Monday, April 11, 2005

Baby Mozart Grows Up...and Takes Over the World?

For quite some time, there have been some studies out stating that listening to music (even as early as while in the womb) helps in the development of children; some have even tossed out the hypothesis that "music makes you smarter." It's been called the Mozart Effect, and the basic premise goes like this:
The Mozart Effect is an inclusive term signifying the transformational powers of music in health, education, and well-being.

The Mozart Effect® represents

*The use of music and the arts to improve the health of families and communities

*The general use of music to improve memory, awareness, and the integration of learning styles

*The innovative and experimental uses of music to improve listening and attention deficit disorders

*The therapeutic uses of music for mental and physical disorders and injuries

*The collective uses of music for imagery and visualization, to activate creativity, and reduce depression and anxiety
(from the Mozart Effect website)
There's even a Baby Mozart video that adds visual stimulation to the melodies. Information like this, while not universally accepted, is certainly good "ammunition" for defending school music programs in the wake of possible budget cuts. (Plus, there has been recent research into a possible molecular basis for all the effect.)

The other night, while out with some Sinfonia brothers, I had a great conversation with a fellow alumnus that seemed to indicate that the effect could carry way past childhood, in a way I'd never considered before.

This guy got a music degree at UNT, and, although he still performs regularly in several different areas (including a reserve military band), his day job is in the financial industry. While some might think that a non-business background would serve as a disadvantage, he considers it to be his ace in the hole. In a nutshell, he figures that the experience he had getting that degree at a rigorous school like my alma mater puts him head-and-shoulders above 90% of his coworkers, because they've never had to experience the type of grueling schedule and rigourous personal discipline demanded of the students in the music program. I think he's absolutely right.

I'm not exactly sure what my friend has seen (or not seen) in his coworkers, but I know what skills are developed during the course of getting a music degree: time management, multitasking (think of all the things required just to play a piece of music: tone, pitch, rhythm, dynamics, expression, etc.), conquering of performance anxiety, organization of thought, and so on. Few other disciplines develop all these things to such a high degree, especially at the elite, performance-oriented schools like UNT.

Anyway, I think my friend is onto something, and it sure made me feel even better about what I do. People in more academically-inclined fields of study who may criticize us for not having a "real" major should do so at their own peril...and hope that we stay in our own profession and not theirs. Oh yeah, and if this guy does make executive VP in the next ten or twenty years, he's gonna be giving all kinds of money to support school music programs.

I am a perpetual-motion machine: The high school bands have their big concert and sight-reading contest this week, with the result being that I had to teach most of Wednesday's schedule today (along with part of today's too). It was a long day, but Wednesday will be cake now. (I'll wait and gripe about the state testing, and the little unpaid "holiday" it has spawned, next week.)

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