Sunday, March 19, 2023 | 2 am
The relationship between human beings and music is fascinating. We love music – it moves us emotionally and physically. Studies have shown that when we listen to music, our brain releases dopamine, which in turn makes us happy. One such study published in Nature Neuroscience found that dopamine release is strongest when a piece of music reaches an emotional peak and the listener experiences “chills” – the shivering sensation of excitement and wonder.
Our bodies normally release dopamine during essential survival behaviors (like eating), encouraging us to do more of those behaviors. However, music is not essential to our survival in the same way, thus adding to the mystery of our unwavering love for it. But what’s even more interesting is the impact music has on young and developing minds.
March is Music in Our Schools Month, celebrated annually to shed light on music education, its importance and the many benefits it brings to children of all ages. As Director of Rock at the Rock Academy of the Performing Arts (RAPA), Delta Academy’s music conservatory, I am no stranger to the positive impact music has on youth. I witness this every day with my high school students.
A study published this year by the USC Brain and Creativity Institute found that children who learn to play a musical instrument improve cognitive function. Music education contributes to improving creativity and confidence, improving mental health, emotional stability and student performance, according to an article published in 2022 by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. That’s why RAPA students have the opportunity to focus on contemporary music performance and theory on everything from voice and guitar to bass and drums in the music genre of their choice, in addition to rigorous academic study.
When music and traditional education are combined, students become more engaged and do better overall – I’ve seen this firsthand in my years as an educator.
The impact of music education on teens goes beyond an increase in neural connections and actually increases well-being, according to the study published by USC. The pandemic has had a well-known impact on students’ mental health, and more resources and support are needed now during this healing period. Is music education the solution? Growing evidence suggests it may be an important piece of the puzzle.
Beatriz Ilari, associate professor of music education at USC Thornton and corresponding author of the USC study, believes that music can be an activity that helps students develop skills and competencies, work on their emotions, engage in identity work, and strengthen connections with the school and the community.
It’s safe to say that music is powerful. Stimulates the brain in ways that improve function, academic performance and mental health. Because of its ability to catapult young adult learning to new heights, music education is central to the overall educational process. This helps pave the way for a successful future for students.
doctor Jay Caballero is the Rock Director of the Rock Academy of the Performing Arts, Delta Academy’s Conservatory of Contemporary Music in Las Vegas.