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Commentary: Music Is Important For Every Age And Generation

Feb 10, 2015

Kaye Bonner Cummings

Music connects people with the deepest part of their being, both for the young and the old, bringing joy, and many other benefits. In this edition of The Moral Is, Kaye Bonner Cummings of the Bonner Family Foundation of Fresno champions music for every age and generation.

The famous cellist, Pablo Casals, once wrote: “Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.” And nowhere is the power of music more important than in our schools. A recent Wall Street Journal essay cited research that showed the power of music training to boost IQ, focus, and persistence among schoolchildren.  Even compared with other art forms, music training for young children produced markedly better classroom results in processing sound, reading, and focus.

At the high school level, the impact of music training trumps all other art forms in producing high academic results and satisfaction.  A few years ago, I asked members of a high school choir to put in writing why music and choir were important to them.  These were some of their answers:  “Music to me is life”…. “My reason for living”….  “A reason to go to school”…. “The reason many people stay in school…it has given me the opportunity to work with others to produce something beautiful and I feel extremely sorry for anyone who has not experienced something like that”…. “I’ve made some of my best friends in choir…we care for each other and have one common bond – music”…. “If there were no music in schools, life would have no meaning…I’d die of boredom…music and choir excite me, give me energy, makes me happy when I’m sad… I would be completely lost without it”…. “My life would be horrible …it helps me think”…. “I breathe, live and love music…without it in the schools, this world would be gray”…. With music everything comes to life.”  Two students, both on suicide watch, spoke of the choir as having saved their lives.  Several spoke of better attendance and improved grades; it taught them teamwork, being responsible and confident---all important life skills; and one, in considering others, wrote: “It brings joy into other people’s lives...”.

Still, music and other art programs continue to “take a back seat” or be downright expendable.  Why?  Why not listen to the students!  It’s their education!

And, the other end of one’s life is also proof of the power of music.  The recent award-winning documentary, Alive Inside – A Story of Music & Memory, tells of dementia and Alzheimer patients in nursing homes exhibiting how music brings them out of their isolation.  Dan Cohen, founder of “Music & Memory,” maintains that, “music connects people with who they have been and who they are in their life.”  He brings iPods into nursing homes and puts on the patients’ favorite music for individual listening.  The response has been overwhelming!  The patients quite literally come alive, sing along, cry with joy, and in many cases, return to being themselves by bringing back old memories.  One doctor cited the healthcare system as a model too focused on administering drugs when what’s needed is to touch the heart and soul of people…. “No pill does what music does,” he maintains. 

In conclusion, at every age, music is powerful!

The views expressed on The Moral Is are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Valley Public Radio.