on myself, it felt good to remember I could learn things that were challenging. While I stopped my math education a year later, I continued with guitar lessons and playing at home.
Music has a way of connecting people, and I made great friends while travelling and attending university over a guitar. And when I moved away from home to pursue my teaching degree, playing my guitar helped fill the evenings alone before evenings out with new friendships took over.
As I got older and busy with my career and babies, I put down my guitar; I set it aside and forgot all about it, but a few weeks ago when we were packing up the house, I found it again. I opened my case, tuned the guitar and strummed. My sons were like magnets to me, impressed with my abilities and surprised to learn their mother could play. I was surprised too. My fingers remembered the chords and simple songs from a decade ago.
Both my sons love music. They attended local music classes when they were babies; we still listen to the music from these classes while driving in our car. Our family regularly has dance parties, and we all love to make up songs. As my usually boisterous children snuggled up close to me to listen to the guitar and then almost reverently held it their laps, gently taking turns, it reminded me how good music education is for children. And as an elementary teacher, I've seen the benefits of a music education firsthand, but unfortunately in most schools, music class is only a few times a week.
Four Benefits Of Children's Music Education
The Royal Conservatory put together an overview of the current neuroscience research regarding the correlations between children's development and music education and they noted, “Research is showing that learning to play an instrument leads to changes in a child’s brain that make it more likely they will reach their full cognitive and academic potential.”¹ You can read the complete report here, but below are some of the key findings that stood out to me as an educator and mother of two young children:
Increased Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Playing music improves a child's ability to listen to and pick up nuances of speech which is the way something is said and the emotions behind the words; this is an essential element in developing emotional intelligence, which helps them thrive in their relationships.
Gains In Speech and Reading: Children with musical training have better phonological skills that help them learn to read faster.
Improved IQ, Memory, and Focus: People who are musically trained show better working memory and improved focus and attention due to the significant level of concentration and attention learning to play an instrument requires. Researchers have also linked musical study with increased IQ levels compared to other practices of the arts.
Life-long Health Benefits: Research is beginning to show that musical education throughout one's life brings health benefits such as improved cognitive function, the delay of dementia onset, and even support the hearing loss in older adults.
After picking up my guitar a decade later, I'm inspired to nurture my children's interest to learn to play an instrument. I know that they'll enjoy getting a general music education from school but rather than have them wait until middle school to learn to play, I'd prefer them to reap the benefits of musical training while still in early childhood.
Getting Started With Music Education
It can feel pretty complicated to know where to start when beginning a new activity so I'm glad that the Royal Conservatory has the National Music Teachers Directory to help me find a teacher for my children. You can find a teacher by discipline and geography and then narrow the search down further to private studios or music schools. No matter who you choose to work with, each teacher is committed to following the Royal Conservatory's system of music study and assessment so even if you move and switch teachers, there will be continuity. You can see where music teachers are located in your area by visiting the directory. And what I really appreciate are the questions to ask a potential educator along with the suggestion to set up a trial lesson to be sure that the teacher and my children are a good fit.
I'm already daydreaming of jamming with my sons in our little family band.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Royal Conservatory. The opinions and experiences are as always, my own.