Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Take Time to Give the “Why”

Children-Dancing-To-MusicI am passionate about what I do. It brings me great pleasure to see students succeed and accomplish their goals, and I’m sure it is the same in your studio. As music teachers, we know many, many reasons why music benefits and enriches the lives of our students and their families. But do they know? We need to reinforce the “why” of what we are doing from time to time, so at my last recital I took a few minutes to share some of these benefits with the students and family members present. The following are the areas I covered. I would love to hear how you give your students “big-picture” motivation.

The Many Benefits of Music
Music is beneficial on many levels. It is the universal language of our hearts. Just like our spoken language, where we learn to read, write and communicate, and appreciate the communications of others, we can learn to communicate in the language of music. This is why the students and I go over and over a concept until it is internalized and fully understood. This is why we listen to great artists of the past and present to learn to appreciate music’s potential and beauty. And this is why I encourage improvisation and composition, so students learn to speak their own original thoughts in music.

Music grows new connections in the brain. Because of the way our two hands are used, playing the piano develops these connections better than any other instrument. Piano study improves math skills, coordination, and multi-level thinking. Students slowly develop independence of the hands, and the ability for each hand to perform a completely different action in coordinated unison.

Studying music develops character. It has been said that it takes 10 years at 20 hours per week to truly master a subject. That’s a lot of commitment and patience, a lot of showing up and doing the work, even on days and weeks you don’t feel like it. That is a lot of delayed gratification. This is why I build in smaller, more immediate gratifications along the way, such as rewards, recitals, social activities, and practice challenges.

Studying music also teaches children how to learn. Through daily practice students cultivate good habits. They learn that if they are sloppy in their practice they don’t get the results they want. Our brain is always learning and looking for the “easy” way out. When we practice mistakes over and over again, our brain learns them very well, and it takes a lot of work to override them with new programming.

Music is also a social activity. Most instruments are played as a part of a group. Piano is unique in this regard in that there is rarely more than one piano role in a musical group, and the piano is often studied as a solo instrument. This is why I take an extra effort to provide social activities within the context of piano lessons, such as field trips, group lessons and performance opportunities, and I encourage the students to see themselves as a part of a community of musicians.

Music is also a gift to be shared. Whole professions are built around the therapeutic value of music. David soothed King Saul with his harp. My students have provided a lot of pleasure to nursing home residents this year. I know they provide pleasure for their families as they bring music into their homes.

Music is also a personal oasis for comfort and expression. Playing the piano can soothe us when life is troubling, allow us to express overwhelming joy and gladness, or even be an outlet for turbulent feelings. It can mirror our soul and help us cry out to God in the language of our hearts.

I am impressed with the quality of the young people I have had the privilege of teaching. They have parents and other adults in their lives who care about them, and sacrifice to give them opportunities to grow and learn. It an honor for me to be a small part of their lives.

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  1. Lisa Ann

    Music is a gift and it’s life too.

  2. Reia Duncan (@reiaduncan)

    Very, very true. I love the “ah” moment when my students “get it”. I treasure those moments. They spur me on to keep teaching/giving/loving. I enjoyed your post – thank you for sharing it with us.

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