Written by John Linn
Guitar, Ukulele and Songwriting Instructor, Middle C Music School
The New Year is a time where we reflect on the previous year and set intentions for the next.
This New Year, what if we could help our children increase their confidence, hone their mindfulness and build resiliency, all while learning a new skill, having fun and discovering the joys of creativity?
As a guitar and songwriting teacher at Middle C Music in Washington, D.C. for the last eight years, I’ve seen firsthand how music is a powerful tool to cultivate these elusive skills in kids (and in adults, too!). Music comforts us, lets us express ourselves freely, and teaches us the pride of perseverance in problem-solving and in overcoming challenges. Keep in mind that these benefits – and all the joys of music and learning – are also available to adults! It’s never too early or too late to improve the quality of your life through music instruction.
As we enter the New Year, I urge parents to learn more about the benefits of music education and to consider what your child could gain this year as a result:
Mindfulness and music can be reciprocal. Listening to music and finding pitch helps children pinpoint specific sounds – instead of being distracted by background noise, helping a child practice mindfulness and attentiveness. A study of parents who had children enrolled in music lessons found that 85% of the parents perceived their children had a greater ability to keep working until finishing a task after one year in music lessons, even when they viewed that task as difficult.
Improved Confidence and Social Skills
We all want our children to be confident, and studies repeatedly demonstrate music education can help a child build confidence and their own unique identity. Music is a naturally collaborative activity, and an effective teacher can help develop a student’s own interests and musical preferences. When a student actively participates in the direction of their own learning, the result is confidence and motivation.
Working with a supportive teacher, being part of a small ensemble, orchestra or rock band can help a child develop their social skills. Though not required, performing in front of peers and at recitals provides a great opportunity to practice public speaking, presentation and communication skills. Many schools, including ours, offer performance opportunities in small and larger group settings, allowing students to build up their confidence to perform on a stage or in front of a larger crowd.
Over and over in my songwriting camps for teens, I’ve seen students enter into a playful and creative space, allowing them to be more present and to connect with themselves and others in a supported environment. Creating and interpreting music is a process filled with experimentation and “mistakes.” Good instruction and support helps students to face inner critical voices and reframe errors into opportunities.
Music study can be tough, but maintaining a nurturing and safe space for a student to make mistakes is helpful in many ways. When the time comes for a student to take that step onto the stage, we have hopefully provided skills to overcome fear of what they might view as failing. Sometimes this fear of failure can be resolved as a result of just one small achievement in a lesson; sometimes it may take weeks, months, or years.
Learning a new skill requires perseverance, discipline and motivation to succeed. Participating in an activity they are intrigued by, like learning a new instrument, is a powerful way to help children develop intrinsic motivation and discipline over time. This is great practice for the challenges your children will encounter later in life. As teachers, we ask our students to be accountable for their journey. With care and advice, we ask students to complete assignments and tasks that will advance their skills. Sometimes tasks are joyful. Sometimes they require discipline and more attention that makes them feel like work, but learning how to turn the feeling of work into fun, excitement, validation and joy is part of learning.
If you have children in your life who may need a deeper connection to mindfulness, could benefit from improved self-esteem or still need to find their social niche, music programs present many opportunities to hone these and other important life skills while having fun. I urge parents to take that first step, ask questions and find the teacher or school that is the right fit for your child. It will be a gift for life.