YoungMinds in Schools: Music and wellbeing
For many people, music holds an important role in life and wellbeing. As Confucius said, there’s a pleasure derived from music that human nature can’t do without. Whether it’s listening to your favourite tunes at full blast while driving, singing your way through your shower, making music or attending gigs, most of us enjoy music as part of each and every day. Just think about the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics, 2012. How different the whole spectacle would have been without those carefully chosen anthems evoking memories of decades past!
Playing a musical instrument can have huge physical and mental benefits, especially for children. Research suggests that it can improve creativity, concentration, coordination, self-confidence, relaxation, wellbeing, patience and much more. Unsurprisingly, researchers have also found links between the study of music and improvements in other areas of study such as literacy, maths, listening skills and motor skills among others.
Knowing this, and the enjoyment that can be derived from music as a participant or consumer, it is important to make music a significant part of each school day. In areas where children have been encouraged to take up a musical instrument, the benefits have been tangible throughout the children’s lives. Take the Venezuelan El Sistema system of youth orchestras. Established in 1975 by José Antonio Abreu under the name “Social Action for Music”, it has two clear principles: firstly, that everyone, including the poorest in society, has a right to access the arts, and secondly that even the lives of those most affected by poverty and violence can benefit from the transformative powers of playing classical music. El Sistema is now an “epic” movement improving the wellbeing of thousands of children around the world.
El Sistema now has a presence in the UK. The charity Sistema Scotland is now developing orchestra centres “on the ground” in Scotland. The Big Noise orchestra programme aims to develop confidence, teamwork and aspiration in the children taking part.
Giving young people the chance to make music together, to develop skills and enhance wellbeing is an almost certain way to tackle some of the devastating impacts of many of the social problems that can plague their lives. Not only do they grow in their musicianship skills, but they become citizens with a voice, with self-esteem, pride and skills of discipline and compassion. Don’t we owe it to young people to widen music participation as broadly as we possibly can?