I don’t need science to tell me that music education is good for the brain. And I don’t need science to tell me that children thrive when they are exposed to music. However, I do love it when science tells me what I already know! Music is good for the brain. Recent scientific research summarized by the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) has proven that music education leads to stronger neural connections, more grey matter, better information processing, higher IQ, better memory and attention and better motor coordination.
Now, I cannot claim to be a piano virtuoso or a polished soprano, but I did sing in choir, and I took piano lessons all through elementary and high school. The fine arts were never my strength nor my passion, but I am confident those musical experiences were instrumental (pun intended) in shaping my young brain. I can still picture the home of my first piano teacher, and I remember how proud I was to learn my first scales. My high school choir teacher was also my English teacher, and likely a big part of why I now write for a living. Not surprisingly, language and music are intrinsically linked:
“Studies have shown that musically-trained children have better phonological skills, which can help them to learn words faster, develop a richer vocabulary, and learn to read sooner.”
I actually wonder if the fact that my children have been learning two languages from birth might help them when they start formal music lessons!
While I don’t have much musical prowess to pass on through my genes, my husband has some skills that I look forward to him sharing with our children. Just like how he can say something profane in a dozen languages, he can also pluck or tap out a melody on a handful of instruments: a bit of piano, a touch of violin, a hint of guitar and even some harmonica. He’s one of those people who can just pick up an instrument and play a tune. When we met in university, he was taking violin lessons. (He missed a few because he was busy dating me!) One of the reasons I think I didn’t really commit to music lessons in my youth was that I didn’t have anyone else making music in my immediate entourage. I’d love to take up piano again as an adult—and my husband should have time for the violin now that he’s finished courting me—so maybe the whole family should sign up for lessons! My four-year-old is currently really into family jam sessions, in which we all pick up a toy instrument and dance and play along to the beat of one of his favourite songs. For the record, he can already play Iron Man by Black Sabbath on his harmonica and his kazoo. At just a year old, my daughter is already clapping to the rhythm.
Clearly, we’re just a few lessons short of becoming the Partridge Family! And when it comes time for finding someone to give those lessons, I know just where to turn! The Royal Conservatory National Music Teacher Directory showed me 6 violin teachers within 5 km of our house, and forty piano teachers. All teachers in the directory follow the Royal Conservatory Certificate Program, and if you want an RCM certified instructor, just look for the RCM symbol in your search results. I am currently in the process of searching for childcare. It is a headache and a half. There are tons of different websites that list daycares and nannies. Some sites are impossible to navigate, some require registration and some list out-of-date information. All I want to know is where the accredited facilities and individuals are in my neighbourhood. Same problem in my quest for swimming lessons! The National Music Teacher Directory takes all the guesswork out of finding a qualified music teacher. If only finding a babysitter and a swim instructor were so easy!
The RCM Certificate Program is available for 21 instruments, plus voice. (Sadly, no kazoo!) It is known internationally as the “gold standard” of music education, and examination results can count as high school credits. (I was able to take additional academic courses in grades 11 and 12 thanks to the fine arts credits I earned in after-school choir … yes, I was a keener!) RCM teachers receive ongoing support, resources and professional development opportunities.
If you are seeking the best in music education for your children, use the Royal Conservatory National Music Teacher Directory to find an instructor near you.
What instruments are your children learning?