Melody Maker

A life reawakened.

Music Lessons

Music lessons enhance everything from vocabulary to life skills

Many studies have shown the benefits of music and music education to the development of the brain. One that was published July 1, 2009 in the Psychology of Music by Joseph Piro & Camilo Ortiz, called "The effect of piano lessons on the vocabulary and verbal sequencing skills of primary grade students," for instance, compared two groups of second grade students over three years. One had piano instruction, and the other did not. At the end of the period, the group that had piano instruction showed better vocabulary and verbal sequencing skills. As the authors explain in their abstract, "Data from this study will help to clarify the role of music study on cognition and shed light on the question of the potential of music to enhance school performance in language and literacy."

I could see this connection at work even in my own childhood, the ways that violin lessons and orchestra helped my mind to feel alive, to grow, to evolve. And my growth as a writer from childhood on, I feel, has always been inextricably tied to my work as a musician. My mom paid for music lessons for both me and my sister, despite the fact that she was, as she said, "tone deaf." She wanted us to have those lessons and the benefits that might accrue from them, and I have been grateful for that gift from her my whole life. The opening chapter of my recent memoir, Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music, looks at those early lessons - at how difficult violin was to learn, at the monotony of learning, and eventually at the gratitude I felt for having had them. Some of the benefits of those music lessons I might never know - but I do know that my life has been richer and more enjoyable for the music in it.

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I have encouraged and offered my own children music lessons, and I hope that this exposure to music will help them in ways I can't even foresee. My son, especially, has taken to music, particularly piano and violin, and it has been gratifying to see him grow and develop in and around music, even to the point of starting to compose and create his own.

And it's been fun, now, to play music with him. To have a bond, a means of expression, that goes beyond spoken language, even as it helps to develop language skills. And it's been good to see my son develop from babyhood into someone who stands on his own two feet; someone who is strong, articulate, and independent; someone who has discovered firsthand the value of learning, playing, and enjoying music.


Vivian Wagner, Ph.D., teaches journalism at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio.


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