Classical Music and Academic Success

I’ve often wondered, with the research that’s out there, why every parent in the world isn’t encouraging their children to take music or art lessons. I see the research on the news several times a month and yet somehow people believe that soccer is more important than piano or drawing. I’ve asked parents of my acquaintance how they’ve managed to avoid the research, and somehow they just don’t believe it’s true. So I’ve decided to bring together some of the research and let parents decide. And I’m not the only one who feels this way–Norman M. Weinberger does, too:

The problem is that there really is an obligation to share findings and knowledge with the larger community of workers, in academia, education, and ultimately with society at large. I believe strongly that this is a professional obligation. Moreover, it would seem to be a moral obligation. Modern American society does not adequately value educators and researchers or treat them with appropriate respect, but it almost surely supports directly or indirectly (not necessarily financially), to a greater or lesser extent, most postgraduate research activities. On that basis alone, we are all “owed” the findings.

First, I’ve been emphasizing that musical training produces significant physical changes in the brain, and here’s the proof.

Messeli, P., Pegna, P. Sordet, N.:

Abstract: In two experiments, one with instrumental and one with synthesized tunes, 20 musicians and 20 non-musicians were requested to identify popular melodies presented dichotically. When the tempo of the melodies is fast enough to render their identification difficult, a right-ear advantage appears in the former group and a left-ear advantage in the latter, a pattern observed with both types of stimuli. It is suggested that these lateralization effects depend not only on the level of competence of the subjects, but also on the musical features of the stimuli.

For the non-neurophysiologists among us, this means that the brain, before musical training, processes music on the same side of the brain that it processes things like facial expressions; after musical training, the brain processes music on the same side of the brain that it processes language. This suggests a lot of fascinating possibilities: perhaps music consists of language-like structures; perhaps connections for language and music are “re-used”; or some other fascinating possibility. But there is surely a physical difference.

To be continued . . .

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