Student Feature: Musical Training Promotes Success and Well being

Paul Allen, Bruce Kovner, Albert Einstein, and John Glenn. Co-founder of Microsoft, investment billionaire, physicist genius, and NASA astronaut – one may wonder what all these wealthy, successful men have in common. Interestingly enough, these four affluent individuals all had a sort of musical training. In fact, some surprisingly studied music in college. Everybody’s brain works differently, but it is proven musical training will make one more successful because it helps better mental health, helps improve and rehabilitate memory, and offers new ways of thinking and communicating.

Music and Mental Health

Proponents of the idea believe musical training will assemble one to be more successful as it helps mental health. According to a recent study completed on adults, research has been conducted and has proven music lessons help adults let go of stress and feel more relaxed. “Study participants who regularly participated in a keyboard class were less anxious, depressed, and lonely compared with the control group… those aged ≥ 65 years who participated in playing music reported improved self-esteem, greater independence, and fewer feelings of isolation. In addition, playing music created a temporary escape from the stress of daily life.” This demonstrates adults feel more at ease when they are given the ability to play music. 

Music – the Great Communicator

Musical training will make one more successful because it offers new ways of thinking and communicating. As mentioned earlier, Albert Einstein was musically trained. To tell the truth, he was actually a very talented self-taught violinist inspired by Mozart. The interesting thing about playing violins and other instruments such as pianos, drums, and guitars is the fact both left and right hands are used. Using both hands simultaneously links to the communication in the brain between the two hemispheres in the cerebrum; left and right. The communication between the hemispheres is called corpus callosum. In his article “Einstein’s Genius Linked to Well-Connected Brain Hemispheres”, Christopher Bergland cited a study that “…found Albert Einstein’s brilliance may be linked to the fact that his brain hemispheres were extremely well-connected. The ability to use right-brain creativity and left brain logic simultaneously may have been what made Einstein a genius… more and more studies are beginning to link musical training and improved cognitive function.” Using both hands to play an instrument better connects the hemispheres in the brain giving overall better communication. The same source also talks about a study that compares brain connections to a control group. “Dean Falk who is an evolutionary anthropologist at Florida State University and her colleagues found that Albert Einstein had more extensive connections between certain parts of his cerebral hemispheres compared to both younger and older control groups.” It is not a coincidence that playing an instrument better connects the hemispheres in the brain.

Music as Therapy

Lastly, musical training will make one more successful because it helps improve and rehabilitate memory. In 2011, US Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in the head and suffered a severe brain injury called aphasia. This means she damaged the language path in her brain and could not speak. As part of her therapy, Gifford returned to her childhood activity of playing the french horn as a means to create new pathways for language in her brain. As Giffords shares, “I started playing the French horn in fourth grade and continued all the way through college… Playing the French horn has even helped me regain some of my ability to speak. Without musical intonation practice, I wouldn’t be able to deliver many of the speeches I give.” Giffords was relearning important parts from her childhood to restore her memory which she did by playing the french horn. Playing horn was one way of helping Giffords however, she also used neurologic music therapy to learn how to speak again. As Dr. Gerard Francisco explained, the doctor who oversaw Giffords recovery,  “We also used neurologic music therapy because we are firm believers that the language center is connected to other parts of the brain that can help recover not only speech. It can also help recover cognition and movement as well.” Again, this shows music helps us remember important events and steps learned as young individuals such as speaking.

Some are good at running, some at English, and some at art. However, it is proven musical training will make one more successful at all of these topics because it helps better mental health, offers new ways of thinking and communicating, and helps improve and rehabilitate memory. Certainly, some students and adults may spend more time practicing and playing an instrument instead of working or completing studies for their classes or jobs. Yet, one can learn a fair balance where both can be done. Albert Einstein once said, “If I were not a physicist I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” Truly, everybody should pick up an instrument in their lifetime because one may never know the difference it could make.

About the Author:

Originally written for an English class assignment, the author is in 11th grade and has studied piano at Prairie Music & Arts for nine years. In her words, “I truly feel music is another language. It teaches you patience, hard work, and time management.” In addition to studying music, she is an active member of her school’s soccer and dance teams, Future Farmers of America, and the National Honor Society.

This article was shared with Prairie Music & Arts as part of an ongoing student feature series. Through these articles we celebrate their creative voice as young artists.