Finding fun and development in music

Benefits from lessons reach far beyond the ability to sing or play an instrument

When Independence mom Liz Rush began taking her oldest daughter to early childhood music classes as an infant, she was skeptical her daughter would truly benefit from the lessons at such a young age. Yet within a few lessons, her daughter began to get excited and interact with the music and anticipate what they were going to do next in the class.

“It’s quite fun to watch them develop at that age and see them flourish when music is turned on,” says Rush, who now also teaches early childhood Kindermusik classes. “It’s like a light bulb turns on in their brain.”

Rush’s daughter is now 11 and taking piano and drum lessons. Rush typically doesn’t have to tell her to practice, because she wants to learn to play harder songs and challenge herself. She also has learned if she practices and perseveres, the end result is worth her efforts. Additionally, her daughter has been able to perform in front of groups of people with confidence and has scored high in math and science.

Rush says movement, dancing and motor skills are all an important part of the early childhood music classes she instructs. The classes teach toddlers sharing, listening skills, cause and effect relationships, taking ownership of music and putting names to movements. With preschoolers in the 3-to-5 age range, they work on learning note names and relating that to math skills.

“It’s awesome when they figure out there is music everywhere—at church, in the car, restaurant and grocery store,” Rush says. And even if young children don’t do everything the class does, Rush says they are still absorbing it all and often do the motions and movements later at home.

Rita Scherer, director of the Musik Connection in Independence, also emphasizes the benefits of starting music lessons early.

“It awakens the child’s brain to listening skills, musical skills, vocal skills and the benefits of math and science,” Scherer says.

Scherer also says science shows that music activates both sides of the brain, and when children are exposed to music early when the brain is developing, they typically score higher in math and science. She says birth to age 7 is the ideal time to expose kids to music in order to make those connections in the brain. Unfortunately, because of budget cuts, many schools do not begin offering the opportunity to learn an instrument until upper elementary school, something Scherer laments. She says children are very capable of learning instruments earlier and often find it easier to learn when they are younger.

Various locations offer Kindermusik early childhood classes throughout the metro, and other early childhood lessons can be found in town through Music Together, Music with Mar and the Music House School of Music, among others.

Music also gives children an outlet emotionally when they have had a bad day. Scherer says sitting down and playing an instrument can be a healthy way to soothe a child when he needs an emotional release. “If you can master an instrument, you can master life,” she says.

Independence mom Cynthia Chinnery’s 15-year-old son began taking music classes at 18 months and is currently taking piano lessons. Her 19-year-old son began music classes in preschool and continued in music up into his teen years, learning piano and guitar.  

She believes these lessons have had a tremendous impact on many aspects of their lives, especially in the academic areas of math and science. Her oldest son is now a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to academics, she says her sons have learned to work hard to master something. Recitals also taught them confidence in performing in front of a group of people.

“The focus and discipline that was instilled from a very young age carries on,” Chinnery says.

Through whatever means parents choose, remembering to teach kids that elements of music can be found in everything is important, according to Rush. “I don’t think it’s a 30-minute-a-week thing,” she says. “Music is ingrained in us and around us at all times.”

Beyond the music

The benefits of childhood music lessons are many, and some include:

  • Higher scores in math and science
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-discipline
  • Perseverance
  • Emotional stability
  • Listening skills
  • Motor skill development
  • Ability to focus
  • Increased sense of awareness

Allison Gibeson is a Lee’s Summit mom and writer who enjoys seeing her preschool-age son get excited about music.

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