Gary W. Moore: Is music education really important?
When I was 10 years old, I joined our local community drum and bugle corps. It was love at first sight. The Kankakee American Legion Post 85 gave me a drum to play, put a uniform on my back and while I didn’t realize it at the time, it changed and enhanced the course of my life. I made lifelong friendships and had a lot of fun. I loved baseball but wasn’t very good at it, but with two wooden sticks in my hand, I excelled. The experience gave me confidence, gave me discipline and made me part of a team. I didn’t know it at the time, but the exposure and training raised my IQ and made me smarter.
A few months later, I signed up for grade school band. Mr. Daniels looked at me and said, “This young man is a baritone player.” I almost broke out in tears, but quickly pulled a pair of Ludwig 3S drum sticks from my back pocket and started playing paradiddles on the lunchroom table. The aging grade school band teacher’s eyes widened, looked at my mom with surprise and asked, “Where did he learn this?” Mom responded, “At the American Legion.”
I later learned there was a discussion between the band director and my parents that expressed the music educator’s confusion about what to do with me. I was far advanced in skill over the other beginners. He then pulled out a piece of music and asked me to play the beats on the page. I had no idea what I was seeing. No one had ever taught me to read music. So, he placed me in with the beginners and taught me to read music. At 10 years old, between my school band and the Challengers Drum & Bugle Corps, I began my love of music that still serves me today. If not for the likes of Mr. Daniels, Lloyd Higgerson, Doug Lindt, Paul Wojtena, Earl Morin and Don Warren, I really don’t know where I’d be. I am certain I wouldn’t be writing this column, wouldn’t have written three books, wouldn’t have met my wife, wouldn’t have had these three incredible kids and two amazing grandkids. How does this all tie together?
Read on …
There have been numerous university studies extolling the benefits of playing a musical instrument. Some focus on quality of life, some on success and others on intelligence. I remember my high school principal saying, “The smarter kids gravitate to band, orchestra and chorus. He was wrong. The band, orchestra and chorus took average kids and made them smarter and there is evidence.
A recent study at the University of Zurich, once again, verifies the results of numerous other studies. Playing a musical instrument increases IQs and makes a child smarter. A psychologist at the University of Zurich, Lutz Jancke, writes, “Learning a musical instrument shows documentable results that increases the IQ in children and adults up to seven points.” The list of studies is long and distinguished. The University of Zurich results are the same.
In this era of higher taxes, increasing scrutiny is focused on school budgets. Unfortunately, the first cuts made often are in band, orchestra and chorus. The facts show the lunacy of cutting music, but cutting any sport is similar to killing a sacred cow. Of course … sports are important. I’m not suggesting otherwise, but years of evidence show cutting school music programs to save money is similar to trying to stop a clock to save time.
Learning to play an instrument isn’t only for the young. Jancke writes, “We found that even in people over the age of 65, after four or five months of playing an instrument an hour a week, they also experience strong changes in their brain. The parts of the brain that control hearing, memory and the parts that control the hands, among others, all become more active. Essentially, the architecture of the brain changes.”
Music is important to the young and old. Music education in schools is essential. Music educators changed and enhanced my life.
As many are reading this, they are wishing they would have learned to play an instrument. It’s never too late! Do your brain a favor. Pick a musical instrument and take a few lessons. You’ll be happy you did.