Page 28 - Independent Schools Magazine
P. 28

 So much more than just making music...
Without wishing to detract from the proud moment when a child reaches a certain level of competence and has developed the requisite skills to deliver a compelling performance, it is well-established by research that the bene ts of investing in a musical education extend beyond the ability to play an instrument or entertaining an audience, says Stasio Sliwka, Director of Music at King Edward’s Witley.
“Children who play an instrument or sing as part of an ensemble or orchestra are required to work as part of a team. As such they are not only honing their musical skills, they are also further developing their ability to perform in harmony with their fellow musicians.
“Of course, a further advantage
of being part of a team is the opportunity it brings to meet people. Very often, a shared interest in music can offer an excellent vehicle to forge new friendships, sometimes with individuals with whom a
child would not necessarily usually socialise. This can bode well when
a young musician makes the move from school to university – joining
a music based society, orchestra
or choir represents an excellent strategy to build those all-important friendship groups away from home.
“While some music instruments lend themselves particularly well to creating a collective sound, others might potentially be deemed as more ‘lonely’!
“To overcome this, we make a point of inviting pianists for example, to join an ensemble, providing our pianists with the same socialising / team building options. Much music is now available for piano ensembles with arrangements for up to 18 pianists on six pianos.
“Equally, if a child elects to play a less mainstream instrument - for example the viola or bassoon - in any orchestra, school or otherwise, there is likely to be less competition to gain a place so we encourage children to take advantage of the extensive choice of musical instruments at
28 Music, Dance & Drama
their disposal. Every new pupil
is given the opportunity to learn an orchestral instrument with the offer of  fteen taster lessons.”
In addition to playing together, being part of a musical ‘team’
brings with it access to a wealth
of other non-curricular activities.
We are proactive in arranging
trips and events in this country
and overseas, and this means the children are often travelling together and spending signi cant amounts
of time rehearsing for the regular programme of concerts involving the school’s talented musicians.
“Watching our older pupils interact and support the young children from local preparatory schools at our annual successful Orchestra Day provides another example of the power of music - to overcome the stereotypical age divide which can so often prove a barrier to children communicating with each other during their teen years.
“Social skills are not only developed in terms of building bridges with
a pupil’s peer group. The one- to-one tuition which goes hand
in hand with learning a musical instrument also encourages
children to enhance their ability to communicate with adults. For those pupils who are boarding at school, this can represent valuable quality time with an adult and a chance to experience the undivided attention which children can sometimes miss when separated from their regular home life.
“Beyond the social skills associated with learning a musical instrument there are other well documented bene ts which are proven to impact
on a child’s academic performance. The organisational, analytical, self-discipline and listening skills which are required to achieve success as a musician are regularly applied to other areas of a child’s learning journey. According to an article in Psychology Today (March 23, 2015) an October 2013 study found that Albert Einstein’s brilliance may be linked to the fact that his brain hemispheres were extremely well-connected. The article reports ‘ The ability to use right brain creativity and left brain logic simultaneously may have
been part of what made Einstein
an incredible genius. More and
more studies are linking musical training with improved brain function and higher academic achievement. Practising a musical instrument regularly engages all four hemispheres of your brain at an electrical, chemical and architectural level which optimises brain power.’
“Venturing into the world of music can also be viewed in the context of learning a valuable life lesson,
in that it is very much a discipline which demonstrates the importance of committing to a new skill.
“You get as much out of music as you put in, which is why we have such a strong emphasis on the need for regular practice. This year we’ve introduced timetabled practice for our musicians which is generally
a slot before the of cial start of
the school day and supervised by our Graduate Assistants. After the initial anticipated general lukewarm reception to this initiative we are now seeing 95% of our pupils really bene tting and because the children are able to witness the rewards
for putting more effort into their studies, they are fully embracing
the extra practices. Encouraging our pupils to practise by promoting the use of modern technologies, such
as the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) apps is also helping. The school has invested in a number of iPads to ensure
that pupils are able access this resource, which helps to overcome the loneliness sometimes associated with endless playing while also advocating a quality rather than quantity approach to practice.
“At a time when the mental and emotional health of children is
high on the public agenda, the considerable therapeutic bene ts of music must not be overlooked. When a child is playing an instrument, or using their vocal talents, it provides a welcome chance to break away from the stresses of the day and to focus on something totally different. It is no coincidence that music features as a recognised therapy in a hospital or healing environment...
“We have put a lot of effort into creating a welcoming environment within the music department and
it is de nitely paying off. It has been interesting to note that during examination periods, when most pupils will experience some degree of anxiety, we see many of our musicians putting in extra practice as a means of escape which helps them to  nd their inner calm.
So, it seems there is indeed truth in Plato’s saying...
‘Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind,  ight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything’.

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