Is the act of being negligent towards a child’s desire to learn music child abuse, or is creating the environment to nurture that child’s desire just a big waste of time? It has been proposed that musical training is the optimal general cognitive training strategy, according to a study on the cognitive and academic benefits of instrumental musical training by Rafael Roman-Caballero. This proposal leads to the idea that being musically inclined could have benefits not just in music but in daily life. Although it seems counterintuitive that creating a musical outlet for all children would benefit their overall success in school and throughout life, it is clear that the skills learned through the discipline and commitment developed through playing music can reap benefits far beyond simply nurturing a passion for music.
When broken down, music involves the development of characteristics like creativity, proactivity, flexibility, and the ability to generate new ideas on the spot. Though the most important characteristic learned from music is know as “Improvisational Thinking”. This is a skill that requires risk-taking, courage, and openness. The most important point is that it can be learned and practiced over time.
The skill of improvisation is most commonly found in music when referring to the ability to create musical ideas practically out of thin air. When considering the notion of creating something out of nothing, distinctions can also be made to many other professions and overall aspects of daily life. Specifically when relating to entrepreneurial ability and developing an “entrepreneurial identity”, according to an article on “Music Education in Adolescence” by Arturs Jefremovs, music education plants the seed for developing the mind of an entrepreneur… or a professional improvisational thinker.
Along with developing the characteristics of creativity, proactivity, flexibility, and the ability to generate new ideas there are also many other qualities that music education develops that are common with entrepreneurial individuals. Such characteristics like creativity, sensory memory, and the ability to work with others are also crucial in developing the mind of an entrepreneurial individual and an improvisational thinker, according to the Sage Pub article. Creativity and having the abilities of a “free-thinker” aren’t the only characteristics that music education helps develop. Also extremely important to such ways of thinking are commitment and discipline. Learning music entails a strong focus on regular practice and even accountability. The skill of discipline is nurtured through a rigorous practicing regiment. If one doesn’t practice or stay committed to their role within any sort of musical endeavor they will ultimately fail. This is also when accountability comes into play. A musician doesn’t only rely on their own skills and talents but also on their peers skills and knowledge of the task at hand. Similarly, not only within entrepreneurial individuals but also within many other professions, individuals are reliant on others to ensure their success within their profession. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Music education doesn’t only have an effect on the development of real skills and characteristics over time, it also greatly impacts cognitive ability and thus academic success. In a study based on the effects of learning an instrument and cognitive ability as stated in article at Science Direct, musical ability has a noteworthy impact on auditory and sensorimotor processes. Also mention in this article at Science Direct are findings that the foundational skills learned when learning how to play an instrument have significant benefits on cognitive skill. The overall process that is gone through when learning, and more importantly mastering, an instrument ultimately suggest how music education is an optimal cognitive trainer. Music is an activity that requires regular and motived practice and, more crucially, the learning of progressively more and more difficult materials and concepts.
The biggest counter-argument that is made toward the benefits of music education is the fact that some children may just simply be more gifted or talented, thus allowing them to succeed not only within music but in other aspects of their lives without having those developmental abilities nurtured through the learning of music. While this proposal may have significance in the fact that those who are more likely to be open to making musical endeavors may have a higher socio-economic status thus allowing them to be open to more experiences and having the preconceived ability of adaptiveness to new tasks, as mentioned in the Science Direct article, it is also important that children who may have that desire are still nurtured and given the opportunity to pursue such endeavors.
Aside from the significant benefits that developing a musically inclined mind through rigorous technical training and cognitive training can have on an individual, it is also crucial to note the undeniable benefits that simply being exposed to and listening to music can have on someone. Most noteworthy are the effects of the enjoyment of music as stated in the article based on how pleasurable music affects the brain in a study by Benjamin P. Gold titled “Pleasurable music affects reinforcement learning according to the listener”. Dopamine release plays a major role in how people enjoy music which in turn creates an opportunity for reward-based decision making to be affected. The ability of musical pleasure to then influence task performance allows for many benefits within music education as well as music therapy. Also important to note is how music affects productivity as mentioned in the article titled “The Science of Music and Productivity” by Sam Kemmis. Relating directly to the dopamine release when enjoying music, by associating that reward based behavior with learning, such as putting a song on while studying or performing various other tasks, one can train their brain to better approach the work. As shown in this study, there is a significant increase in mood, quality of work, concentration, and productivity when performing tasks while listening to music.
Overall, although it seems counterintuitive to make music widely accessible in schools when most kids may not even have a desire to engage in music, it is evident that without music many students’ creative minds may not be nurtured in a way that allows them to be their best selves, cognitively speaking. Significant benefits on cognitive ability and performance from not just musical training but even simply having exposure to music and actively-listening to music while in a work or schooling environment are undeniable.
Gold, B. P., Frank, M. J., Bogert, B., & Brattico, E. (1AD, January 1). Pleasurable music affects reinforcement learning according to the listener. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00541/full
Improvisational thinking. Improvisational Thinking | First Year Seminar | Amherst College. https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/courses/1314F/FYSE/FYSE-111-1314F
Music education in adolescence – journals.sagepub.com. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/09504222211042282
Román-Caballero, R., Vadillo, M. A., Trainor, L. J., & Lupiáñez, J. (2022, January 25). Please don’t stop the music: A meta-analysis of the cognitive and academic benefits of instrumental musical training in childhood and adolescence. Educational Research Review. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1747938X22000057