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Music powerfully influences education and brain development.
(photo courtesy of Spokane Youth Symphony)

  • Compared to non-musicians, kids who “take an instrument” score higher on the SATs (57 points higher on the verbal section and 41 points higher in math), have significantly higher grade-point averages (3.09 versus 2.44 on a scale of 0 to 4), and are less likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or experiment with drugs.  Unfortunately, one Gallup poll says that less than half of all kids stick with music long enough to reap the rewards of the “music lesson effect.”  Playing an instrument reshapes the brain and improves vocabulary development. 
  • Music can shift the dynamics of a child's life.  It teaches students patience, perseverance, commitment, persistence, discipline, focus, how to manage time, how to be productive, how to excel, the ability to understand themselves and the ability to collaborate well with others.  They learn languages more easily, and the skills they will need for success in school and in life.  Studying music can help children dial back the stress in their lives.  Music opens doors.  It teaches them that hard work can lead to being good at something.  Music teaches students to communicate with dignity, grace and power. 

    The more years a child spends studying music, and the more hours they spend practicing, the more their brain and nervous system structurally change, and the more connections are built.  They actually process faster.  The Los Angeles program Harmony Project exists to provide access to sustain high quality music education for kids who would ever otherwise be able to afford these lessons.  Dr. Martin says that 100% of Harmony Project students go to college, in spite of the fact that these students come from the most disadvantaged families in L.A., live in L.A.'s gang reduction zone where there is 400% more gang violence than any other location in L.A., and schools have a 50-70% dropout rate.   (Dr. Margaret Martin, Harmony Project, Turning Point, BYU-TV, January 24, 2016) 
  • Many children will come out of their shell when singing. 
  • Music is Powerful.  Michael Ballam, who holds a PhD in Music History from Indiana University, is recognized as an authority on the effects of music on the brain.  He teaches the following:  
“Music is important in children’s brain development.  ACT test scores are significantly higher among music students.  High school students involved with music have higher grade point averages than those who are not, and music majors in college have the highest rate of admittance to medical school. 

“Music requires the brain to format itself.  It requires both hemispheres to be utilized at the same time.  It requires incoming data to be put in an organized fashion.  Music forces that formatting process to happen, which means that everything from that point forward is going to be more productive.  So, the students who play in the band, sing in the chorus or play in the orchestra are going to do better in math, history and English. 

“Music is powerful, and can shape children for the rest of their lives.  When you look at a word, you only have to know the word.  But, when you look at a note, you have to know the pitch, the rhythm, where to put your finger down on what string mechanically.  Music asks the children to process this all at the same time, which also develops the processes of the brain.”  - Michael Ballam
  • Order is the answer.  That word runs the universe, and music is the most orderly thing in the universe.  It takes time, space, vibrations, and puts it in an orderly fashion, better than anything else.  Music can be used to teach students how to read, spell, and count.  Music is a natural vehicle to organize things in your mind, making information easier to recall.  Music can be a teaching aid to help children learn.  (Remember:  “School House Rock’s “Conjunction Function” and “I’m Only a Bill on Capitol Hill,” “50 Nifty United States,” and the “Alphabet Song?”)  Music motives students, and helps them remember the information they memorized. 
  • Every student and teacher learns music.  Marilyn Phillips, Principal, Jackson Elementary School, stated the following:
“A music program was initiated in Jackson Elementary School, which is located in a high crime area of Salt Lake City.  The program required every child and teacher to begin learning music.  The children came from all over the world; some of them homeless, some with parents in jail, and a few who didn’t speak English.  Since starting the program, incidents of truancy, burglary and vandalism at the school all declined.  Students can find a place in music where they can feel successful, giving them the confidence that they can also be successful in other subjects and all aspects of their lives.”  
  • It matters a great deal what kind of music children are exposed to.  Children hear a great deal of music in a subliminal way, as background to every TV show and movie they see.  However, classical music takes them up many levels from what they are used to hearing.

What You Can Do
  • View the many music venues in Spokane (opera, jazz, symphony, blues, and more) on our site. 

  • Teach children to play, sing, appreciate and enjoy good music. 
  • Teach music lessons to children, especially those in low-income areas. 

  • Help make music education accessible to every child. 
  • Donate musical instruments to schools or low-income children. 

  • Invite high school band or orchestra students to show their instruments to children and parents at local events (like Valleyfest), to interest students in taking band/orchestra in school. 
  • Join a choir or musical group, and perform to inspire others. 
  • Entertain the sick or lonely with good music.
  • Perform patriotic/armed forces music for veterans. 
  • Sponsor a concert to benefit a charitable organization. 
  • Speak out at school board meetings when arts and music funding (often the first to be cut) is reduced or eliminated.
  • Protect yourself and others from a preventable, permanent hearing loss. Young people who listen to music at high volumes damage their hearing.  An estimated 5.2 million U.S. children, age 6-19, have hearing loss in one or both ears because of noise. (2001 Pediatrics Journal) 
Learn More About Hearing Loss.  The most common cause of hearing loss in the U.S. is noise exposure, especially repeated, prolonged exposure.  Read more about noise and other issues related to your hearing at:

http://www.audiology.org (American Academy of Audiology)

http://www.asha.org (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association)
http://www.betterhearing.org (Better Hearing Institute)

http://www.listentoyourbuds.org (Listen to Your Buds campaign)

http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders). 

What Parents can do
  • Both parents and kids must be ready for music lessons, as parents must be very supportive, sensitive and be able to persevere without being overbearing.
  • Fit the instrument to the child.  Kids younger than 10 do best with the piano, recorder, or Suzuki-method training on a pint-size violin or cello.  After age 10, kids are big enough and have the dexterity (and lung power) to play a wide variety of band and orchestra instruments.  It’s important to give a child a big role in choosing an instrument.
  • Take your child to concerts—both those by fine artists and by children at local music schools—to see and hear the instruments.
  • Pick a smart lesson style.  If your child is sociable and outgoing, he may thrive in group lessons rather than one-on-one sessions.  If he needs help focusing, individual study may be best.
  • Interview teachers, ask for credentials and references.  Ask if he/she is a nationally certified teacher of music.  This credential means that they have a level of proficiency in music theory, history, performance, and teaching children—which is a good starting point.  In addition, discuss how much daily practice the teacher expects from a student of your child’s age and experience.  Ask to sit in on a lesson with a current student, or talk with a student’s parents.  Look for the kind of rapport the teacher has with students, if he presents the material well, makes good use of lesson time, and asks for lots of student interaction.
  • Look for many chances to shine.  Ask prospective teachers if they offer experiences beyond weekly lessons, such as informal performances, recitals, monthly group activities, competitions, or festivals.  Students need to work toward musical goals 5 or 6 times a year—not just practice.
  • Support daily practice.  Nagging will backfire.  Create a distraction-free music corner in your home—away from TV, computers, and ringing telephones.  Your child’s instrument, chair, music stand, and books should be within easy reach.  Then, sit down with your child each week to review his schedule and identify a practice time each day.  You will need to remind younger kids to practice, but you should encourage older ones to keep track of time and start on their own.  If your child is younger than 10, stay in the room during practice sessions, offer sincere, specific encouragement and praise rather than criticism.
Local Organizations
Additional Resources

  • Spokane was the home of Bing Crosby, a famous singer and actor.  The Bing Crosby Theater is a performing arts theater located in Spokane, that was designed by theater architect Edwin W. Houghton.  The theater was origianlly built in 1914 as an 800-seat movie theater called Clemmer Theater. 
Bing Crosby Theater
901 W. Sprague Ave
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 227-7638