March 2012 Print

How Learning Music Will Benefit Your Child

Stephan Tan

There are numerous articles detailing the scientific benefits an individual may experience learning music. Music is an effective therapy for pain, music can reduce blood pressure, can speed post-stroke recovery, and even boost immunity. Music can enhance intelligence, learning, reading and mathematical skills, and can also improve attention and concentration. Music can also improve physical performance such as body movement, athletic performance, and coordination. This is not to mention the education of the passions or the aid to contemplation.

Learning music should be a consideration of any parent for their young children. Since the scientific and intellectual benefits have and continue to be studied by researchers around the world, my purpose is not to elaborate on already existing and readily available information, but rather to offer more practical advice on some direct benefits that learning music will have for your child.

Music Is a Discipline

There are few other subjects that teach the adage that you reap what you sow so tangibly at such a young age. Daily practice is necessary in order to make suitable progress in musical study, therefore routines will be established and each day your child will reinforce not only the material learned at the weekly music lesson, but also a pattern of productive behavior.

Parents often ask me if anyone can learn music, and my answer is always the same. Yes, anyone can learn music as long as they practice every day. I could never guarantee that a child would one day perform at Carnegie Hall, but I could with absolute certainty guarantee that a child will fail without regular practice. Establishing and maintaining this pattern of behavior is difficult, certainly more difficult for parent than for pupil, and many parents struggle to successfully establish this. The ones that are successful in doing so often set out a consistent daily routine where the music practice takes place at the same time each day. Each week students are rewarded and experience positive reinforcement at the music lesson, and they do learn that what has been accomplished has been the result of daily work. If your child can be disciplined in learning music from such a young age, the seed for successful study is planted so young and will bear its fruit at various stages in life.

Music Is a Skill

Throughout the weekly lessons and daily practice that continues on and on, you must remember that your child is acquiring a skill. Through this skill, many doors are open to an individual that would greatly enhance the quality of life of the musician and, by essence, the quality of life of those surrounding the musician as well. It is a skill that will also permeate other areas of personality and development.

From recitals and concerts to other social occasions such as banquets and celebrations, the lives and experiences of friends and family are enhanced greatly by even a handful of skilled musicians. And now consider the service of God. Having been a member of a relatively small SSPX parish for a number of years, I know firsthand that a good musician is one of the most valuable commodities a parish could have. Music plays an extremely important role in liturgy, and the quality of musicians is often a direct correlation on the quality of the liturgy. To walk into a church for Sunday Mass and hear beautiful music well-performed by the organist is truly edifying and uplifting. To hear the melodious strains of Gregorian chant beautifully sung is ethereal and spiritual. To hear a Palestrina motet sung well by the choir brings one closer to God. And when all of these forces combine with the sole purpose of presenting to God the liturgy in an appropriate manner, the faithful are assisted greatly in their spiritual undertaking and God is pleased. No parish can have too many skilled musicians.

Music Is an Art

Music is a communication between composer and performer, and from performer to audience. It is a communication accomplished through a special language fully understood only by a handful. Music possesses that ineffable quality of being able to communicate on a higher level, a spiritual level, to speak from one person’s soul to another. More than just mere communication, however, music is also an expression and creation of beauty. Its highest value lies in leading men to God.

See the intimacy and serenity of spirit while listening to the Adagio from Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. Feel the heroism and nationalistic pride while you listen to Chopin’s Polonaise in A-flat Major, op. 53. Contained within all musical works of art collectively is a wondrous achievement of humanity, a portrait of the human soul, an image, by definition, of God Himself. It is a worthy endeavor to even begin this journey of human understanding even though there is no guarantee of ever completing it. What you give your children is a chance at achieving this sense of fulfillment; you give them at least a chance at becoming the next Horowitz, Heifetz or Von Karajan; you give them a guarantee that their lives will be enriched in countless ways.

But the most important aspect in all of this is that no matter where your child ends up in his or her musical studies, the best and most realistic element you can hope to teach them is an appreciation of good music. Music, good or bad, plays an exceedingly important role in the upbringing of children. Because of the intimate relationship music has with the human soul, it is only far too easy to be led astray spiritually through the fascination of inappropriate music. And once that fascination takes hold of a child’s life, it is nearly impossible to reverse. Far too many children and adults alike do not have a proper appreciation of what good music ought to entail. One reason is that inappropriate music is so prevalent in daily life that it is very difficult to not be exposed to it on a frequent basis. Another reason is that there is a general lack of understanding, education and appreciation of what good music is. And while the former reason is oftentimes beyond our control, the latter is entirely within our control. By providing music lessons for your children, you are starting them on the right path. You are guiding them towards an appreciation for higher things and providing them with a knowledge that will bring joy and fulfillment to them and those around them.