Music is one of the first things to develop and one of the last things to go. It’s one of the few childhood activities that you can continue to enjoy even into old age. (When you’re 70 you’re far more likely to pick up your guitar than a basketball!)
But even if a student eventually packs his instrument away, music lessons are still a great investment. Not only does the student have a greater appreciation of music throughout life, but music education also has positive long-term effects on a child’s (and adult’s) socialization, cognitive functioning, and emotional well-being.
Learning to play music strengthens the brain—and not just the parts that have to do with listening. Children who take music lessons demonstrate better memory recall and are better able to process language. Studies suggest that playing music actually re-wires the brain, making stronger neural connections between different sections, including more connections between the left and right sides.
And adults can benefit too—learning to play an instrument at any age can strengthen memory and motor skills and keep the mind sharp.
You can learn more about the “fireworks” that go on in a musician’s brain in this excellent video from TED-Ed.
Not surprisingly, the cognitive benefits of playing music often translate to academic success.
Students who take music lessons often have better listening skills and better recall. They master using several parts of their brains at once (for example, they may be listening to pitch, moving their fingers into the right place, remembering the way the melody is supposed to sound, and reading sheet music) to complete a task. Music students tend to perform better in math, writing, and science, and score an average of 102 points higher on their SATs. (You can learn more about specific academic advantages here and here.)
And the effects of music lessons aren’t just a temporary boost. One study showed that the benefits continued years after lessons ended.
The benefits of music, of course, go far beyond better test scores. Singing or playing an instrument gives students a healthy outlet for creativity and self-expression. Music-making can boost self-confidence and be an effective method of stress relief and relaxation.
And sharing the beauty of music with others creates connections with others—whether that’s with family and friends, or the larger community.
Music is part of what makes us human, and it has the ability to inspire, move, and empower those it touches. There’s no time better than now to give your child – or yourself! – the lifelong gift of music.