Music education benefits the student beyond just learning to play or to sing. Some of those benefits are emotional expression and satisfaction from making music, brain development, ability to multitask and to concentrate on a specific task, coordination and much more. Recently I came across the article Why study music? by music education professor Donald Hodges. In his article Professor Hodges presents 10 understandings/experiences unique to music. I hope that being aware of the benefits of music education will help students and their parents through the long journey of music studies.
Below is a brief description of the 10 understandings/experiences, presented by Professor Hodges:
1. Feelings – central to any discussion of music as a knowledge system must be the idea of feelings. From one end of the continuum dealing with vague, unspecified moods to the other end dealing with crystallized emotions such as grief or joy, music is intrinsically connected with feelings.
2. Aesthetic experiences – all human beings have a need for beauty and to activate their innate responsiveness to the organized expressive sounds that we call music.
3. The ineffable – precisely because music is a nonverbal form of expression, it is a powerful means to express or to know that which is difficult or impossible to put into words. Two of the most common human experiences that are frequently known through music are love and spiritual awareness.
4. Thoughts – musical thought is just as viable as linguistic, mathematical, or visual thought. It can be a potent means of expressing ideas and of knowing truth.
5. Structure – closely allied to the idea of thinking is structure. The human mind seeks patterns, structure, order, and logic. Music provides a unique way of structuring sounds across time, as well as providing a means of structuring thoughts, feelings, and human experiences.
6. Time and space – time and space are the ‘stuff’ of the universe. All human knowledge systems provide ways of dealing with time and space. As indicated in ‘Structure’ above, music is a means of organizing sounds across time. Although music occurs in ‘real’ time, it deals more with ‘felt’ time. Music, especially in connection with dance (bodily-kinesthetic knowledge system), is a primary means of experiencing space in time.
7. Self knowledge – music’s role in intrinsic, and especially peak (transcendent, life-changing), learning experiences provides for powerful insights into our private, inner worlds.
8. Self identity- many gain their sense of self through a variety of musical activities and experiences.
9. Group identity- group identity through music is both inclusive and exclusive in that (a) music helps cement the bonding of those members of a group who share common ideas, beliefs, and behaviors, and (b) music helps isolate and separate one group from another.
10. Healing and wholeness- from more specific applications of music in therapy and medicine to more general interactions, music has profound effects on human beings. Music provides a vehicle for the integration of body, mind, and spirit.