Music and learning

Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence and where to. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

While the "Mozart Effect" has been largely dismissed, there is a significant and irrefutable body of evidence that music does enhance a child's learning capacity, the "Mozart Effect" aside. Regular music lessons have been shown to improve language skills, speech, memory, mathematics, attention span and understanding vocal inflection. Musical training improves the ability to detect specific sounds, which enables a person to become more efficient at learning language. Children exposed to musical training are more aware of changes in speech which in turn makes them more proficient at phonologic spelling, vocabulary acquisition, and understanding the emotional meaning behind speech. This emotional intelligence may be especially important as social and emotional intelligence are generally considered foundational pieces of human happiness. So how can all children get an opportunity to be taught music? As parents are working more hours and generally making less money, time and money resources may not be available for music lessons. Private music lessons can cost $25 an hour and up and when the financial costs are coupled with the time commitment, the calculus may become untenable. Northwestern professor of physiology, Nina Kraus found in her research children who spent as little as 20 minutes a day in musical learning had significant changes in their nervous systems and more specifically, the way the brain responded to sound, be it music or speech. What is a parent to do that cannot afford music lessons and may not have the time to take their child to lessons? Most schools have music programs that often include individual instruction and there are a variety of musical Web sites that provide lessons on musical exploration and theory. One of the most recommended sites is ToonsTunes. ToonsTunes is aimed at children between the ages of 6 and 14. It is a virtual world where children can explore music, create music and share their musical creations with others. The site resembles other sites that are attractive to children and feature virtual characters like Avatars. Children can explore different rooms and one of these rooms is a music studio where children can experiment with playing drums, guitars or piano and can then record their original musical creations. They accomplish these creations by utilizing the "mixo-matic." This tool allows children to control the beat and the style, rock, jazz, country and western, etc. The fact that music can enhance a child's ability to learn simply adds another layer of satisfaction. Remember, all kids count.

Reach the writer at hurlburt@wildblue.net.

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