How Music Changed Our Lives #MusicIsaMindBuilder
Growing up I was surrounded by music, in a subtle way. My father played guitar and sang often, my mother played our family piano and sang in choirs, and my brother and I both took piano lessons. Entering middle school and into high school, I was a member of a few different choirs, a local girls choir and the high school show choir. Being naturally shy, music allowed me to build confidence, be more aware of my abilities and express myself.
Being scattered and achieving goals is something I have always struggled with. Through music, I was able to focus my energy on setting small goals for myself, joining choirs, performing with them and finally by university trying out for a musical. In high school my friends were all on stage, while I worked backstage making props and painting backgrounds. University was a new beginning for me, and through music, I was able to step a little further outside my comfort zone and actually be on that stage to sing and dance. I was still part of a larger group, not the star of the show, but for me, I was winning a battle of nerves and social awkwardness that I had always struggled with.
When speaking in public now I often remind myself how great it felt to finally overcome that "behind the scenes" mentality I had in my teenage years. It is my natural comfort zone, but as an adult I still consciously set goals to take another step outside my comfort zone when I can.
“Research shows that participating in music study benefits both brain structure and brain function. Just like well-exercised muscles protect the bones and joints, reduce blood pressure and increase energy levels, music education produces bigger, better-functioning brains – a benefit to people of any age.”1
Today, I am a mom of 2, both boys, one 13 years old and one 3 years old. Lorne, our oldest, has always loved music. I remember saying to friends and family, "Boy, can he carry a tune." Knowing he would love to learn a musical instrument was one thing, deciding what would keep his attention was a completely different obstacle. Putting off starting lessons was in part due to not knowing what he would like. Now that he takes lessons for guitar, I realize it really didn't matter what he was playing. In addition to guitar, he has tried drums and vocals, and he loves both of them. His teacher relates well to him, and is able to let him try a few instruments and see what he likes. I have no doubt he will continue to try new instruments through the years.
Lorne has always been hyper and easily distracted, just like his mom! So in late 2011, when he received a diagnosis of ADHD, we were not shocked. What did surprise us was the additional diagnosis of a learning disorder called Non Verbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). This opened our eyes to other obstacles he faces on a daily basis, mainly involving visuals. He feels overwhelmed in crowds, with too much to look at. He can have a hard time expressing himself and his emotions and is often stressed. Vocally he is well spoken, very intelligent and seems years older than he is. Traditional learning in a large classroom setting was causing problems for him, but he was coping. He had always received average report cards, not a major concern, except we knew he could do better. Once we understood more about NVLD, we were able to make better choices for him and guide him in all areas. Music is one thing we committed to as something he would enjoy and perhaps excel at due to his ability to learn through sound rather than visuals.
Now with one and a half years taking lessons, several rock camps under his belt and public performances as lead singer in his bands, he is thriving.
Music lessons have provided so many benefits to our son, including more consistent & higher grades in school, confidence in social situations with his peers, and given him a creative outlet that he didn't realize the potential of in the past.
As a parent, I want to support my son in his music, without hounding him. I want him to enjoy it and continue to enjoy music for the rest of his life. I find that allowing him to play for us or for his little brother is a fun way to encourage him to practice at home. We purchased a new acoustic guitar this week and I am looking forward to having some sing songs and maybe a few friends around to jam with him. Music has changed his life, and ours, for the better.
Probably the most important thing you have to decide when starting any music lessons is finding the right teacher for your child. It can be challenging to find the right music teacher for your child, but the Royal Conservatory has tools to help.
Visit the National Music Teacher Directory and see who may be available in your area.
If you are a music teacher, there is an area where you can sign up to be part of the directory and access the teaching resources available as well.
In addition to the directory itself, you will also find a guide to help you with questions you should ask the potential music teacher. Finding the perfect teacher for your child will help your son or daughter grow in many ways. You need a teacher whom your child respects, but can also have fun with. One who will challenge your child to reach for more, but who will also be able to support them if they are struggling or frustrated.
So, if you have been thinking about music lessons for your child, just do it! Search the directory for your area, and find the teacher your child will flourish with. You will be giving them so much more than just music lessons. Just ask my son.
Follow @the_rcm and the #MusicIsaMindBulider hashtag on Twitter and you can also connect with The Royal Conservatory on Facebook.
1 "The Benefits of Music Education: An Overview of Neuroscience Research" published by the Royal Conservatory
* Sponsored by the Royal Conservatory. All opinions and experiences are my own.