While watching the State Symphony perform, my six-year old violinist stands up from our seats to echo their bow whilst on stage. Her face lights up as the complicated melody continues. We all see the conductor’s arms wave through the air as the orchestra plays, and there is a sense of what feels like the moving hand of God. Even a six-year-old string player can pick up on it.
Above: Gisele Franklin-Balch, captured by author Elizabeth Franklin
When my mother’s cancer moved into her brain, things got very, very quiet. We didn’t hear from her for weeks, there was no response. As the cancer progressed, there was no talking, sitting up, moving around, or really anything else besides blinking, swallowing and sleeping. My mother was a music teacher out in the country. After she became unresponsive from the cancer, her string students from over the years came to see and play for her. Upon hearing them, my mother suddenly sat up in bed and started talking.
Among other things, music can give people a profound sense of hope and life.
Whether it’s playing it, listening to it or teaching it, the effects of music can be felt and seen in many regards. So, whether we’re the elite, disadvantaged, or the dying patient, music can have a profound impact on our lives and an unrelenting purpose. There are advantages to having an engaging relationship with it. The following are some of the documented benefits of music:
Good for young and old – Music studies and research demonstrate a benefit to ageing brains, as well as a positive influence on the developing mind of children. One study that was reported by Collective Evolution found that children between 4 and 6 years of age had an enhanced cognitive understanding and brain function after becoming music students. The same report mimics the advantage of reversing mother nature in the older brain. The report went on further to include that “since listening to music is like exercising the brain, one can expect the benefits of better memory and mental sharpness as they age.”
Children particularly benefit from music exposure and training. “Music lessons may offer children intellectual benefits and fine-tune their sensitivity to emotion in speech,” reveals the American Psychological Association research report. Youth orchestras are gaining recognition for their multitude of benefits worldwide. Both subsidised orchestra youth programmes and orchestral ensembles among the elite have made progress in demonstrating the benefits of their influence. The American League of Orchestras has reported drastic results, where some of the students who were not excelling academically and socially began to thrive after becoming involved in youth orchestra.
It improves emotional health – Studies have shown that music can actually elevate a person’s mood. There are reports linking exposure to music with an enhanced emotional health and a healthier mental state of mind. In recent years, music therapy has become even more mainstream and common in helping those recover from physical and mental injuries and setbacks. Several aspects of music can be incorporated in the therapy, including listening to music, making music and formulating musical lyrics among the participants. It also encourages emotional expression and communication. Cancer patients have also reportedly benefited from it by giving them a healthy outlet to reduce the stress of managing the difficult illness.
Improved communication – An increase in the ability to communicate after being exposed to music has been documented, including the enhancement of verbal and visual skills. Exposure, interaction and participation in musical activity can also increase listening skills and the ability to focus. Playing an instrument can also improve the ability to comprehend a more advanced vocabulary, whilst singing and penning lyrics has also been linked to increasing the impact of important messages.
It can make us smart – Are musicians the smartest cookies out there? Playing music – not just listening to it – can really make a difference, according to an array of music authorities. Some reports have found that playing a musical instrument greatly increases brain function. According to reports organised by the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research, learning a musical instrument can help us ‘grow’ a better brain and increase overall brain capacity. In the Live Science online report, Playing Music Makes You Smart, evidence shows how playing an instrument actually enhances your brain. Music exposure and playing music have also been linked to enhanced blood vessel function.
It motivates – Having trouble getting started on the housework? Are you dreading your afternoon jog and don’t feel like you can get going? Studies suggest incorporating your favourite upbeat songs to help get you going, which can be easily accessible from iTunes and other types of mobile devices. Also, listening to music after finishing an exercise workout has also been documented to be helpful to listeners. I’ve also personally found that listening to music can also help us generate new ideas and further develop some of our thoughts and projects. So, music can be a big motivator and help inspire us when things are a little tough or when we simply don’t feel inspired.
How has music influenced your life?
Let us know in the comments section below.