Music & Citizenship: Can Playing a Musical Instrument Help Your Child Become a Better Citizen?

Disregard the popular image of rappers with their ghetto blasters, terrorizing neighborhoods with eardrum-splitting cacophony. Consider instead our delightful school bands and orchestras? and ponder on whether those students might be becoming our best future citizens.

Unlikely as it may seem, recent scientific research suggests this hypothesis might actually be true. It appears studying music can, in fact, impact the development of the human personality, especially in the area of socialization. In particular, music education encourages self-discipline and diligence, traits which carry over into other areas.

According to statistics compiled by the National Data Resource Center, students who can be classified as 'disruptive' (based on factors such as frequent skipping of classes, times in trouble, in-school suspensions, disciplinary reasons given, arrests, and drop-outs) total 12.14 percent of the total school population. In contrast, only 8.08 percent of students involved in music classes meet the same criteria as 'disruptive'.

Neurobiologist Norman Weinberger reports on another research study by Martin Gardiner of Brown University. According to Weinberger, writing in the Winter 2000 Issue of MuSICA Research Notes, Gardiner's study checked the relationship between arrest records of teenagers and their degree of involvement in music. He analyzed a large-scale data base that included information gathered over a period of many years for more than a thousand residents of Rhode Island.

Gardiner tracked people from birth through the age of thirty, and found that the greater the involvement in music, the lower the arrest record. Teens who had music education were less likely to get into trouble than students who didn't. However, those who were also involved in playing a musical instrument had even fewer brushes with the law. Those who had the most experience, including good sight-reading ability, had a negligible arrest record.

Gardiner's study, which took place in 2000, is backed by others. The National Association for Music Education publishes a fact sheet on its website which quotes the Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report. According to the January 1998 report, secondary students who participated in band or orchestra reported the lowest lifetime - and current - use of all substances (alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs).

And a 1990 study at the National Arts Education Research Center, concluded that students who participated in arts programs in selected elementary and middle schools in New York City showed significant increases in self-esteem and thinking skills.

The results of studies such as these are promising for the future of our society, especially in the light of a 2003 Gallup Poll Survey showing record numbers of Americans now play musical instruments.

This survey - conducted by the Gallup Organization (commissioned by NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants) - found that Americans are playing musical instruments at the highest levels since 1978.

Just over half, (54 percent), of households surveyed had a member who plays a musical instrument. And in 48 percent of households where at least one person played an instrument, there were two or more additional members who also played.

Ninety-seven percent of respondents agreed that playing a musical instrument provides a sense of accomplishment and encourages expression, and 85 percent believe it makes someone smarter. An equal number regretted not learning to play an instrument and 67 percent said they would still like to learn.

Interestingly, the survey also showed that an increasing number of young people are becoming involved in music, with the percentage of people ages of 5 to 17 who play an instrument at 31 percent, up from 25 percent in 1985.

Of the total respondents a further 27 percent were between the ages of 18 to 24.

Most of those questioned began their music education before their teens with 64 percent saying they started music study between the ages of 5 to 11 and 18 percent between the ages of 12 to 14.

In his highly acclaimed book, A Users Guide to the Brain, Ratey John J, MD notes: "The musician is constantly adjusting decisions on tempo, style, rhythm, phrasing and feeling - training the brain to become incredibly good at organizing and conducting numerous activities at once. Dedicated practice of this orchestration can have a great payoff for lifelong attention skills, intelligence and an ability for self-knowledge and expression."

Good citizens require many of these same skills in order to live harmoniously with other human beings. So as you move to a new town or take up a new job, it could just be worth enquiring if your neighbors and colleagues are musicians.

Duane Shinn is the author of over 500 music books and music educational materials such as DVD's, CD's, musical games for kids, chord charts, musical software, and piano lesson instructional courses for adults. His book-CD-DVD course titled "How To Play Chord Piano" (http://www.chordpiano.com) has sold over 100,000 copies around the world. He holds an advanced degree from Southern Oregon University and was the founder of Piano University in Southern Oregon. Previous to that he worked as an assistant music therapist at DeWitt State Hospital in Auburn, California. He can be reached at http://www.pianolessonsbyvideo.com. He is the author of the popular free 101-week e-mail newsletter titled "Amazing Secrets Of Exciting Piano Chords & Sizzling Chord Progressions" with over 55,000 current subscribers. Those interested may obtain a free subscription by going to http://www.playpiano.com/

In The News:

JP Devine: The music of summer  Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
In music and in life, classical pairings  The San Diego Union-Tribune

College Radio: The Most Important Radio Level for Musicians

For the self-promoting independent artist, the idea of taking on... Read More

The First Step and Most Important Thing in Learning Guitar

Most of the guitar lovers playing guitar for few years... Read More

The Irish Harp

The harp that once through Tara's halls the soul of... Read More

The Revolution has begun - and it will not be Televised The new Artist Development Paradigm

In reflecting on the world of the Music Business in... Read More

How To Make a Fortune Teaching Piano (or Guitar, or Drums, or Singing, or?) To Beginners

"But I'm not in it for the money" you say.Me... Read More

Radio - What?s Happened To It?

Remember when radio stations played great music?OK, before you accuse... Read More

How to Create Hip, Mature, and Lush Harmonies [correction]

Rarely is a chord played with its tones contained in... Read More

Modal Theory for Guitar Players - Part 2

Playing the ModesWhen I used to use this pack with... Read More

Do you really need college to learn to play music?

Music courses are a great way to learn about virtually... Read More

Why You Cant Play Piano

It's really not your fault. You see, you've been taught... Read More

Karaoke Singing

This article is designed to help anyone to enjoy karaoke... Read More

How Can You Make A Rock Vocal Sound Better?

Admit it... you were expecting a magic answer to this... Read More

Paint Your Own Musical Landscapes!

I don't know why, but I find the idea of... Read More

Play The Piano Like A Pro

Meet the 12 Major Notes:1. C (do)2. C# - Db... Read More

Is Your Child Struggling in School? Get Him (Or Her) Music Lessons

This is counterintuitive, I know. Our natural response to seeing... Read More

Music Industry Secrets Revealed - How To Become Succesful The Music Industry Without A Record Deal

Before the internet, unsigned music artists couldnt make a living,... Read More

Learning the Piano and Playing the Piano

Many piano students spend much time learning how to play... Read More

How to Create an Original Melody

Here's a method I use that works. First, sit down... Read More

Singing: The Tonic of Life

Most people these days would associate singing with the popular... Read More

Piano on the Right-Side of the Brain

Some of you may remember a book titled "Drawing on... Read More

How to Play Piano Using a Few Chords

How many chords do you need to create a piece... Read More

Rhapsody Music Downloads Part II - A pleasant experience?

Welcome back to Part II of Rhapsody Music Downloads! I... Read More

Piano Chords and New Age Music

There are basically two ways you can compose a piece... Read More

Live Music!

"Live music." That common saying may contain some truth, but... Read More

Learning How To Improvise

Those of you who have been reading my articles for... Read More