Yet another report on the benefits of early music training

Another cycle ends and begins…around the country, there is still the sound of bass drums, trumpets, and piccolos wrapping up another session of “band camp”; and, while this isn’t the case for every school, many of us are holding on to the thread of a music department or program we may still have. For me, I begin another chapter, starting the school year with the 1st-5th graders! WOW! “Hello, Everybody, Yes In Deed…”

I recognize that for many schools and districts around the country, there is no formal music time at elementary schools. Whether it was a budget reduction action or it was to make room for more so-called intervention for math or language skill development, the reduction of early grades music seems normal to hear.

In the August 21, 2012, Los Angeles Times Health section, Melissa Healy reports on a recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, which acknowledges how even as little as two or three years of instrumental music training in elementary or middle school positively affects development beyond those two or three years. The result? The extra musical benefits (Kindall-Smith, 2010) include heightened skills, such as attention, organization, and short term memory, which correlate to improved academic development. Seems like folding in instrumental music would be a wise addition to the so-called intervention strategies.

As exciting as this new year can be – and I’m fortunate to be in a district with, at least, general music each week – I am nostalgic and saddened that we do not formally offer instrumental music for our elementary students. I am working to provide enrichment opportunities for my students, while working with a team of others to provide opportunities for more students throughout the district. It seems like the time is ripe for thinking outside of the system, for going along a different path to get the closets full of instruments into the hands of the younger students…

Healy, M. (2012). Mental benefits of music lessons echo years after practice ends. Los Angeles Times, August 21, 2012.

Kindall-Smith, M. (2010). Is there musical meaning in the musical? Music Educators Journal, 96 (3), pp. 35-38.


About mundyviar

Basil Mundy Viar, III, is a newly relocated music teacher in the Palm Springs Unified School District of California, USA. For the past 18 years, he served the students and families within the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. In this role, he discovered the need for a reevaluation of the roles, purposes, and directions of scholastic music in a changing community and in a changing economy. The direction of his doctoral work was largely influenced by this experience. He researches the attitudes, levels of satisfaction, and lifelong learning effects of music training both inside and outside of the traditional school experience, with an eye on the roles that community based organizations may play in this. Prior to his assignment as a public school music teacher, Dr. Viar served as a Program Director for the Blue Devils, an internationally revered youth organization dedicated to performance excellence, also based in Concord, California, USA. During his time with the Blue Devils, the "B" Corps was reinvigorated and performed with renewed excitement, proficiency, and levels of success. Under Dr. Viar's guidance, BDB performed in the 1997 Drum Corps International World Championships in Orlando, Florida, and the 1998 World Marching Band Festival in Kanagawa Prefecture Japan. Basil Mundy Viar, III, is a graduate of the Transformative Inquiry Department at the California Institute of Integral Studies (PhD) in San Francisco, California, USA. He earned a Master of Arts degree in Education from the University of California, Berkeley; Single Subject Teaching Credential from the Bay Area College of Chapman University in Orange, California; and a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Community and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University of Richmond, Virginia, USA.
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