Classical Music: Improving Children's Development

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Ever since a 1993 study revealed that college students' scores improved on spatial-temporal reasoning tests after listening to Mozart, the "Mozart Effect" has been the buzz phrase that won't disappear.

The researchers behind the "Mozart Effect" study, Professor Francis Rauscher and Dr. Gordon Shaw, made national news again in the late 1990s with an inspiring study that motivated people on a national scale to reintroduce music – especially classical music – into children's lives and education.
  • After receiving keyboard lessons, preschool children in Los Angeles performed 34 percent higher on tests for spatial-temporal reasoning than children who were either trained on computers or received no special training.
  • At the Wales and Magee elementary schools in Wisconsin, kindergarten students, after a minimal amount of keyboard lessons, scored 36 percent higher on spatial-temporal reasoning tests than students who received no instruction.

Although other studies have produced different findings, the Rauscher and Shaw studies captured the nation's curiosity. The prospect of classical music as a device for enhancing intellect and stimulating development fascinates educators, leaders, and families. Even skeptics are intrigued. In fact, a Georgia program was founded based on the studies.

Raucher and Shaw's findings are not the first of their kind. Since the mid-1800s, research has suggested that classical music can have numerous positive effects on children's development and health.

Background music may aid in developing memory. Most importantly, memory recall improves when the same music played during learning is played during recall.

Emotion and mood
An Ohio study using the 30 variations in J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, found that children of different ages were mostly consistent in identifying the "emotion" of the variation as excited, sad, happy, or calm. Even children with no musical background were able to articulate the emotions expressed by the music.

The prodigy myth
Famous classical musicians are often deemed child geniuses. While Mozart is the most common example, there are others: Felix Mendelssohn wrote his first piece at age 11, and Frederick Chopin, the quintessential "romantic" composer, performed crowded concerts by the time he was 20.

While every child may not develop into a musical master, every child does have the potential to benefit from classical music – especially when music teaching takes a broad sensory approach.

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