Music to Your Mind

Trumpets, trombones, saxophones, and a nice beat. Students have performed better academically because of these. Many researchers say that learning how to play a musical instrument can improve the way people’s brains function. Since people believe that everyone deserves a good education, all students should learn how to play a musical instrument. Right? Playing and learning how to play an instrument can make students smarter, more successful and can benefit them later in their lives.

Playing an instrument can make students smarter because musical training offsets some academic achievement gaps, can enhance their thinking and memory skills, and can reverse the aging effects on the brain. First, according to Nina Kraus, PhD, a neurobiologist at Northwestern University, “We are finding that musical training can alter the nervous system to create a better learner” (Kraus). Is it not a good thing for a student to become a better learner? In her research, Kraus studied children beginning to learn how to play an instrument when they were in second grade. Half the students that she selected already participated in musical training and the other half were randomly picked that were not in any musical training whatsoever. Both have had comparable IQs and reading abilities.

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After conducting the experiment, she found that the children that she selected that had no musical training had “lower scores”, while the scores of the other half that had musical training remained the same, but better scores than the students that did not have any musical training. Kraus’ labs have concluded that students that participate in musical training outperform other students that do not participate in any musical training. Second, in a recent study from Barbara Gray, she states that “older adults that learned music in their childhood and continued to practice and play an instrument outperformed others in tests of cognitive ability and memory” (Gray). According to Hanna Pladdy, an assistant professor of neurology, this is correct. She said, “In childhood, when the brain is still developing, it seems that learning a musical instrument and continuing to play it for at least a decade or more may lay the groundwork for benefits later in life” (Pladdy).

Buzz, buzz, buzz! This is the sound of the brain neurons as they flow quickly through the brain. The brain is like a computer. It is almost like the instrument is feeding the brain so it can grow. The brain smiles while the instrument massages it’s neurons. Lastly, Hanna Pladdy also gathered seventy musicians and nonmusicians aged fifty-nine to eighty. She evaluated them by neuropsychological tests and then surveyed them on general lifestyle activities.

In the end of her experiment, she concluded that “the musicians scored higher on tests of mental acuity, visual-spatial judgment, verbal memory and recall, and motor dexterity” (Pladdy). Playing an instrument can make students smarter in terms of offsetting academic achievement gaps, enhancing thinking and memory skills, and reversing the age effect on the brain. Studies and many researchers have shown and concluded that learning how to play an instrument as a student can ultimately make a better and more successful student. Also, the people that have learned and played a musical instrument at a time in their lives outperformed others that never learned or played a musical instrument in terms of mental acuity, visual-spatial judgement, verbal memory, recall and motor dexterity. Learning and playing a musical instrument is, afterall, a valuable tool for forming a successful brain. In spite of the compelling evidence and research that shows the appreciable effects that playing a musical instrument has on students academically and in the functioning of the brain, many families dictate that buying a musical instrument for their child is too expensive and is then not worth purchasing.

Yes, there are some families that can afford to actually purchase an instrument for their child; however, there is another way that families can get a musical instrument for their child. They have the option of renting an instrument. According to Amy Clement, a band director at North Gwinnett Middle School, “instruments do not have to be purchased, they can be rented from local music stores that have rent-to-own programs. The rent-to-own programs let the students try out the instrument that they are interested in for three-to-five months without having to pay a fee each month. If the student ends up not liking the instrument after the few months they tried it out, they can give it back to the local music store free of charge” (Clement). With renting an instrument, families can easily get an instrument for their child, since it is cheaper than purchasing and owning one.

Renting an instrument enables students to participate in musical activities in school and will therefore allow them to perform better in school from playing and learning an instrument. Playing an instrument can make students smarter, more successful and can benefit students later in their lives. Also, learning and playing an instrument can benefit the performance of the brain in terms of enhancing thinking and memory skills, offsetting academic achievement gaps and reversing aging effects on the brain. The researchers Nina Kraus, Barbara Grey, and Hanna Pladdy have proven all of these to be true. With their research, playing and learning a musical instrument can make students perform better academically, can keep the brain from slowing down from ageing and can help students perform better to get a good education.

All students from all walks of life should play and learn an instrument to get a good education that everyone deserves.