It’s hard to find a place to begin unraveling the metaphorical tangle of the reasons music is important in a student’s life. That’s why it’s a good thing that it’s summer break and we have more time to sit down and reflect.
As a (nearly) lifelong musician myself, I’ve spent the greater portion of my life trying to put into words what music does–not just for me–but for all those who get to take part in it. How does one describe what it feels like to breathe or what water tastes like? Some things are so naturally a part of the human experience that one is taken aback upon finding out that other people don’t necessarily feel the same way. However, as a student of the arts, and, more particularly, predominantly music, the lessons I learned there have served me well in all areas of my life.
It would be quite the list if I just stated all the things music has taught me–about myself, about the world, about life. It would also be impossible to list out each lesson because these lessons serve me in perpetuity and on a daily basis I am discovering other ways that my studies in music have formed the way I move through the world. For this reason, I am choosing to focus on detailing only the lessons which are universal to all music students here.
It would be remiss to start anywhere other than with the unique way that music teaches us to get in touch with our emotions, to express ourselves, and to experience the world. Music moves us in more ways than science can explain. Core subjects ensure that we are taught the foundations of mathematics, science, language arts, and history. Core subjects provide an important basis of understanding of how our society functions, and lends that understanding to an individual’s ability to navigate through that society. However, it’s not a complete understanding. There are skills that the core subjects simply cannot teach.
Skills like if you want something to look easy to do, you must spend lots of time practicing. Skills like how to listen carefully (invaluable!!!). Finding your rhythm is another important lesson which music teaches. Here’s an obvious one, studying music helps strengthen and develop memory.
Patience and perseverance as every mistake must be fixed in practice or persevered past in performance. The ability to focus is another big one that music develops in its students over time. The brain crosses over both hemispheres repeatedly and simultaneously throughout the music. Studying music is a proven tool to learn how to analyze abstract concepts. It’s also a great way to strengthen the ability to understand intangible concepts and other kinds of abstract reasoning. Music is a healthy emotional, psychological, and even physical outlet. Did you know that the heart rates of listeners either increase or decrease depending on how exciting or calming the music being played it? What a great tool for behavior management! Studying and practicing music is also a great teacher for time management. It takes a lot of effort to figure out how to prepare for the big recital coming up! Playing music yourself can actually increase your brain’s capacity for spatial coordination. Being composed with public speaking is one that is practiced at the start of every performance, audition, and competition because musicians must introduce themselves and the music which they are about to perform. The list goes on forever! But don’t take my word for it, check out all of the fascinating studies on why being a musician makes one a better student.
At the risk of oversimplifying, music is unique because it teaches us those other life lessons that aren’t strictly academic while also making up better academic performers.