The below excerpt is a great (and amusing) read from the Globe and Mail, and makes an important point. A must read for music parents.
In recent years, researchers there have been able to find out all kinds of new things about the brain through advances in techniques...which allow scientists to see how our brains react to stimuli, i.e., what makes them go zzzzz or light up like a switchboard. Aside from longer attention spans and the rest of it, they’ve also discovered that musical study can actually stave off dementia and improve hearing loss.
It all happens through a process called neuroplasticity, which basically means if the brain were a set of muscles, playing an instrument would be the equivalent of the Tracy Anderson Method. This made intuitive sense to me, because trying to persuade a recalcitrant three-year-old to practise Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star each day felt very similar to that Tracy Anderson exercise where you jog on the spot and make teeny, tiny circles with your arms extended. At first you think, “This is cool.” But after five minutes, you’re, like, “KILL ME NOW.” Stick with it, however, and your child’s brain will have the supple tone of Gwyneth Paltrow’s fortysomething butt.
One Conservatory infographic, entitled “Benefits of Musical Education,” showed two cartoon brains, one grey and one bright yellow. The yellow “musical brain” belonging to a stick man playing guitar had a list of benefits beside it, including “more grey matter, improved brain structure and function, better memory and attention, higher IQ.” The grey brain belonging to the stick man with no guitar had nothing written beside it. That, I realized with shame, was my brain. But it didn’t have to be my son’s. And so, armed with my compelling new research, I did something I’ve rarely done in my life: I formed a new morning routine and stuck to it. For almost a month now, I’ve made (my son) sit down at the piano after breakfast. After a while, he stopped fighting it. He resists as a matter of principle, but ultimately, he knows it is futile.