“The effect of music is so very much more powerful and penetrating than is that of the other arts, for these others speak only of the shadow, but music of the essence,” explained German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, cited by Maria Popova in her Brain Pickings article “Schopenhauer on the Power of Music.”
Explore the following three examples of the power that music can have in people’s lives:
Music Can Make Us Happier
Research from several academic scholars supports the theory that music makes us happier.
Alec Sears, writing for Phys.org, noted that many adults have negative memories about physical education class that involve running laps, playing games of dodgeball, being picked last for teams, and facing athletic underachievement.
However, Sears cited research from education professor David Barney, published in the International Journal of Physical Education, which found that fourth-grade students enjoyed gym class 5.87 times more when they worked out to music. Barney discovered that contemporary music, with between 120 and 160 beats per minute, was the most effective.
“When the music is on, I just feel like dancing all the time,” one female student told Barney’s research team. Another claimed the music encouraged him to work harder.
Music continues to make us feel happy throughout our lives, according to Australian research published in the March 2017 edition of the journal Sempre: Society for Education, Music, and Psychology Research. The study’s authors, Melissa K. Weinberg and Dawn Joseph, found that people who take part in communal music experiences such as dance gatherings and live concerts were happier than people who do not attend music events.
The adults surveyed had significantly higher well-being scores and greater satisfaction with their living standards than people who abstained from music events. The researchers believe that the opportunities to socialize with others in the music community may contribute to the results obtained from the study.
Music Can Improve Life Prospects
Research has also revealed that music can help people improve their life prospects.
Denver-based organization Youth on Record has dedicated itself to working with the city’s at-risk teenagers. The group puts professional Denver musicians in Denver Public Schools to mentor students struggling academically, including refugees, homeless youths, and children from youth residential treatment facilities.
According to the organization’s website, “Through a model partnership that brings together the local music community, public schools, the nation’s leading housing authority, and the philanthropic sector, Youth on Record (YOR) is a powerful example of what’s possible when musicians and non-profit and public sector leaders embrace an entrepreneurial spirit and band together around a common cause.”
Music education classes do not just simply help children; they also see real results. According to data from the organization, 85 percent of students in its programming increased their attendance. Seventy-one percent of students boosted their grade point averages since connecting with Youth on Record.
According to the non-profit Colorado Music Business Organization, “When we first get in there, the students are reluctant to be open and expect us to be teachers not knowing that we’re musicians,” said hip-hop artist Ill Se7en. “By the time we’re done doing the beat production classes, the poetry classes, they are usually really connected and wanting to express more within that art.”
Individuals pursuing graduate education in an online Master of Music in music education degree program may also be able to appreciate the role that music education can play in the lives of youth.
Music can also help people improve their lives when they are much older, as the Rap’N’Radio program at Wandoo Reintegration Facility in Perth, Western Australia, shows. Briana Shepherd of Australia’s ABC News (a government-owned and funded media operation in Australia) reported that this program is a key reason that the minimum security prison’s inmates have reoffending rates of half of the state’s average.
The program involves weekly hip-hop music classes led by local musician Scott Griffiths, known by his stage name MC Optamus. The classes, a joint project from the Wandoo Reintegration Facility and the Central Institute of Technology, teaches residents how to write songs, scratch on turntables, and edit, produce, and record their own music. Griffiths acknowledged the negative reputation hip-hop music has in some sectors of society, but he explained its youth-driven focus and expressive nature resonates with the facility’s young men.
Music Can Improve Cognitive Function
Music is so powerful that it can impact brain chemistry, according to many scientific studies.
Nick Smurthwaite of AgeUK explained the way music therapy has become a key part of the support services for dementia patients. He noted that music, especially singing, appears to unlock memories and boost brain activity, even when a disease such as dementia damages the brain.
“We tend to remain contactable as musical beings on some level right up to the very end of life,” Professor Paul Robertson, a concert violinist and academic specializing in using music in dementia care, told Smurthwaite. “We know that the auditory system of the brain is the first to fully function at 16 weeks, which means that you are musically receptive long before anything else. So it’s a case of first in, last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory.”
Kristine Crane of Williamsburg Yorktown Daily described the impact Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s (VSO) nursing home concerts have made on residents with dementia. The VSO’s violinist Lesa McCoy Bishop told Crane about one patient who recounted his own career as a musician after hearing the quartet play “Servicemen on Parade.”
“He said with great clarity that he used to be a musician,” Bishop recalled. “Then we packed up our instrument cases, I saw him, and he didn’t remember talking to me. For that small amount of time, we had him.”
These special interactive concerts see nursing home residents playing along with the band on drums, tambourines, and other simple instruments.
Dr. April Greenan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that music therapy can similarly help stroke victims repair their brain function in their recovery. Music can help people who have suffered a stroke learn how to talk and walk again as they move forward in time to the beat.
Visit the Kent State University Hugh A. Glauser School of Music to learn more about enrolling in this dynamic online music education master’s degree program to help you learn to use the power of music to make a difference in the lives of the next generation of musicians.
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