Fostering Musical Talent

When I was a child, I was forced to take piano lessons. Although I loved all things academic, I really hated the piano. My mother said over and over again, “You’ll thank us when you’re older.” The lessons were in classical music, and classical music was never played in my house. It was totally foreign to me. Believe me; it took until I was quite a bit older to thank my parents.

Now I play the piano every day because it is my choice. As an adult, I listened to more and more classical music and gained a real appreciation of its complexities. The piano is now my favorite instrument and, as an adult, I am once more taking lessons.

A young person does not have to be gifted musically to reap the many benefits of lessons and exposure to music. However, if a young person has the potential to be musically talented, he will never be able to develop that talent if the exposure is not there. Many studies have been done to link the benefits of music to improving academics, creativity, organizational skills, and more. Although many of these links may be substantiated by these studies, I don’t think we need to find reasons to develop musical ability outside of the pure pleasure of music.

In Musical Talent: Innate or Learned? by Julie A. Wojcik, we learn that children may be born with an appreciation for music and the ability to demonstrate it. They may also be able to develop musical ability through early exposure and structured practice. Development of this talent may be accomplished in a variety of ways. Even in the inner city, where resources may not be readily available, young people are often identified in religious organizations, where they participate in choirs and are encouraged to express themselves musically.

Significant factors in determining a child’s full realization of a musical gift include self-motivation, extensive support from family members, mentors, teachers, appropriate resources (instruments, lessons, and exposure to musical activities) and rigorous practice.

Parents can help develop musical talent in children by exposing them from birth to a broad range of music, reaching far beyond mom and dad’s own preferences. Some specific guidelines include:
  • Ages 3-5: Encourage youngsters to sing along to music and engage in rhythmic activities, such as clapping, swinging, dancing, tapping, marching, and using percussion-type instruments.
  • Ages 4-5: Encourage children to accompany singing with melodic instruments, such as the xylophone, autoharp, and bells.
David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us includes his research on musical talent in his blog entry On Musical Talent. He divides his findings into the following categories:
  • Primitive musicality is, without question, built into our DNA.
  • Beyond primitive ability, even basic musical development requires some modicum of encouragement and teaching.
  • Advanced musicianship requires methodical training and "deliberate practice."
  • Musical training physically alters the brain. Accomplished musicians have key differences in their brains—not from birth but as a direct result of training.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments will be available after approval.