While mankind’s intellectual achievements have increased by magnitudes in the centuries since Plato’s and Socrates’ era, in 2018 we still stand on their shoulders to get our “better view” of the world. In many ways we still rely on their fundamental understanding of the nature of man as we search for wisdom and ideas appropriate to our present situation.
Or, as Dr. John Cuddeback has claimed, “Nothing is said that has not already been said by a Greek.”
Musicians, educators, and music lovers during the intervening centuries have often found these early philosophers’ emphatic insistence on the importance of music in education somewhat curious, if not bizarre. Plato, et al, believed that music not only prepared one’s mind to easily learn, it also trained the soul to seek justice. Music, mathematics, and rhetoric were The three pillars of Greek education. They maintained that music was of primary usefulness, not only to young school children, but also an integral part of training the military forces. In fact, they asserted that music is the highest form of communication.
However, in the Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries, too often music is just considered “nice.” It would be a “nice” addition to the curriculum if the school board can figure out a way to include something, anything, that could possibly be called “music education.” More frequently, it is ignored because “nice” does not compel. In today’s American culture, music education in the early grades appears to be reserved for those who can afford the “niceties” of private schools and/or private music lessons.
But, are we becoming “too big for our britches?” Have we traded wisdom for technology instead of adding technology to wisdom?
In recent years, there have been numerous scientific experiments that support the early Greeks’ understanding of music as foundational to education. Thus, *Andrew Pudewa, Director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, believes music training can be a way to “build more RAM” into one’s brain. One source he cites is a 1997 study on preschool children. Before dividing them into groups, all took the same I.Q. test. Then one group spent six months of keyboard training, while a second group had six months of instruction in singing, a third group received training in using computers, and the last group spent their months in free play. At the end, all four groups took the same I.Q. test again. The group of pre-schoolers who spent six months learning to play music on a keyboard increased their spatial-temporal I.Q. scores by an average of 46%, far higher than the other three groups. Obviously something happened in their brains to make that big of a jump in mental ability. Let me repeat that to be certain you understand: a mere six months of training pre-schoolers to play music on a keyboard increased their cognitive abilities by 46%.
The bigger jumps in mental ability through learning to play a musical instrument occurs primarily in the younger ages. Still, older children and adults can improve test scores by listening to classical music while studying and just before tests. The Piano Guys, who have done much to popularize good music, even offer YouTube videos to accompany study sessions. They call it **The Ultimate Study Music: 90 Minute Cram Jam.
Another source for information about music training – playing an instrument, not just music theory, that is – is a commercial web site for the National Educational Music Company: nemc.com. It offers numerous general interest articles about the benefits of music training for children under the Support tab.
The proposition that was posited by the Greek philosophers thousands of years ago, has been proven in scientific experiments during the last 50 years on people and labratory rats. Thus, we can say with certitude that good music improves mental ability in humans and animals. Some have even concluded that plants are affected by music, but that’s another subject altogether.
The bottom line is that the practice of training young children to play musical instruments is not as wide spread as it should be. Since three to ten year-olds can not purchase or rent musical instruments, employ teachers, or drive themselves to lessons, it is imperative that some adult provide that gift for them. If you, as an aunt, uncle, god-parent, grand-parent, parent, or friend of the familiy, have a young child in your life, please help him take music lessons. That sacrifice on your part probably will not result in a new child prodigy going out on a new concert tour. No. It will be much better than that!
The result will be that all of mankind will benefit from intelligent people growing up to solve old problems, create new techniques to improve life, design better structures, and increase understanding between members of the human race.
Is it possible to leave a more beautiful legacy than that?
Copyright 2018 by Kaye Fairweather
*Pudewa began his career in education by working with Shin’ichi Suzuki and his method of teaching young children to play the violin in Japan and has since adapted Suzuki’s educational philosophy to other areas of education and established the IEW. One may find his speeches and footnotes on this and other scientific experiments regarding music and intellectual development at the website: Institute for Excellence in Writing.
** Piano Guys study accompaniment: