School band is often a right of tween passage. With so many possible activities available to tweens, though, deciding whether to pick up an instrument or join the choir can be a tough decision. Learning to play an instrument certainly isn’t easy, for either the child or those also residing in the home, but it can be beneficial. Here are 7 reasons to encourage your tween to either enter the musical world or to stick with their instrument other than knowing the difference between a quarter note and an eighth note and to keep practicing, even over the summer.
1. Music performance can increase math performance.
There’s been a well-documented connection between music and math skills. Middle school students who participated in “formal instrumental or choral music instruction . . . outperformed [their peers]” in algebra according to a study. The student over more than 6,000 students appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Research. The research suggests that, “musicians process music in the same cortical regions that adolescents process algebra.”
2. Reading skills also benefit from musical experiences.
A study in the Psychology of Music showed that students who received musical training had superior cognitive reading skills when compared to classmate who did not have the same experience. Science Daily reported that, “The authors say there are similarities in the way that individuals interpret music and language and “because neural response to music is a widely distributed system within the brain…. it would not be unreasonable to expect that some processing networks for music and language behaviors, namely reading, located in both hemispheres of the brain would overlap.”
3. Playing an instrument increases self-control and willpower.
There’s the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” But what tweens learn from that practice is no laughing matter.
In the book The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg explains that music lessons can be a great way to increase willpower. Willpower is often a muscle, and the more it is used, the stronger it becomes.
Learning an instrument requires willpower. Studies show that having willpower in one area can have results in other areas of life. Duhigg quoted Dartmouth researcher Todd Heatherton as saying that music lessons are important in ways unrelated to creating a good musician. “When you learn to force yourself to practice for an hour . . . you start building self-regulatory strength.” A kid who can sit down play the trombone for 20 or 30 minutes becomes a junior high student who can get his/her homework done.
4. Playing an instrument makes a child well-rounded.
While being well-rounded may not be as en vogue as it used to be, it is certainly not a bad thing. You may not have the next Louis Armstrong on your hands, but that’s okay. Your trumpet player will certainly be able to appreciate Armstrong in a whole new way after a few lessons. Being well-rounded may not be en vogue, but I don’t know anyone who has ever regretted being so.
“The arts are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic…music, dance, painting, and theater are all keys that unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment.” –William Bennett, Former US Secretary of Education
5. Being part of a musical group requires teamwork.
Not all kids are athletes, but all kids need to be good teammates. Musical groups like band, orchestra and choir are a great way to get the experience of working together with peers toward a common goal. It requires patience – musicians in a group can’t all play at the same time, not all instruments can have the melody, and what they produce together is far more impressive than what they produce alone.
6. It gives tweens a sense of belonging.
The need to fit in and to feel like they are a part of a group is particularly strong in tweens. Being in a band or orchestra or choir can help tweens feel more connected to their peers and like they have a place. My daughter was new to her school in fourth grade and playing in the band gave her a sense of fitting in somewhere and a chance to make friends right away. Band in our school district starts in fourth grade and it was a level playing field where everyone was new and not sure how to make a sound, and the honks and squeaks were bonding opportunities.
7. Music can be a wonderful form of self-expression.
Although tweens do very much want to fit in, they are at the same time discovering who they are and how to express themselves. That’s tough at 10, 11 and 12. Where words fail, music can express the intense emotions tweens are feeling, often for the first time.
Does your tween play an instrument? If so, what benefits have you witnessed?
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