by Andrea Ledwell
A recent article in the Globe and Mail discussed a study on the possible influence of music on the brain, specifically for problem-solving skills-yet another study showing the positive impact of music in our lives.
This particular five-year study with children showed that keyboard training in music (i.e. piano lessons) improved skills that require mental imagery. The results of the study coincide with recent research that suggests that music is a form of intelligence and not just a manifestation of it.
There are oodles of studies out there and they all come to the same conclusion, music education is a good thing, especially for children.
A brochure published by the Coalition for Music Education in Canada points out the many ways in which music education can enhance people's lives, improving problem-solving skills, memory, concentration and co-ordination as well as developing creativity and self-expression. Studies also show that people who have studied music are more likely to score higher in university entrance exams.
Oddly enough, though, as all these statistics pour in, it seems that people setting school curriculums don't care. Music, like other areas of arts education, continues to be cut, in budget and time, simply because it is not seen as an essential area of study.
If a student opts not to join band in grade seven, it is quite possible that he or she will not have the opportunity to study music past grade nine. School band programs can't include everyone. And what probably happens is that it's the children whose parents are already aware of the importance of a good music education who get a good music education. Kids in band are often the ones who have already been to piano lessons and get taken to the odd concert.
Those who lose are the children who are the least likely to take private music instruction-the children whose parents may not be aware of the advantages their children would gain from studying music.
If only it were a question of desire, and that pointing out the advantages in giving your child the best music education possible, would create the opportunity for that to happen. Unfortunately, it always comes down to money. Private music instruction costs money, and if you are going to do it well it may cost a significant amount of money.
Given the overwhelming support for the value of music in young people's lives, it is necessary that greater incentives exist for parents to give their child music early in life. How about tax breaks for music lessons? Or letting kids use Royal Conservatory exams for credit in high school? How about subsidizing private music lessons for low-income families? And creating a better general music curriculum in the high schools. Why not create more opportunities for professional orchestras and chamber groups to come to PEI? How about classical concerts for school children? Why not encourage parents to take their children to music performances?
It makes sense to me. But then, I took piano lessons.