All around us, there is music, whether it’s classical music played by an orchestra or the songs we hear on the radio. Music makes us move our bodies, swaying to the rhythm and singing along. However, music isn’t just to entertain; it can make you smarter and healthier.
I’m not saying that you will get smarter by simply plugging into your iPod. Ani Patel, a professor of psychology at Tufts University, does say that learning to play a musical instrument has its impacts on certain abilities, like “speech, perception, the ability to understand emotion in the voice, and the to handle multiple tasks simultaneously” (2). There is a new field of study called music neuroscience, he says, where people, mainly students, are taught to play a musical instrument. Then, they are measured to see the changes in their perception. Through these studies, scientists are able to answer basic questions about the workings of the human brain.
When was this even thought of? Well, it started around 2000, spreading across the globe. Schools are starting to implement this study into their own curriculum. One perfect example is the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston, Massachusetts. The head of the school, Diana Lam, states that the music program is part of the core curriculum, unlike other schools, which consider it a separate part of the education program. In several public schools, there are music programs being eliminated due to budget cuts. In Conservatory Lab, they have a new program called El Sistema, a Venezuelan music program, as well as a project-based learning. Lam saw that test scores increased dramatically since this programed was applied.
A lot of people know that music is beneficial to the brain, but not many people why. There were previous observations that led to the thought that music was training the auditory system, which helps with “language, reading, and other academic skills” (2). Later on, neurologist Nadine Gaab concluded that musical training helps executive functioning skills, which in turn helps academic skills. Several tests were performed to prove this, including a test called the “neigh-froggy” test (odd, I know, but it works). Although scientists are unsure whether its the musical proficiency helps executive functioning skills or vice versa, they are 80% sure that it is the former.
Now you’re probably wondering why I went to such a long explanation for a simple idea. That’s where I get to say that this isn’t all that simple. This research is still in its process and everyday, scientists teamed up with musicians find more uses for music apart from playing in concert halls. Recently, they have found that music can become medicine. Not the syrupy, cherry-tasting like medicine, but it has its ways to help in therapy. Organizations have made their marks all over the world, including one non-profit organization: Music is Medicine (MiM). Founded in 2008, sisters Leora and Ariela Friedman wanted to started a movement where “musicians can give their music back” (1). It ties musicians and hospitals all across the United States, enabling patients to feel happy in their hospital beds while listening to songs that were written just for them. Along with singer-songwriter Drew Seeley, MiM has given another reason to have music in our lives, not only as entertainment, but as medicine and inspiration to do more.
“The Artist and Patient Get to Know One Another, the Artist Writes a Song for the Patient, and the Artist Premieres the Song for the Child! And You Get to Hear It, Too.” Music Is Medicine. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.
Hicks, George. “How Playing Music Affects The Developing Brain.”CommonHealth RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.