As parents count down the number of days until school starts, and kids are bemoaning the loss of their summer vacation, teachers are gearing up for another year of shepherding children through the curriculum. Many parents are faced with the beginning of the year question: should they sign their child up for band or music lessons?
Particularly for elementary-aged children, school is the first opportunity they have to experience music class, and it’s often the first chance to learn to play an instrument. Analyzing both the benefits and challenges associated with music lessons and band can help parents determine if they should say "Yes!" to a year's worth of practice.
1. Music helps across the curriculum.
Numerous studies have shown that consistent musical training helps students prioritize their learning and perform better overall in other subject areas. Learning to read music can help students identify and analyze patterns in math, and an appreciation of the music of other cultures can aid in the study of history. Music is woven into the fabric of cultures and countries, lending color and excitement to studies of different groups. In addition, music can help learners develop an appreciation for poetry and rhyme, extending the benefits into the language arts curriculum.
2. Music teaches expression.
Music has long been used as a means to express emotions and feelings. Teaching children to identify and analyze their feelings, and then express those feelings through words and music gives them a safe, positive way to make sense of the world around them. The soulful tunes of jazz, the angry overtones of rock music, and the lyrical words of a love song are all relevant and effective ways to help children connect with the world around them.
3. Music teaches perseverance.
Learning to play an instrument is a great way for children to learn responsibility. Having to practice their instrument, attend lessons, and work with others who are in a class or band with them can be instructive. Working through a particularly difficult or new concept, memorizing a long piece, and continuing to play even when they get frustrated are all wonderful lessons in perseverance.
4. Early introduction to music lays the groundwork for future musical activity.
Children who begin playing an instrument early in their education are more likely to continue playing later. Even if they choose to play a different instrument as a teen or adult, the basic knowledge of reading music and music theory will help them succeed.
Music is a commitment.
Just like other core subjects that require homework and outside-of-class preparation, music lessons demand a commitment to practice. Attending performances, making time for practice at home, and attending lessons or classes can be a huge investment of time and energy. If your child already is involved in many extracurricular activities, he or she may not have time for another.
Music is an investment.
Purchasing or renting an instrument can be expensive. In addition to the instrument costs, there can be the added expense of purchasing band uniforms, paying for private lessons, and more. The financial burden of paying for music lessons can be costly and frustrating when there is a risk of the child quitting halfway through the year.
Music requires time.
Adding music to an already overburdened schedule can be frustrating. Trying to shuffle school, sports, family activities, and other responsibilities can tax a family's time. Finding an open slot in which to fit music practice or lessons may be next to impossible, particularly if the family has more than one child.
An unmotivated child won't benefit from the lessons.
Parents who are concerned their child isn't motivated to make the most of lessons may find themselves in the thankless role of taskmaster. Some children simply aren’t interested in music lessons, and that’s OK—why not wait a year and see if the time is right then? Trying to encourage, motivate, cajole, or otherwise force an uninterested child to practice his or her instrument can be a waste of parents’ time and effort.
As parents attempt to make informed decisions about signing their children up for music lessons or band, they often have to weigh the pros and cons. In addition to the academic benefits of early music instruction, there are other social benefits that children can enjoy. In contrast to this, music lessons can be costly, time-consuming, and burdensome if the family is already overbooked and overscheduled.
However, don’t be unduly concerned with the challenges. Yes, there are costs associated with music, and it requires an investment of time and effort, but the challenges can be worth it if your child enjoys it. Furthermore, few activities your child participates in will provide such lasting benefits and have the potential to impact their lives in such a powerful manner.