| Dramatic Benefits of Group Music
Instruction Are Just Beginning to Be Understood
-By Dr. Alicia Ann Clair and Karl T. Bruhn Copyright © 1999
Humans have the need to belong, to be part ofincreasingly a group of individuals
who share interests, and who come together for a common purpose. Such needs
are as important to children and teens as they are to people in mid-life
and to senior adults. In fact, it is being understood that this
need for connection with others may be the most important component contributing
to quality of life.
That's just one -- albeit an important -- reason why learning to play a
musical instrument in an organized group setting can be so beneficial. A
three-year research undertaking called the Music Making And Wellness Research
Project, has underscored the relationship between group music making and
wellness, especially among the elderly.
Dr. Frederick Tims, principal investigator for the project and professor
and chair of Music Therapy at Michigan State University says, "We feel
strongly that abundant health benefits can be achieved by older adults who
learn to make music in a supportive, socially enjoyable setting." In
addition, he states," We are just beginning to understand the positive
effects of making music on our bodies and our physical health."
Researchers believe this to be the case because over and above the sheer
pleasure and enjoyment of learning to make music, participating in supportive,
socially enjoyable music classes provides the opportunity for social interaction
in a totally non threatening environment. And they have found that sharing
music making often leads to people also sharing personal concerns and issues
that are a part of life's experiences. For example, people who make music
together in their communities, often travel together to and from lessons.
As their interests grow, many also attend musical events with one another
and continue to socialize after their classes or attending a musical event.
As their knowledge and appreciation of one another grows, they may share
things about their personal lives and in the process of opening up, discover
meaningful new and lasting friendships. However, people who are not as comfortable
sharing on a personal level focus their discussions on music and music making
topics. In such a setting, sharing the music provides the basis and the reason
for social interaction.
The benefits and joys of an individual learning to play a musical instrument
generally have been well known. Less well known, Tims says, are the significant
and additional benefits that come from making music in a supportive, socially
enjoyable setting. He is an advocate in encouraging others that this is something
worth looking into for anyone thinking about learning to play an instrument
and making their own music.
Dr. Alicia Ann Clair is Director of Music Therapy, University of Kansas.
Karl Bruhn serves as presidential advisor to the American Music Therapy Association.