Early Music Lessons Have Longtime Benefits

kids musicThough developing an early appreciation for classical music in your children may save your sanity on long car rides, putting headphones on a pregnant belly doesn’t necessarily do a little brain good scientists have found. Yet, it appears that the active engagement taking music lessons bestows does, whether they continue with lessons or not.

In some rare good news for the music education crowd who has seen their jobs and funding cut drastically in recent years, a number of studies are finding early music training has a positive impact long term.

At Northwestern University, a study found that college students who had taken lessons in their youth were better able to recognize pitch and tease out particular elements in complex sounds.

“To learn to read, you need to have good working memory, the ability to disambiguate speech sounds, make sound-to-meaning connections,” said Professor Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. “Each one of these things really seems to be strengthened with active engagement in playing a musical instrument.”

Studies on older adults experiencing hearing loss and the study of “perfect pitch” have also yielded interesting results concerning the effect playing music has on brain development, but scientists say they haven’t stumbled on the magic formula to make a little Mozart.

“We want music to be recognized for what it can be in a person’s life, not necessarily, ‘Oh, we want you to have better cognitive skills, so we’re going to put you in music,’ ” Ms. Parbery-Clark said. “Music is great, music is fantastic, music is social — let them enjoy it for what it really is.”

Full story at NY Times.

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