Things to consider when introducing music to children and youth
Youth and music has always been an interesting mix. Music plays an important role in the lives of young ones and the young at heart. Whatever disagreements we may have about music with our children, there remains one thing that we agree on-the fact that it is a must-have part of our lives.
As parents or teachers,difficulties arise when deciding on what kinds of music we should introduce the younger set to. We may be worried that whatever we introduce young people to is too mundane.Yet, we also worry that they will be exposed to some of the unhealthy influences that music sometimes introduces them to.
Music, while having immeasurable benefits for children, has a number of positive and negative effects. There are also some things to bear in mind when introducing children or even teens to music. This writer will also suggest some healthy yet “cool” numbers that kids and teens might like to listen to.
What are the benefits of music for youth?
Music, it is clear, has many positive benefits for our children and youth. Besides boosting one’s brain power, it also helps children and youth socially and emotionally.
It increases a child’s brain activity.
More and more studies are showing the correlation between music and academic achievement. Children who are involved with music do tend to perform better academically.
It also boosts creativity. Children who listen to music are better able to see things from more rounded perspectives and think out of the box.
It boosts the memory and helps to form associations.
Children who listen to music can remember things better because they can associate them with particular songs and movements. "Further research has shown that participation in music at an early age can help improve a child's learning ability and memory by stimulating different patterns of brain development," says Maestro Eduardo Marturet, a conductor, composer and musical director for the Miami Symphony Orchestra.
I have personally found music an effective way for students to recall poetic concepts. When teaching poetry, I often use songs as poems, and this helps them to make associations with metaphor, rhyme and personification. A favorite of mine to use is Julian Lennon’s Saltwater, which discusses how we should take better care of the environment.
It boosts social skills.
Picking up instruments can help a child relate better to others. Students who are parts of group ensembles or bands are often better able to cope with group dynamics and relate to each other socially.
I personally find this true of the band I used to helm in one of the secondary schools I was teaching in. The students involved often had many friends and were well-liked by others.
It builds confidence.
Having an added musical skill can help to build confidence and self-esteem. I have found that students who can play the piano and perform pieces in front of others are better able to approach others with more confidence.
A boy with autism I was previously teaching was able to break out of his social shell once he was able to play a little of his favorite theme from Ultraman. Thereafter, he was on a musical roll, and has been enrolled by his parents in different musical classes.
Kids learn to be patient.
Children learn to be patient when learning music. Music teaches discipline. Practicing the piano or other instruments helps a child to imbibe this virtue.
They also learn about reaping the rewards of effort and feel a sense of achievement once they have learned to play their favorite tunes on instruments.
Music helps children to connect
Children who learn music have a greater sense of well-being. In fact, music is a way for everyone to unwind and be free from the worries of life. It also helps people to be a part of life.
People also form connections with one another with music. This is why we feel that ‘aha’ when we know someone who loves rock or classical music in the way we do!
It promotes lifelong learning.
You can never know all there is to know about music, and there will always be an avenue for more learning. If you have exhausted all ways of learning about classical music, you can move on to another genre, and it does not seem to stop.
I was a classical pianist who found a strong liking for pop, blues and swing, and have been learning and loving it since.
It is a great form of self-expression
Music can be a healthy way of telling people who you are and what you stand for. It shows everyone what is in the soul.
This is why sometimes pieces of music, though well-played, can seem rather flat. This is because they are effective only when one puts oneself and soul into them.
It soothes the child’s psyche.
Music helps to soothe a child’s psyche when he is feeling stressed out or depressed. Soft music helps one to decrease one’s anxiety level.
This is why children will benefit when music is played softly while they are studying. For many, it helps to approach concepts with more clarity.
The effect of music on youth
Some of us may be wondering why music has such an effect on young people. Shows like American Idol and The Voice have drawn legions of fans, and so have many performers.
What explains the pull that music has on young people?
Music appeals to emotions.
Research done by Anne Blood and Robert Zatorre of the Massachusetts General Hospital in 2001 shows that music appeals particularly to the emotional centres of the brain. Younger people are more directed by emotions than adults, and form connections with their favorite stars when they hear their songs.
This explains why a group of 20 students turned in papers on Justin Bieber for an examination right after he performed at a concert here in Singapore.
Music helps young people to identify themselves as part of a group. This explains terms like ‘Beliebers” for fans of Justin Bieber. Some Beliebers in my class happily decorated desks and the entire back of the classroom in purple, with his posters, until I had to gently suggest that other items be put up. Music reinforces solidarity and gives young people a shared experience that helps them connect with one another.
The rhythm of music can trigger physical reactions such as foot tapping, hand clapping and dance, enjoyable in the right context. It can indeed generate an altered state of consciousness in people.
This is why people sing along when asked to at their favorite performer’s concerts or when listening to videos.
Negativity of Hip Hop music
Do not get me wrong because I enjoy a good hip hop track as much as the next young person.
Some tracks, though, do contain some rather explicit imagery and lyrics that parents cannot be faulted for being uncomfortable with.
As such, being selective when allowing a relatively young child who is at the age of learning how to make moral judgements would be called for
How to introduce music to young children
Music, when introduced and reinforced positively can have a profound effect on children and even youth who have not been so exposed to it before. So how would we start to bring music into a child’s life?
Sing with your child.
Sing along with your child, even though you are not going to win the next segment of The Voice. You will have fun with your child and even break free from your own inhibitions!
Make music with things around you.
The avant garde percussion group Stomp does this well. They utilize pots, pans, trash cans and even things in the sewer to make their point and produce great music.
You can also do so with your child. It can be something as simple as clapping your hands to a tune!
Introduce your child to different types of music.
Do not just confine your child’s taste to classical music-try to add variety to his life. Introduce him to jazz, country or hits of a different era.
I am not of the era of the 50s or 60s but enjoyed the hits these decades produced, having been introduced to them by my father, a pop guitarist who still performs at functions. It has influenced me to teach music myself.
Let them experiment!
Introduce them to it gradually by giving them instruments like mini accordions, keyboards and harmonicas for them to experiment with.If they like it, they will carry on to develop the interest further.
I learned the harmonica from my grandfather, and picked it up in the harmonica club in school. I learned later to enjoy blues numbers on the harmonica too.
Let your child see you perform.
If you play the piano, guitar or any other instrument, let your child see you performing. Their curiosity will get them to be more involved with music.
It also serves as a wonderful bonding activity with your child.
Try personalized music.
People are beginning to explore this in a big way. Lots of kid songs can be personalized to include your child’s name, like the Birthday Song, ABCs, or Wake up and Let’s Play. Lyrics can be personalized to include the name of the child. It is a fun way for children to connect with and enjoy music.
Fireworks Katy Perry
Some suitable songs for children and young teens
If you want to introduce some songs to a child but are wary that he or she might scream “boring”, there are many very recent, toe tapping yet free from unhealthy references that a child can be exposed to.
Fireworks by Katy Perry
Written and performed by American recording artist Katy Perry. Perry wrote the song with Mikkel S. Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Sandy Wilhelm and Ester Dean, It was produced by Stargate and Sandy Vee for Perry's third studio album,Teenage Dream (2010).
A song that emphasizes self esteem, it is profanity free and does not make any references to subjects that children are too young to understand.
Stereo Hearts by Gym Class Heroes feat Adam Levine
Stereo Hearts by Gym Class featuring Adam Levine
This song compares ones heart to a stereo that pulses for his love, and is completely devoid of sensitive subject matter. Sing this with Gym Class Heroes and Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5.
It's only me when I'm with you by Taylor Swift
I’m only me when I’m with you by Taylor Swift
This is a wholesome number by Taylor Swift which discusses the idea that you can only be yourself around the one you love. Again, it is very tame and Swift’s Country sound is guaranteed to keep your child’s toes tapping.
Breakaway Kelly Clarkson
Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson
This song is a wholesome number that celebrates individuality. From the movie soundtrack of The Princess Diaries 2, it was written by Avril Lavingne, Matthew Gerrad and Briget Benenate for Clarkson’s first album Let Go. Deemed unsuitable, it was given to Clarkson later to include as part of the soundtrack for the Princess Diaries.
What makes you beautiful One direction
What makes you beautiful by One Direction
The debut single and lead single from the English-Irish group’s album Up All Night, Written by
Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk and Savan Kotecha, it was released by Syco Records on 11 September 2011. It debuted at number one on the UK singles charts and reached the top ten on several Billboard charts including the US Billboard Hot 100.
Again another song about self-esteem and belief in self, it good musical fodder for teens.
Move in the Right Direction by Gossip
Move in the Right Direction by Gossip
About facing fears, letting go of past unhappiness and moving forward, it is a positive tune to introduce to young people. The song found success for the group in parts of Europe like Poland, Austria and Hungary when it was released in 2012 as the second single from their album A Joyful Noise. A good listen for both young people and adults.
You raise me up by Westlife
You raise me up by Westife/Josh Groban
The song is ideal if you want to introduce children to some skills in singing. A song that addresses how people can lift each other’s spirits, it is a good song for children to hear.
I adapted this for my choir some time ago and it proved to be a popular listen at our school concert.
Express Yourself Labrinth
Whatever you do, do it good -express yourself by Labrinth
This is a catchy, personal favorite of mine because it is addresses self confidence. It is a great listen for children who feel awkward or have problems with self confidence.
Introducing music to the generation of the times can be a rewarding experience for both yourself and the child. There are some upbeat tunes that will get both of you grooving!
Here, I would like to thank the writers who have answered the question “What are your opinions on the effect of music on children and young people?” Do take the time to read some of their work.
Copyright Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin All rights reserved
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