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by Ken May

When I was a kid, my elementary school offered lessons on three instruments; violin, cello, or drums. If I remember correctly, this offer was made when we reached the 4th or 5th grade.

Of course, I begged my mom to let me learn to play drums but she immediately responded that she didn’t want all that noise in the house. Anticipating this, I replied, “but I would learn how to play on a rubber pad”. I figured that if I stuck with it, she would have to give in and let me get a drum set eventually. But she wasn’t dumb. She knew my game plan and stuck to her guns on the drums. So then I said “how about the violin”? To make a long story short, I took up guitar when I was in my 20’s.

I’d like to think that I would have stuck with the violin. My friend played the violin and playing in the band seemed cool until sports became an option. Watching Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently, they had two cello players and a violin player on stage. Very cool. The mega-group Chicago had a horn section. Who knew that playing in the high school band would lead to this level of coolness?

A study from Boston’s Children’s Hospital found a correlation between musical training and improved executive function. Executive functions are described as high-level cognitive processes that enable people to quickly process and retain information, regulate their behaviors, make good choices, solve problems, plan and adjust to changing mental demands. Other studies have shown that IQ points can go up seven or more points by playing a musical instrument. This makes eliminating the arts from schools seem a bit foolish (I know, it takes money and there is only so much to go around but it is a real shame that kids are being denied the opportunity to enjoy the thrill of playing an instrument).

I already have an ongoing discussion with my adult son about my childhood vs. his. He touts how much better video games are today than the rudimentary Pong game we had but I counter by telling him that I had a bike! We used imagination and energy and oftentimes came home filthy, sweaty, and even bloody. But we learned how to make up games, compete, and interact socially without a parent hovering over us in a scripted sports session.

It seems that outside of organized sports or dance, kids today don’t have the same opportunities we had to learn independence. Yes, they have the internet, texting, social media, big screen TV’s, etc. but is this really better? 
Posted 1:39 PM

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