California Science & Technology News

Playing Classical Music To Your Child Can Improve Their Listening Skills Later On In Life

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Playing classical music such as Beethoven and Mozart to young children boosts their concentration and self-discipline, a new study suggests.

Youngsters also improve their general listening and social skills by being exposed to repertoires from composers including Ravel, Shostakovich and Mendelssohn.

In addition, they are likely to appreciate a wider range of music in later years, according to a study from the Institute of Education, (IoE), University of London.

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Susan Hallam, professor of education and music psychology at the IoE, evaluated a programme developed by Apollo Music Projects which introduces children aged seven to ten to classical music and its composers.

The scheme involves a whole school assembly followed by six lessons at class level, with children experiencing different instruments and musical concepts and a formal concert.

Musicians explain what children should listen for and launch question and answer sessions. As the sessions progress, the listening tasks become more complex.

The programme has been delivered to 4,500 children in 26 primary schools in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, East London, as well as to over 22,000 youngsters in assemblies and concerts.

26 members of staff and 252 children in nine primary schools were questioned about the programme.

Teachers rated developing the ability to listen as the main benefit, followed by musical knowledge and development and the boosting of concentration levels, aspirations, self-discipline and personal and social skills. Some staff also pointed to improvements to English.

One teacher said: ‘The children really enjoy the sessions. I think that listening to music in such an intimate environment (ie the classroom) engages them and allows them to develop their listening skills.’ Another said that pupils’ communication skills improved.

In a report on the scheme, Professor Hallam said children developed ‘enhanced listening skills and the development of other skills necessary for careful listening to take place including concentration and self-discipline’.

She added: ‘For some of the children the programme was inspirational. The children’s positive reactions suggest that they were ‘open-eared’ and had not developed prejudices against classical music.

‘We know that preferences for music are affected by the extent to which individuals are exposed to them, the greater the exposure the greater the liking.

‘Opportunities to listen extensively to classical music in the early years of primary school are therefore likely to lead to children appreciating a wider range of music than might otherwise be the case.’

Mary Igoe, a former head teacher from Columbia Primary School, Bethnal Green, East London, who experienced the programme, said: ‘The skills of careful listening and differentiating musical sounds transfer to other areas of the curriculum and improve their (pupils’) ability to concentrate and attend to details.’

Meanwhile a study from the University of St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, last September suggested that musicians have sharper minds and are less likely to suffer a mental decline.

Researchers said that mastering instruments such as the piano, flute or violin improves people's ability to pick up mistakes and fix them quickly.

They perform tasks faster and do not allow occasional slip-ups to derail them due to their hours of practice.

The study indicated that playing an instrument could protect against a deterioration in mental abilities through age or illness.

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