Music in Classical Education

The Benefits of Music

Music in Classical Education

The Benefits of Music

Written by Emma Foss | 2.21.20

Note to the reader: My goal over these next few weeks is to explain the importance of a musical foundation for young ones from the worldview of a Classical Christian Educator.

Plato once said, “Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace.” This quote will become a focal point when I discuss the importance of music in a Classical Christian education later on. However, I see agreement between Plato’s message and the purpose of this post. Musical training offers undeniable skills and proficiencies, which can be transferred to other meaningful areas of life. This begs the following questions: How is it that the elements of music affect the innermost being of an individual? And how does music benefit one’s personal growth and development?

Music “develops life-long habits of diligence, patience, practice, responsibility, long-suffering, compassion, love, & many other qualities that belong to a person of high character.”

Sandra Yang, “Vanity of Vanities or Song of Songs? 2012

Music “develops life-long habits of diligence, patience, practice, responsibility, long-suffering, compassion, love, & many other qualities that belong to a person of high character.”

Sandra Yang, “Vanity of Vanities or Song of Songs? 2012

Many of my thoughts in this post can be found in the insightful book Raising Musical Kids by Patrick Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh lists several benefits of musical training on the individual. Before doing so, however, he acknowledges the fact that not every musical child turns out to be a prodigy like Mozart. It is not the success or reward of musical training that shapes the individual; rather, it is the process of music-making that develops these qualities.

Some of the advantages music has to offer include:

  • Perseverance
  • Confidence
  • Responsibility
  • Discipline
  • A Love of Art, Culture, and History
  • Teamwork
  • Identification of Talents
  • Using Time Wisely
  • Following Directions
  • Precision and Motor Control
  • Overcoming Fears in Public Speaking
  • Intellectual and Social Development
  • Commitment to Excellence
  • Creativity and Self-Expression
  • Spiritual Nurturing

Although I will take time to develop only a few of these points, it is essential to note the general ways by which musical improves an individual. It is true that liberal arts schools have higher academic achievement and lower dropout rates (Pearson, Bruce, and Ryan Nowlin, Teaching Band with Excellence, 2011). But music, more importantly, “develops life-long habits of diligence, patience, practice, responsibility, long-suffering, compassion, love, and many other qualities that belong to a person of high character” (Sandra Yang, “Vanity of Vanities or Song of Songs?” 2012).

“It is this daily commitment to improve whereby music is able to teach a child the indispensable skill of triumphing over large, long-term problems by first dividing them into small sections and conquering them one by one.”

Patrick Kavanaugh, Raising Musical Kids, 1995

“It is this daily commitment to improve whereby music is able to teach a child the indispensable skill of triumphing over large, long-term problems by first dividing them into small sections and conquering them one by one.”

Patrick Kavanaugh, Raising Musical Kids, 1995

Perseverance, Discipline, and Responsibility

Perseverance is defined as “the steady persistence in a course of action.” As much as we may wish for life to hand over skills, abilities, talents, and proficiencies on a silver platter, the reality is that we must work for them. Music-making is not an easy task. It requires diligence, determination, and persistence. “It is this daily commitment to improve, to persevere, whereby music is able to teach a child the indispensable skill of triumphing over large, long-term problems by first dividing them into small sections and conquering them one by one” (Patrick Kavanaugh, Raising Musical Kids, 1995).

Even though this quote refers to private instrument lessons, it can also be applied in the music classroom. Skills and understanding must be built upon; they do not come all at once. In the same sense, one can not learn advanced musical skills without first learning the basics and progressing step by step.

Music is a skill-based activity with notable outward results and outcomes. Students must push themselves, exercise patient discipline when they don’t feel like trying, and learn how to “divide and conquer” to see growth and success. “By mastering musical skills, through patience and perseverance, a child also develops a wonderful by-product: the ability to work by himself to overcome problems” (Patrick Kavanaugh, Raising Musical Kids, 1995).

Unlike other subject areas, the ability to outwardly observe and hear the development of musical skills make it nearly impossible to just “get by” in music class. Therefore, there has to be effort and diligent pursuit of learning from every individual.

Musical training provides an opportunity for students to develop personal commitment. A commitment to excellence cultivates character and integrity.

Musical training provides an opportunity for students to develop personal commitment. A commitment to excellence cultivates character and integrity.

Precision and Motor Control

I cannot tell you how often I get the question, “Why on earth does my child need to learn how to play the recorder?” My answer is simple: fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are necessary for nearly every activity we do throughout the day, as well as for the development of spatial relationship skills and eye-hand coordination. Kavanaugh states, “As sports concentrate on the larger muscles (the ‘gross motor skills’), learning to play an instrument is the ultimate in the training of fine motor skills” (Raising Musical Kids, 1995).

Commitment to Excellence

Musical training provides an opportunity for students to develop personal commitment, which in turn results in their desire to overcome obstacles, solve problems, and achieve positive outcomes. A commitment to excellence cultivates character, integrity, and principles that should be applied to other areas of life.

A music student is required to practice creativity through multiple approaches in the music classroom: improvisation, composition, and expression.

A music student is required to practice creativity through multiple approaches in the music classroom: improvisation, composition, and expression.

Creativity and Self-Expression

When one hears the word “creativity,” it is difficult to not think of an artist or musician. A music student is required to practice creativity through multiple approaches in the music classroom: improvisation, composition, and expression. When children are taught how to express changes in music, such as dynamics, tempo, phrasing, and articulation, they are learning how to interpret music. In Coram Deo Music class, we spend an entire unit taking the various techniques and concepts we have learned in past units and applying them in our own musical improvisations and compositions.

Intellectual and Social Development

A 2014 study conducted by frontiers in neuroscience found that “musical training results in better achievement in domains other than mere music performance, such as verbal abilities, second language learning, non-verbal reasoning, and general intelligence” (Miendlarzewska & Trost, 2014). This study also proved that rhythmic training will “help to orient attentional processes in time, which implies a benefit for preparation and control of motor actions, and honing of temporal processing of information… These processes are also linked to cognitive functions such as reading ability and attentional focus.”

 

It is hard to overlook the long-term benefits of music education. God has called believers to be “fully equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). I consider musical training just one way to pursue this divine purpose. Let’s allow the power and beauty of music to “fasten into the inward places of the soul,” as Plato so eloquently puts it! Let’s become well-rounded, musically trained individuals who are on our way to becoming “fully equipped for every good work”!

Emma Foss graduated in 2019 from Bob Jones University with a B.S. in Music Education. Alongside CDA, she teaches music classes at The Music Playhouse, as well as private piano lessons. Her musical knowledge spans piano, violin, guitar, ukulele, recorder, voice, percussion, flute, trumpet, and cello. Mrs. Foss believes music is an essential and beneficial part of children’s education. She and her husband Andrew attend Noblesville Baptist Church.

 

Emma Foss graduated in 2019 from Bob Jones University with a B.S. in Music Education. Alongside CDA, she teaches music classes at The Music Playhouse, as well as private piano lessons. Her musical knowledge spans piano, violin, guitar, ukulele, recorder, voice, percussion, flute, trumpet, and cello. Mrs. Foss believes music is an essential and beneficial part of children’s education. She and her husband Andrew attend Noblesville Baptist Church.

 

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!