Music Training Fosters Children's Success, by Marilyn Price-Mitchell PhD

Ah, the power of music training!

I was reminded a few days ago when reading a ScienceDaily research article, Childhood Music Lessons May Provide Lifelong Boost in Brain Functioning, just how powerful music training can be in a child’s life.

The article says music lessons can pay off for decades, even for those who no longer play instruments.  Music keeps the mind sharp, serving as a challenging cognitive exercise.

There is a growing body of research that supports how music training nurtures children’s success at school and in life. A study in the journal Social Science Quarterly (2009), Adolescents Involved with Music Do Better in School, found that music training also had a positive effect on reading and math. And it acknowledged that disadvantaged children have less access to music.

This research and other complementary studies brought one community together to foster children’s success through classical music training. Their mission was challenging.  Most of their budding musicians live in poverty, few of their families speak English, and their migrant farming community has been designated a High Intensity Gang Area (HIGA) by the State of California.

The new family-school-community partnership is Youth Orchestra Salinas (YOSAL), also known as El Sistema.  The program on which it is based began more than 35 years ago in Venezuela by Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu.  El Sistema now teaches ensemble music to 300,000 of Venezuela’s poorest children, demonstrating how music training can positively change the lives of a nation’s youth and the communities to which they belong.

Beyond what we know about increased brain functioning, El Sistema is also grounded in psychological theory and research.  Music training teaches kids to believe in themselves and that accomplishment takes practice and patience.  An excellent example of a program that looks through the lens of positive youth development,YOSAL was formed through a collaborative partnership of community leaders, including musicians, Salinas City Elementary School District, Monterey Symphony, Carmel Bach Festival, Rancho Cielo, and the National Steinbeck Center.

The program is demanding. Children attend five days a week, three hours each day.  Participation is voluntary and free for all students. In less than a year after it was founded in 2010, more than 80 children became regular participants.

Enrich a Child’s Life with Music

What YOSAL is trying to accomplish is very important. All children deserve to have music in their lives! If you have children and access to music training programs, encourage your kids to become involved during childhood!  Positive benefits are also gained by taking young people to concerts on a regular basis and exposing them to music at home.

Additional Information

Interested in learning more about El Sistema? Watch the 60 Minutes segment:

“El Sistema: Changing Lives Through Music.”

Photo Credits:  yosal

Published: April 24, 2011

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