Benefits of Music Instruction

Posted on December 26, 2012 by Dr. Daniel Broniatowski

Learning How to Listen

I recently finished reading two literary pieces that inspired me. One is Eric Jensen’s “Music With the Tuba violin duetBrain in Mind” and the other is cellist Marcia Peck’s article “Why Classical Music”, which is featured on the website of the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.

After reading both articles, it suddenly occurred to me that there is a very necessary but neglected skill that classical musicians possess which many in our society sadly lack. This skill is the ability to listen which, in my opinion, is the most important step necessary to cultivate the ability to understand.

What do I mean by this? As musicians, we are acutely aware of the necessity of hearing the multiple layers of a piece of music that constitutes the whole. This is the main prerequisite for interpretation. The layers I speak of can be voices in a Bach Partita or multiple instruments in a large symphonic work. There are also layers of color (timbre) and rhythm, to name a few.

The beauty in all of this is that a well-written piece of music can be understood on multiple levels by all kinds of people. In effect, a good classical composer is communicating with humanity in such a way that ANY listener of cultural, social, or economic background can understand the message being imparted.

How does this apply to the average person and what is the implication for music education? Children are often unable to focus in school. Some (maybe most?!) daydream on occasion. Aside from the fact that these are often normal behaviors up to a point, and, notwithstanding the fact that boring teachers DO exist, there are slews of children who simply do not have the skills necessary to listen.

Now, listen to me carefully! Once one listens, rather than hears, one can understand what the teacher is saying. Oh – And one more thing! There are also phenomenal implications for cross-cultural understanding because of this enhanced ability to listen. When one truly can listen to the point of being able to understand the core of one’s convictions, this results in respect for the other person. The same applies to those who debate sensitive issues in society at large.

As a violin teacher, I approach my lessons with this philosophy in mind. To me, the above reasons are certainly a great rationale for supporting music appreciation in schools.

I’d love to hear what you think!

Daniel Broniatowski, D.M.A.
Maestro Musicians Academy, Brookline