Yes, Your Child is a Musician (And So Are All Their Classmates)
By Mr. Michael Webb
January 22, 2020
“Oh, I can’t sing.”
Or, at least that’s what I’m told when I tell people I’m a music teacher. I’ve met more than a few people who can recall being told at some point in their childhood to stop singing. To put the guitar down after the third unsuccessful lesson. That some kids in choir were “balloons” (who could easily carry a tune and keep a beat), but others were “bricks” (who had to stand in the back and lip-sync). Many of my students have told me the same thing.
In fact, my wife (also a music teacher) and I were both told we couldn’t sing as kids.
It’s commonly thought that musical ability is something that some people have and others just don’t. But the truth is exactly the opposite.
Here’s the thing:
Countless academic studies show that the human brain learns music the same way it learns language.
Think about the way we all learn our first language as babies:
- First, we are exposed to other people using language. We listen.
- Then, we learn to speak (usually by babbling first).
- We read.
- We write.
- We analyze.
What does this mean?
It means that, just like some kids grow up with 2 languages in the home and learn them simultaneously, some kids grow up exposed to the language of music, and so will have an easier time with learning musical skills later in their development.
This is because in early childhood, the human brain is forming a massive quantity of synapses, or connections between neurons. Synapses are a vital component in learning and memory, and are strengthened with stimulation of various kinds. Exposure to music in early childhood strengthens the synapses associated with musical processing, or audiation.
Does this mean that people who didn’t have musical parents and didn’t take music lessons from infancy can’t possibly achieve in the domain of music? Absolutely not. Just like my dad was able to learn French at 57 years old, anyone can learn the language of music, regardless of age or previous experience.
At SSCA, we start age-appropriate systematic music instruction in preschool, when kids as young as 2 will be exposed to an environment ideal for becoming lifelong musicians. Incidentally, the age of 2 is when the brain’s synaptic connections are at peak production.
Remember when we talked earlier about how we learn music like language?
Students at SSCA learn from a sequenced, long-term curriculum over the course of their school career how to listen and “speak” (sing/play) music, and then how to read, write and analyze music, just like students regularly speak, read, write and analyze English in school.
Music is a language. It has syntax, semantics and vocabulary, and can be mastered like any normal skill. It is also one of the richest experiences human existence offers, and has the possibility to fundamentally enrich the life of a child. God uses music to change lives. We connect to one another and to ourselves through music. We are able to express ideas and emotions that are deeper than words can possibly communicate.
This experience isn’t just for the lucky few. It’s for anybody. Given the right tools and support, anybody can create, perform and respond to music. As a teacher, I am privileged to be on the front line of this life-giving discipline where “no I can’t” turns into “not yet” and “not yet” turns into “yes I can”.
I’ve seen kids who didn’t think they were musical whatsoever- who were otherwise struggling in regular academic settings- who lit up with joy when they proved to themselves that, yes, they can make music. They can sing. They can play an instrument. They can succeed and be creative. They are musicians, and they are proud of their musicianship.
So yes, your child is a musician. I’ve seen it, and I’m proud.