study music? There are many obvious reasons that we are all familiar with, such as a deeper understanding of our cultural
heritage, a greater appreciation of art and culture in general, the “Mozart effect” (which claims that music improves
health, coordination, memory, awareness, and the integration of learning styles), and of course, it’s fun!
But here are just a few skills music lessons build that you may not have considered:
- Dealing with
All adults know that pressure is a regular part of our professional lives, no matter what career we follow.
Music students are in the unusual position of having to confront pressure at an early age, and having to confront it often.
And this early exposure to pressure is actually a priceless advantage. Why? Because when these music students are adults,
pressure will feel like a familiar adversary: they will have faced it – and defeated it – in countless exams,
concerts, workshops and lessons. They learn to have it work for them, rather than sabotaging their best. And they learn to
accept it as a natural part of doing things that matter.
- Responding to Criticism (without taking things personally):
Despite music teachers’ focus on the positives, music lessons are often largely about reshaping things that are not
working so well. The end result is that music students learn at an early age to regularly accept advice and feedback from
people more knowledgeable than themselves. They experience first hand the value of implementing that advice, and come back
each week ready for more. In so doing, they learn the power of an age-old combination for self improvement – hard work,
and acting on the counsel of a mentor. Why is the process so valuable? It produces adults who are more willing to consider
the views of those around them, and who will know when to wisely defer to those who have demonstrated a greater mastery of
the subject at hand. They will consult more often, refine their ideas based on trusted feedback from others, and produce better
Music students have a LOT of preparation to get through in order to be ready for
a lesson or recital. Half an hour a day is actually three and a half hours a week. The thing to keep in mind is that there
is no way any student will feel like doing that amount of practice all the time. But when a recital is at stake, most of them
actually do the work anyway. The reasons may not be noble – fear of making a complete fool of themselves is often a
big motivating factor for getting the work done – but somewhere, somehow, a lot of work goes on that the student probably
does not feel like doing. The evidence for this is that despite all our gripes about pupils who don’t practice, most
of our students end up ready for their performances most of the time. At school, projects, tests and mid term papers are just
other performances to get ready for. They won’t feel like working on those either. But as their music teacher, I will
have helped them confront the reality that you just “Do It Anyway.”
- Multi-leveled focus:
the course of even a short piece a child will have to closely supervise hundreds of individual decisions: Which note comes
next? How loud should I be playing? How can I recover from that little slip I just made? How staccato should the middle section
be? How long should I hold this fermata before moving on to the next note? Have I already done the repeat or not? The room
is silent, all attention is focused on them, and all their attention is focused on the moment. It can be quite moving to watch,
and makes you wonder what else these children would be capable of. But what is most exciting is that the concentration exhibited
in the performance itself is actually just the tip of a much larger iceberg. For this performance to occur at all, the same
child had to be still and focused in dozens of lessons and hundreds of practice sessions. The audience never gets to see these,
but we are talking about many, many hours of intense application that would not have happened otherwise. So it’s not
just that they know how to focus – they also learn when. This helps ensure that they can not only deliver their best
when it’s needed, but that they don’t turn themselves into a nervous wreck in the process.
Preparing for a recital doesn’t just happen. It is first planned long before the actual date of performance.
Pieces are chosen, mini deadlines are set, and a strategy for getting it all done in time is established. Quality control
checkpoints are built in along the way in the form of mock performances and workshops. The end result? Very young students
are able to build quite epic events one small step at a time, and become used to the idea that what they do today prepares
them for tomorrow – and sometimes for a tomorrow that could even be twelve months away. I don’t think I need to
list some non-musical examples of how this will help them later, and it makes a lie of the notion that kids are only focused
on short-term gratification.