extra_guitar.jpgCharice Pempengco, Regine Velasquez, Sarah Geronimo, etc.—they are undoubtedly some of Philippine music’s brightest gems. But like pearls inside an oyster, all of these artists started young and had to go through years of refining and fine tuning to shine in the showbiz sky as they do now. And, as they say, success isn’t built on one person alone. All these celebrities openly and publicly credit their parents with nurturing and supporting their musical gifts, even as far back as early childhood.

It’s not unusual for parents to put precedence on their kids’ academics before letting them indulge in musical endeavors, but think about this for a minute: the music that they create can also be a way to boost your kids’ grades. Recent studies have shown that musical training is more than just a creative outlet; it can tone the brain and improve your kids’ learning abilities, according to the findings of a study published in the Nature Reviews Neuroscience Journal.

The study found that learning to play a musical instrument leads to fitter and keener auditory senses. This is because a trained musician’s ear is attuned to musical sounds, timing, and quality; and therefore there is more brain activity in his or her auditory cortex (the part of the brain that processes sounds) and a larger portion of brain volume in a musical child’s motor and auditory regions. So how does this translate to grater academic power? By connecting music to speech and communication. Music and speech both use pitch and timing to deliver information, and they also require memory and attention skills to process it.

Children who have musical training possess more neural activity in response to pitch changes during speech than those who aren’t trained, helping them distinguish emotion in speech or a question from a statement. Overall, this means children who have had musical training have wider vocabularies and more advanced reading abilities than those who don't. They also do better when it comes to learning a foreign language because musicians are more adept at placing sound patterns into words.

(Photo by Jaymarr via sxc.hu)

Michelle Nikki Junia
, owner of Musikgarten Manila, a school that teaches music for babies and toddlers between 0 and 5 years old, uses music to holistically develop and nurture young  children. “I can’t teach 0- to 5-year-olds how to perfect playing an instrument; that would be near impossible. Musikgarten takes a more developmental approach—it’s early childhood music education, we open the child’s neural pathways. Years 0 through 5 are the most critical in a child’s growth, and through music, we are able to nurture that,” she explains. Musikgarten Manila makes use of rhythmic patterns created through simple instruments like wooden sticks, jingle sticks, and shakers to develop her students’ reading ability.

The idea that musically inclined children become wide readers does have a ring of truth to it, as many musicians are also articulate songwriters. Indeed, spending for a musical instrument and professional lessons may sometimes cost a pretty penny, but in essence, you are making a worthy investment in your child’s academic and creative future. However, before you push your kids into trying any instrument within arm’s reach, take a look at the different benefits of each tool and make sure that they match with the idiosyncrasies of your little one. Many factors may come into play, like the size of the instrument, musical preferences, budgetary concerts etc.

When you have factored everything in, try it out with your little one for about a month (most music schools like Yamaha School of Music Philippines offer a free trial lesson, and Center For Pop Music Philippines offers free voice checks to size up your tots’ capabilities ) and if they are learning and enjoying the instrument, then let them spread their musical wings. Who knows? A perfect fit could mean having the next Yeng Constantino or Arnel Pineda right in your very home. 

Learn more about some instruments you may want your child to become adept at by checking out the slide show below.
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