by Alla Arannovskaya, St. Petersburg String Quartet
A girl is singing “Jingle Bells” out of tune. She clearly does not have a musical ear! And there’s no room for a piano. Grandma lives too far and can’t take the boy “to the music” (a Russian idiom). Moreover, the child simply has no time and is fully scheduled with French classes, Spanish classes, swimming classes, ballet, gymnastics, yoga, chess club, math tutoring…
There’s no way to add music lessons to these children’s schedules!
But there are good reasons to overcome all those obstacles and still teach children music. These reasons should be made clear to today’s parents!
1. To play music is to follow tradition.
All aristocrats, Russian as well as European, were taught music. To play music is glossy, shiny, and chic. The study of music builds one’s character, stimulates the intelligence, and stirs the soul. Music is the apotheosis of civilization.
Duke Ellington started to play the piano because girls always gather around a guy who plays music. And how about a girl who plays Scott Joplin’s ragtime music?
Attention, parents of brides!
2. Music exercises develop willpower and discipline:
one must practice the instrument constantly and regularly-in winter and summer, on weekdays and holidays-almost with the same persistence with which champions train in the gym and at the rink. But, in contrast to sports heroes, piano playing won’t lead to a broken neck or leg, or even a hand.
Attention, strict parents! Music builds character without risk of injury. How great that it’s possible!
3. While making music, children develop mathematical abilities. They think spatially while fingering the right keys. They manipulate abstract musical figures that represent sounds. They memorize musical texts. And they learn that a piece of music is similar to a mathematical theorem in that you cannot subtract anything from it or add anything to it.
It is not a coincidence that Albert Einstein played the violin, and that professors of physics and mathematics at Oxford University comprise 70% of the members of the University music club.
Attention, parents of future mathematicians and engineers! To make music is more pleasant than to solve difficult science problems under the supervision of a tutoring stick.
4. Music and language are twin brothers. They were born one after the other: first, the elder-music, and then, the younger-verbal speech. And they continue to live together in our brains. Phrases and sentences, commas and periods, question and exclamation points, exist in both music and speech.
People who play and sing also speak and write better, they memorize foreign words more easily, and they learn grammar more quickly. Many famous writers were also music lovers, including Stendhal, Turgenev, Pasternak, Leo Tolstoy, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Romain Rolland, all of whom spoke more than one foreign language; and all of these writers recommended the study of music to future polyglots.
Attention, wise parents of future journalists and translators! In the beginning was the Word, but before that was the Sound.
5. Music is structural and hierarchical: major works are divided into smaller parts, which in their turn are divided into smaller themes and fragments consisting of tiny phrases and motifs. Spontaneous understanding of musical hierarchy facilitates understanding computers, which are entirely hierarchical and structured as well.
Psychologists have proved that young musicians who studied with the famous Shinichi Suzuki, even if they were not very successful in developing a musical ear and memory, nevertheless easily surpassed their peers in development of structural thinking.
Attention, pragmatic parents of future IT engineers, systems administrators, and programmers! Music leads straight to the top of computer science careers, and that’s why the Microsoft Corporation prefers workers with musical backgrounds.
6. Music lessons develop social and communication skills. After years of study, a child will become acquainted with the gallant and friendly Mozart, the energetic and athletic Prokofiev, the sophisticated and philosophical Bach, and other very different musical personalities. While playing, a child has to portray these composers and bring to the audience their character, style, emotions, voice, and gestures.
Such children are only one step away from the talent of manager! That’s because for a musician, perhaps the most important skill is to understand people and to use this understanding to manage them.
Attention, ambitious parents of future founders of business empires! Music goes from heart to heart, and the most powerful weapon of a top manager is the disarming smile of a “good guy.”
7. Musicians are tenderhearted and courageous at the same time. According to psychologists, male musicians are as sensual as women, and female musicians are as firm in spirit as men. Music softens manners, but to succeed in music, one must be brave.
Attention, sagacious parents who expect help and support in old age! Children who are involved in music are both sympathetic and patient, and will therefore be more willing to care for their elderly parents when the time comes.
8. Music lessons teach children to turn upon a signal immediately. Musicians are less afraid of that terrible word, “deadline.” In a music school, you can’t postpone an audition or a concert to the next day or week. A musician, like an actor on a stage, learns to be ready, no matter what. A child with such experience won’t fail an important test, won’t fumble an employment interview, and won’t delay preparing an important report.
Attention, anxious parents! Music lessons in childhood mean responsibility and artistry in life.
9. Music classes bring up small “Caesars” who can do many things at once. Music teaches children to navigate in multiple concurrent processes; for example, a sight-reading pianist remembers the past, looks to the future, and controls the present, all at the same time.
Music flows at its own pace, and a sight-reading person can’t be interrupted; he can’t relax or take a break. Similarly, the air-traffic controller, computer operator, or stock broker watches multiple screens, listens to many commands, and communicates via multiple phones simultaneously. Music teaches children to think and live in several directions.
Attention, overworked and tired parents! It will be easier for a child-musician to run on multiple life paths and come in first than it is for you.
10. And finally, music is the best way to succeed in life.
Why? See paragraphs 1-9.
No wonder that the musical past is shared by many celebrities:
The first story that Agatha Christie wrote was about why it is difficult to play the piano onstage.
In contrast, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice loves most of all to play in public in her dazzling concert dress. Bill Clinton is sure that if he had never played saxophone, he would never have become president. Take a look at successful people in any professional field and ask them whether they were engaged in music as a child, even if it was not for long and without much enthusiasm. Of course they were. And we have given you ten good reasons to follow their inspirational example.
If that’s not enough, perhaps our little closing poem will inspire you to offer your children a musical education:
“You make me work so hard,” he said,
“You’re stuffing music in my head.”
“It’s good for you,” his mom replied.
“I hate to practice!” the young boy cried.
The years went by; the young boy played.
His pastimes changed; the piano stayed.
He went along with mother’s plan,
Until that boy became a man:
A man with music in his heart,
Who learned to love a living art.