The Importance of Learning an Instrument
“Icicle Creek Center for the Arts is a place where learning, creating, and performing inspire and nurture the human spirit in a spectacular mountain setting.”
Our mission is at the heart of everything we do here, and it’s easily seen with the hugely impactful educational programs we host throughout the year. From our Youth Symphony to our acting and theater camps to our beloved Chamber Music Institute, our reach is worldwide, and our programs are world-class.
Why is it that we believe in the power of the arts so much? What about our campus and our Leavenworth community is so unique that it is the highlight of the year for most campers? Listen to just a few testimonials from previous institute students and find out.
We believe in the power of arts for many reasons but one of the main reasons are the measurable benefits of learning an instrument. These benefits stretch way beyond obtaining a new skill. There is scientific research that shows it helps not just in school, but it also positively impacts ambition and conscientiousness. So let’s dive in on how much of an the impact the arts can make on one’s brain.
Listening to music is one thing. A rush of dopamine, similar to the rush we get from pleasurable activities like eating our favorite dessert, which helps alleviate stress, spur creativity, and all in all, puts us in a better mood. Learning to play an instrument, however, opens up an entirely different batch of cognitive and social benefits. Watch Alan Harvey brilliantly explain this in TEDx Perth:
The impact doesn’t stop at better grades, or being more alert or even having a better memory. In this Inc. article, lead researcher, Simon Landry, at the University of Montreal states, “The more we know about the impact of music on really basic sensory processes, the more we can apply musical training to individuals who might have slower reaction times.” It doesn’t stop there though; he goes on to say that “Musicians also have an altered statistical use of multi-sensory information. This means that they’re better at integrating the inputs from various senses.”
An Article by Penn Medicine also talks about how playing music keeps the brain healthy. John Dani, Ph.D. states, “(playing music) engages every major part of the Central Nervous System.” But why is this? Because playing an instrument engages both sides of the brain, the article goes on to say. When you play the violin, for example, since the right hand is doing something completely different than the left, your brain “uses the peripheral nervous system, which controls movement of your fingers, as well as gross and fine motor skills. The brain’s executive function – which plans and makes decisions – comes into play as a musician plays one part but keeps focus on what’s coming next.”
The positive effects don’t go away even if and when you stop playing. In an article by National Geographic, reduced memory loss and defense against cognitive decline occurs as musicians get older, even if they haven’t played an instrument in years. The reason for this is when children and young adults learn an instrument; their brain creates additional neural connections that last a lifetime.
“In Hanna-Pladdy’s first study on the subject, published in 2011, she divided 70 healthy adults between the ages of 60 and 83 into three groups: musicians who had studied an instrument for at least ten years, those who had played between one and nine years, and a control group who had never learned an instrument or how to read music. Then she had each of the subjects take a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests.
The group who had studied for at least ten years scored the highest in such areas as nonverbal and visuospatial memory, naming objects, and taking in and adapting new information. By contrast, those with no musical training performed least well, and those who had played between one and nine years were in the middle.
In other words, the more they had trained and played, the more benefit the participants had gained. But, intriguingly, they didn’t lose all of the benefits even when they hadn’t played music in decades.”
The power of the arts stretches so much further than onto the theater stage. The lifelong positive impact shows in all areas of school, ambition and overall brain health. Not to mention the memories and friendships that occur while on the journey to becoming a musician. This is why Icicle Creek Center for the Arts believes so heavily in our mission and the power of the arts.