The benefit of music in brain development

Philosopher and Music Educator Dr. Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) was decades ahead of his time. Back in the 1940’s, he postulated from his own observations and experience that every child could achieve a high level of ability in music (and therefore in any discipline) and enjoy the satisfaction of reward and accomplishment that comes with high achievement, given the right environment. He set out to prove this successfully with his Talent Education school in Matsumoto, Japan, where all students, without entrance audition, learn to play their instruments beautifully, even at a very young age.

In recent years, science has proven what Dr. Suzuki knew through instinct and experience. While it was once thought that musical ability was a rare talent bestowed only onto certain chosen people and so therefore the rest of the population shouldn’t even try, new studies demonstrate that the study of music by any person at an early age increases general intelligence, and that if several factors common in the development of world-class achievers across many fields are in place, any child can learn to achieve a high level of ability. Several works have recently been published that beautifully corroborate many tenets of Suzuki’s philosophy and explain why Suzuki study, with its focus on mastery of advanced skills through repetition of small segments, works the way it does.

Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code (2009) and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers (2008) both talk about the factors common in the training of star athletes, musicians, and superstar performers of all kinds. Focused practice, with repetition in small chunks, along with inspiration at an early age (environment) and about ten years’ concentrated study are mentioned as key factors for reaching a top level of ability.

An article published in the June, 2011 issue of FYI Living puts into plain language the research of a recent neuropsychology study that shows that as adults age, those that studied music the longest (10+ years) and started the earliest have the highest neurological function well into their later years. From FYI Living: “Starting musical training early and continuing it for several years [has] a favorable effect on mental abilities during old age. Musical training also seems to enhance verbal prowess and the general IQ of a person...”

Back in 2006, Science Daily published an article about a study showing that music study, specifically Suzuki music study, significantly improved memory and general intelligence, even in preschool-aged children. According to Science Daily, “...the [4-6-year-old] children taking [Suzuki] music lessons improved more over the year on general memory skills that are correlated with non-musical abilities such as literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing, mathematics and IQ than did the children not taking lessons...It is clear that music is good for children's cognitive development and that music should be part of the pre-school and primary school curriculum."

Your decision to enroll your child in Suzuki Piano study at The Philadelphia Suzuki Piano Academy is the start of a delicious adventure with benefits beyond what you can imagine. Parents who join the Piano Academy community enjoy camaraderie with and encouragement from other parents along the same journey. They encounter nurturing, supportive teachers who care about all aspects of their child’s development and recognize that piano study teaches invaluable life skills that improve performance in all endeavors. And, while it is not the primary goal of the program nor the expectation for students, their children gain the skills necessary such that, should they wish to, they would have the ability to become professional musicians.

To find out how through the Suzuki Method you can create an environment in which your child can live a fulfilling, rewarding life, whatever his or her goals may end up being, explore the website and send us an email!

“...we all have an innate capacity to learn any of the world’s musics...The brain undergoes a period of rapid development after birth, continuing for the first years of life. During this time, new neural connections are forming more rapidly than at any other time in our lives, and during our midchildhood years, the brain starts to prune these connections, retaining only the most important and most often used ones. This becomes the basis for our understanding of music, and ultimately the basis for what we like in music, what music moves us, and how it moves us...basic structural elements are incorporated into the very wiring of our brains when we listen to music early in our lives.” Daniel J. Levitin, This Is Your Brain on Music (2006), p. 109.