Music Education

    Standards, Philosophy and Advocacy

    In Georgia, Music Education has 2 sets of standards that teachers follow.  One is called the Georgia Quality Core Curriculum Standards and the other are standards set by the Music Education National Conference.  In every music lesson, the content is geared to meet these following standards.
     You can visit the MENC website for an overview of these various standards by visiting www.menc.org
    Another great site for information about music education is www.gmea.org
    I believe that every child has the right to a free  quality music education.  Music is unique because it is cross curricular, meaning that it enhances other areas of eduation.
    Science- Music is exact, specific and demands acoustics.  Music scores are graphs.  They indicae frequencies, volume changes, melody and harmonic intensities all at once with exact control of time.
    Math-  Music is rhythmical.  It is based of subdivision of time into fractions.  Counting, ratios, fractions, trigonometry, algebra and pattern recognition are all elements of musical understanding.
    History- Music is an artful expression of humanity.  It encompasses us as human beings.  The culture and climate of a civilization can be found amongst its art forms.
    Language and Reading-  Music includes skills for learning to read.  Music notation are symbols that must be decoded and interpreted as sound.  The language of music is spoken, sung, played and written.
    Physical- Playing or singing music involves various muscles throughout the body. the msuicles must be used at the appropiate time and controlled.  Fine  and gross motor skills are developed through music experiences.
    In this day and age it is important that we all support the arts in our schools to ensure their longevity.   The following website is a great resource for music in our schools advocacy.

    Music Education Boosts Brain Development

    The Music Empowers Foundation has introduced a series of monthly articles called "Your Brain On Music Education." This monthly column provides a unique perspective on the positive things that take place in the brains of children who are involved in a music education program on a regular basis. The articles are researched and written by Dr. Christopher Viereck, who holds a Ph.D. in Developmental Neurobiology.

    "I think it is very important for people to understand that the relation between music education and optimized brain development is very real and so important for our children," explained Dr. Viereck. "I want to do my part to ensure that this essential piece of a child's education is made available in all of our schools."

    Music Empowers hopes that this series will make it easier for nonscientists to understand how involvement in music impacts directly the developing brains of children, teens and young adults. "We also hope that these articles will provide a go-to resource for parents and teachers when advocating for music and arts programs," said Andy Davis, Founder of Music Empowers Foundation.

    The first article in the series, "Music Education and Brain Development 101," is reprinted here with permission.

    Music Empowers believes that a solid music education is critical for our children's personal and intellectual growth. But what transpires inside the brain (and which areas are affected) during music education? How does this early stimulation and nurturing translate into better scholastic performance? These relatively simple questions continue to be the focus of intense research efforts by developmental neurobiologists.

    Research strongly suggests that music education causes the simultaneous and continuous stimulation of many brain regions. New connections ("wiring") between brain cells are formed. Through ongoing music education, the wiring also benefits students in other academic domains.

    Which areas of the brain are "recruited" during music education? The short answer is all major regions. Let's review how the brain is organized and how each region is engaged during music education.

    Generally speaking, the frontal lobes are involved in "higher thinking and processing" and fine motor movements. Memory is centered in the temporal lobes. Hearing is controlled in temporal and parietal lobes. Parietal lobes also control somatic inputs (e.g. touch, pressure, pain) from motor muscles. Vision is controlled in the occipital lobes.

    From an evolutionary perspective, the cerebellum and brain stem are the oldest brain regions. The frontal lobes are the newest. The cerebellum is critical for movement coordination. The brain stem is an important relay station between brain regions. As you can appreciate from these functions, music education causes the simultaneous and continuous stimulation of all of major brain regions. Imagine the complexity of the circuitry.

    Remember that each brain region also has other specialized subsystems, which via different connections perform a wide assortment of functions. The wiring between brain cells is highly regulated and can change over time. This ability of brain cells to form new connections is referred to as plasticity.

    Moving down to the cellular level, all brain regions are built around two cell types: nerve cells (or neurons) and glial cells. There are about 100 billion neurons in the average brain, and each a microprocessor. Each neuron needs to process signals it has either sent or received from thousands of other neurons through specialized extensions call dendrites and axons. Some of the axonal extensions can be as long as 3 feet. There are different types of neurons varying in shape, size, function and location. Imagine the complexity of the neurons.

    Neurobiologists discovered long ago that communication between neurons is based on action potentials. Action potentials are electric signals (spikes) characterized by differences in distribution of electrically charged ions across the outer layers or cell membranes of neurons. Electric signals must propagate at rapid fire speed during music education and other brain activities.

    Let's not forget the second cell type. Glial cells outnumber neurons by 10- to 50-fold. Unlike neurons, glial cells do not generate action potentials or have specialized extensions called axons and dendrites. They play a supportive role to neurons but are no less important. For example, one type of glial cell produces the "insulation" that surrounds many of the axonal extensions of neurons. Without this myelin sheath, electric signals could not propagate at breakneck speeds.

    Let's put together this new information and follow what happens in the brains of our children when they practice an orchestral piece during music period. The occipital, parietal and temporal lobes are engaged when the visual system focuses on the musical score and their instruments begin generating sound. The concentration the students must maintain throughout the piece causes the frontal lobes to be engaged. The students draw on the memory banks in their temporal lobes to remember where each note is played on their instruments. Constant communication between brain regions produces the fine motor skills from the frontal lobes that ensure each musical note is correctly played. Some of this coordination causes engagement of the cerebellum and brain stem. Imagine the complexity.

    About Music Empowers Foundation
    Music Empowers Foundation provides financial support to nonprofits that offer innovative music education programs to communities with limited or nonexistent programs. Since its inception in early 2010, Music Empowers has awarded grants totaling over $450,000 to organizations such as Berklee City Music, Little Kids Rock, the Dr. Phil Foundation, Donorschoose.org and the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium.

    About Dr. Christopher Viereck
    Dr. Viereck is the Founder and CEO of Insights4MDs, LLC  and Chief Scientific officer of Improve CME, LLC and Metrics for Learning, LLC. He holds a Ph.D. in developmental neurobiology from the University of Basel, Switzerland.  His experience includes over 17 years in medical research, medical education and communications at Merck, Sanofi Aventis, and Bayer Schering.


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