Music matters: Music for its own sake

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”-Plato

A recent anniversary of mine passed. November 19th was the 49th anniversary of my very first piano lesson. I have no idea why I remember that date, but I have always known it and a recent check of a perpetual calendar confirmed the year. I guess it is a testament to the importance of piano lessons and music in my life as I was growing up.

During my time here at Senseney Music, I have had the opportunity to hear and read the research of some of the greatest minds in music education, advocacy, and ‘music and the brain’ studies. The evidence that ‘music makes you smarter’, and smarter in many ways, is well established. The study of music has been shown to improve test scores, enhance math skills, and lead to overall better performance in schools. I’ve heard an impassioned music educator speak about his conviction that cancer will be cured one day by a musician because of all the high-level, problem solving concepts learned from the study of music. Recently, there has also been a case made that the problems of the future will not be solved by people who have the most knowledge, but by those who are the most creative, and that music and the arts are where we learn to be creative.

I think, however, that before we put too much stock in what the study of music can do for us, that we really remember and celebrate the intrinsic value that music has, all by itself. It is worthy of our time, even if it didn’t have all these other glorious side effects. It improves the quality of our lives unlike anything else, and that’s worth applauding all by itself. To me, music teachers are guides along life’s way, taking us down a better path than we would have had on our own, and while that may not compare with curing cancer, it is no less powerful in its impact on lives. The lesson of remembering November 19th then is in recognizing how my life would have been remarkably different and diminished without music and those teachers who made that difference possible.

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