Humans of all ages have always been impacted by music and sounds. But the transformative impact music has on children is quite compelling, in more ways than we can imagine.
Child development experts have long recommended that children be surrounded by music in the background, even when involved in activities like studying, playing, or when infants are just lying in the cradle. The effects can vary depending on the child.
Toddlers listen all the time and show us that they recognise many sounds instantly, like voices of parents, siblings, toys, and even theme music of TV shows.
Music in the classroom is a magic wand that can unlock a child’s potential.
“Music should be made an input to education and not an output. Due to my privileged education, I have been exposed to witness how music affects the brain. It can make one intelligent as long as the music incorporation is structured,” said music educator and pianist Anil Srinivasan.
About seven years ago during research conducted while doing his Ph.D., Srinivasan, and renowned Professor Bernd Schmitt, at Columbia University, they discovered interesting facts about music and its subliminal influence.
They experimented with 140 children in 3 steps. In Group 1, no music was played, in Group 2, the ambient background music was played in ascending sequence, and in Group 3, specific ambient music was played in ascending sequence with a progressive increase in the spaces between the notes. A set of names was given to these children and they were told to sort these in any manner that they liked. About 94% of those surveyed did the sorting according to the size of the names!
Music’s Effect on a Child’s Development
It proved that if ambient music can have such an effect on the way the mind thinks and processes information, a structured approach to musical education can have a considerable influence on a child’s ability to perceive and make sense of the world around him. Thus, music is a potent catalyst for a child’s development, overall intelligence, and mental ability.
After further research, they could clearly define the effect that music has on a spectrum of skill sets ranging from memory enhancement to logical reasoning and decision-making ability.
“I believe that change should be scalable, sustainable and lasting. This can happen only if we start at the grassroots level. This is why I founded, ‘Rhapsody – Education Through Music’ in Chennai. Music chose me to be its ambassador. My true calling is music education and awareness not performance which is a gift,” feels Srinivasan.
Rhapsody is an initiative to take music to children through a more integrated approach within and outside school curricula using specialised instructors, syllabus, and methodology that takes the best from Western Classical and Indian Classical Music. Rhapsody is spread across 477 schools where this methodology is incorporated in the school syllabus and is not an extra-curricular activity. These schools are not restricted to the metros or towns but spread to such far-flung areas as to where the teacher rides to school on a horse.
Music’s vital importance in a child’s development and cognitive efficacy is sadly undermined in today’s classrooms. This is also due to the reasoning that music has no career scope in our country. The need to excel academically so as to enable one to land a high paying job and a secure life can also be attributed to this skewed ‘development’ in our education system. The lack of any direct correlation between musical activity and academic potential or promise has relegated music to becoming just a hobby.
“If one wants to create music awareness in schools there are a few important steps that should be incorporated. You need to have a clear-cut pedagogy, teachers have to be well trained, have a methodology that’s understandable and that children will like and which should be effective and result in growth in learning. We engage in concept and academic learning using music but not music education,” explained Srinivasan.
Education through music
Music plays an important role in our daily lives and is an integral part of society’s fabric. It accompanies us, in foreground or background, through the day. Incorporating music with any subject can be a great way to teach content. A boring history class can turn interesting if the same stories are presented in a musical form. Instead of asking a child to mug up mathematical tables, if the same is taught in a melodic way the child may lap it up easily.
We all still remember nursery rhymes while the chemistry table has to be searched on the internet.
Srinivasan has composed a song called ’23 and a half’ which is the angle of the earth on its axis. It’s a geography lesson where children sing the song while playing with a globe. This is followed by a craft exercise and a short theoretical session on the same.
Learning music might not make the child the next musical genius or pop star, but its virtues will surely help the child in every phase of life. Music teaches qualities like discipline, focus, determination and the value of practice, which are integral to success in every academic field. While a child spends 6-8 hours a day on academics, a couple of hours of music a week can do the child’s development no harm.
Music Awareness and not Music Education
The importance is not of music education but music awareness. Unfortunately, our education system and most of society don’t value its importance. School budgets often cut music classes first and have relegated music only to entertainment.
“India’s National Education Policy now cites that art integration is extremely important. The thought is nice but its execution is poor,” said Srinivasan.
Our children will never be able to realise the value of music unless we impart their gifts every day. The need to make them musically aware is imperative and a step in this direction can begin at home. Not everything a child learns is taught at school, most of it is learned at home at the teething age. Growing up around music can only aid and not hamper a child’s development.