It’s Monday morning. I am sitting in front of fourteen children, all armed with flutophones, all attempting to make beautiful music. Nothing starts a week like fourteen beginning flutophone players; they make such an interesting sound. Could this time be better spent, perhaps by learning some new math skill, or by diagramming a sentence? With most public schools across our country cutting their music and art programs due to budget deficits, I was led to invest an extensive amount of time into research–research regarding the effects of music exposure on a young child’s brain.
I was overwhelmed by the results of my quest. Every study that I read noted a direct correlation between music mastery and improved general academic performance. Here is a brief summary of my reading:
- Music improves cognitive development, especially math and reading skills, resulting in higher standardized test scores. SAT scores of young people who have mastered a musical instrument average 30 points higher in verbal skills and 20 points higher in math when compared to those with no musical training.
- Music enhances learning in other core subjects by improving critical thinking and problem solving.
- Participation in music fosters improved self-esteem, the ability to work cooperatively in teams, and leadership skills.
- Music study and listening improves memory and the ability to differentiate sounds and speech.
- Brain mapping has shown that music builds and strengthens connections between brain cells, while targeting the area of the brain that stimulates spatial reasoning. Both the left and right side of the brain are engaged when a child is listening to classical music or performing a musical selection.
Now that would seem enough of an argument to defend a strong music program within the academic core subjects, but as a Christian, these studies pale when compared to the Biblical defense for music. God has given us a wonderful window to worship, and that window is music. The greatest king of Israel, David, used music to praise his God in victories, to cry out to Him after suffering defeat, to seek His comfort in the valleys, and to confess his sins and failures before Jehovah God. After the greatest miracle in Israel’s history, the crossing of the Red Sea, the people voiced their praise to God through music. Paul and Silas turned a deepest valley into a miraculous praisefest through song. And the Book of Revelation tells us that the throne of God will be surrounded by saints singing praises to the King of kings.
So I have been reminded of how blessed I am; I have been commissioned to arm children with a tool that they can utilize to worship their Savior for many years to come. I will continue to listen to those lovely flutophones, attempt to build strong hand-bell teams, struggle with some young vocalists as they experience the wonder of singing in harmony, and expose those young ears to classical music. And I will encourage you, as a parent, to consider ways to incorporate music into your busy schedules. You can find your own way; I play classical music in our car when traveling with our grandchildren, and I play Mozart at naptime until those little ones have fallen asleep. If I listen at the door, I can hear them humming those now-familiar melodies as they doze off. Just as sports and exercise tone muscles and support a child’s physical growth, music and the arts can support their emotional and spiritual development while equipping them with a ministry tool that they can use into adulthood and beyond.