Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Chamber Music Competition - and some reasons why you should take part

With the older students away on study leave, the next few weeks are dominated by rehearsals for the Lower School Chamber Music Competition. On Wednesday 17 June at 6pm, hopefully as many as twenty or more small ensembles, of every possible kind, will compete in this annual event, always one of the highlights of the School's musical year. Groups will very from string quartets to barbershop singing to rock bands to jazz ensembles.

Why is it important to take part? Well, chamber music (playing in a small group, undirected by a teacher) is one of the highest forms of music-making. It develops very many musical skills, listening, ensemble skills, lots of things that playing in a larger ensemble do not develop as easily.

Here are some other reasons too, reasons why it is good to learn an instrument at all. 

MUSIC does all the following:

1. Enriches connections between the left and right brain
Studies show that music makers have more white matter in their corpus callosum, the bundle of neural wires connecting the brain's two hemispheres. This means greater communication between the brain's creative right side and its analytic left side, which in turn may translate into numerous cerebral benefits, including faster communication within the brain and greater creative problem-solving abilities. 
2. Boosts executive brain function
More white matter may be why people with musical training are also better at making decisions, processing and retaining information, and adjusting course based on changing mental demands. That's good news for musicians because these executive brain functions likely contribute more to academic success than IQ. 
3. Strengthens speech processing
It's no surprise that making music helps your brain process musical sounds. But tickling the ivories or strumming guitar strings also aids in processing consonant and vowel sounds in speech. Sharper language skills, including reading, may in turn help kids learn better in all subjects, from maths to social studies. 
4. Magnifies memory
Related to speech processing, those with musical training are also better at remembering spoken words (verbal memory). Music-making also seems to boost working memory — the ability to temporarily store and use information that helps you reason, learn or complete a complex task.
5. Promotes empathy
Musical training doesn't just upgrade your brain's sound-processing centers; it also lifts its capacity to detect emotions in sound. That is, musicians may be better at reading subtle emotional cues in conversation. In turn, this could equip them for smoother, more emotionally rich relationships.

6. Slows brain aging
Brain gains made from playing an instrument apparently don't wane as you age either. Studies show that speech-processing and memory benefits extend well into your golden years — even if your musical training stopped after childhood.
7. Fosters math and science ability
Musical notes, chords, octaves, rhythm, and meter can all be understood mathematically. So playing music should raise your maths game, right? The research is mixed, but there seems to be an underlying correlation between music-making and better math skills.
8. Improves motor skills
No doubt about it, playing an instrument requires stellar hand-eye-ear coordination (getting hands and fingers to translate musical notes on a page into sound). And for music-makers who start young enough, those heightened musical motor skills seem to translate into other areas of life as well. 
9. Elevates mental health
Studies show that fiddlers, saxophonists, keyboardists and other instrumentalists are more focused and less prone to aggression, depression and anger than non-musicians. In fact, creating music seems to prime their brains for heightened emotional control and concentration. In other words, musicians may suffer from fewer stress-related psychological and physical symptoms, including burnout, headaches, high blood pressure and lower immune function.  
10. Sharpens self-esteem
Not surprisingly, mental-health gains from musical mastery (and maybe the camaraderie of playing with others) transfers into greater feelings of self-worth.  A study found that at-risk kids who participated in a music-performance group at school felt less alienated and more successful.
If you would like to know more about this, watch this video:


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