"Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation." -Dr. Oliver Sacks
How does music positively affect the brain? Let us count the ways! Music and the brain has long been a topic of research, but recent studies zero in on these remarkable causes and effects, especially in early childhood and in connection to language skills. Exposure to music is enormously beneficial in language development because it introduces children to new and varied sounds, and helps with pronunciation, literacy, and even learning new languages. And while passively listening to music can impact your mood, studies show that actively engaging in learning, composing and playing music improves executive functioning skills, the ways in which we relate to one another, and can even increase multi-tasking abilities.
Music also impacts brain structure, especially in children. Research shows that learning to play music in early childhood strengthens the right-left brain connection (the corpus callosum), and with strong neural connections can result in increased cognitive abilities. Another recent study revealed connections between learning to play an instrument and an increase in grey matter in the brain, which also results in more neural connections. In the brain, “these new connections can help enhance intellectual and emotional skills, such as reading comprehension, mathematics, spelling, and listening and motor skills.”
Beyond the science of it all, it’s undeniable that music exerts a powerful influence on our minds. Why does a melody get ‘stuck’ your head, playing over and over again all day long? Or how can a song bring you to tears? The late, brilliant neurologist Oliver Sacks explored these phenomena in his book Musicophilia: how a song gets ‘stuck’ in the first place; music therapy in Alzheimer’s patients, and a 42 year-old physician who was struck by lightning and then became a pianist and composer. He showed the intricate connection between music and the mind.
Here at The Meeting House, we have long recognized the importance of music on children's development, and are excited to begin our partnership with Musicworks to further enhance the vibrant musical component of our programs. Musicworks brings an interactive musical learning experience to students of all ages and ability levels. At The Meeting House, the Musicworks program will integrate music with a number of important social skills such as building confidence, taking risks for success, and providing a supportive environment for social connection. We are looking forward to another year of the “sounds of music” as an integral part of our Meeting House community!