Thursday, January 22, 2015

Start the Music!

For the first time in 20 years, I'm not playing the piano for the spring semester at school. They are in much more competent hands, those of a true pianist, my good friend, Linda, who has also been accompanying for the past several years.

I've always been more of a vocalist than pianist. If my piano teacher, Mrs. Lighter, were still alive, you could ask her. I was the least talented of the Moore sisters who sat at the piano bench in front of her baby grand piano each week.
(From our 1965 Christmas card, from left to right: Darci, me and Lisa)
I am sure she would be amazed that I lasted this long!
(The piece was called Drifting Moon)

It feels a little discordant to not have that daily appointment at the piano bench, but a shifting schedule at school made it the right decision for me. I may still help marginally with solos for festivals, but Linda will be the accompanist. And that's OK.

But just because I'm not in the classroom every Monday through Friday this semester, it doesn't mean I still don't find overwhelming value in music education in the public schools.

Yesterday, I saw a link via Facebook about a new study from the University of Vermont's College of Medicine about the value of music.  I emailed both Jill and Brent (and didn't hear back from either one, by the way.)

Brent has said more than once:  "Giving me piano lessons was like throwing money down the drain." I've always vehemently disagreed, though I realize he will never accompany a classroom of vocal music students or even sit at a piano and play it for fun.
1997 piano recital - Jill and Brent with Mrs. Dorothy Trinkle, their piano teacher.

Every week, I'd drive them to Dorothy Trinkle's rural Preston home for piano lessons. She deserves a medal, by the way, for teaching piano so many years to so many children, including my reluctant pair.  Their music-loving mama also forced them to take private vocal music lessons for several years and to play instruments in the school band.

Was it child abuse? I think not. And the University of Vermont study is backing me up:

James Hudziak and his colleagues analyzed the brain scans of 232 children ages 6 to 18, looking for relationships between cortical thickness and musical training. Previous studies the team had performed revealed that anxiety, depression, attention problems and aggression correspond with changes to cortical thickness. Hudziak and his team sought to discover whether a "positive activity" like musical training could affect the opposite changes in young minds.

"What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument," Hudziak told The Washington Post, “it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control."

The study found increased thickness in parts of the brain responsible for executive functioning, which includes working memory, attentional control and organizational skills. In short, music actually helped kids become more well-rounded.

My two turned out OK. They seem to have several of those attributes. Maybe it wasn't child abuse after all.


  1. I've always believed music was great training & therapy. Although our children might disagree, they do all have a basic understanding & enjoy music in some manner. The best thing is seeing our grandchildren involved in music. I'm especially enjoying our daughter's entrance into the praise band at their church & hearing the 2 boys practice with her at home. I'm constantly amazed by the variations they create for old stand-by hymns. I still find sitting down at the piano to "pound" out a few tunes is great stress relief & usually brings a couple of little boys to help if they are around.

    1. Kinley loves to sing. There is hope yet!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.