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Music and Children

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The purpose of this paper is to explore the many different aspects of music and its effects on infants and children. I will also discuss how music can be beneficial to them and what parents can do to make music a part of their childrens' lives.

Research has been done for hundreds of years on the effects of classical music on children ("Classical"). As a child is developing in the first few years of life, their brain is essentially being "wired" and shaped by its environment. Research has suggested that music, especially classical music, can have remarkable effects on their minds (Campbell). It has been demonstrated that infants can even respond to music with adult-like capabilities, with the ability to discriminate between differences in frequency, pitch, rhythm and tempo. Babies also respond to stimuli that deliver music as a reward ("Can Classical"). Research also suggests that classical music can have numerous positive effects on children's development and health ("Classical"). For example, certain classical selections are shown to have a positive effect on the intellectual and creative development of infants and children in: increased verbal, emotional and spatial intelligence, improved concentration and memory, enhanced right-brain creative processes, and strengthened intuitive thinking skills ("Babies").

One such example of research began with the work of Dr. Francis Raucher and Dr. Gordon L. Shaw from the University of California (Coff). A study done in 1993 revealed that college student's scores improved on spatial-temporal reasoning tests after listening to Mozart. Later in the 90's, Rauscher and Shaw performed two more studies. These studies indicated that after listening to Mozart, preschool children in Los Angeles and in Wisconsin scored 34%-36% higher on spatial-temporal reasoning tests than children who received no instruction. Since these studies the term "Mozart Effect" has been the buzz phrase that won't disappear ("Classical").

Another study done in Ohio, using the 30 variations in J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, discovered that children of different ages were mostly consistent in identifying the "emotion" of the variation as excited, sad, calm, or happy. Even children without music education or background were able to pick out the emotions expressed by the music ("Classical").

These and many other studies encouraged renewed interest in classical music education and focused much deserved attention on the general field of childhood development (Coff). Books have been written, programs put into place and music products of all kinds have been sold in response to the latest research. In a book titled The Mozart Effect, Don Campbell (the author) attempts to associate the music of Mozart with an extended ability to learn, and improved health of body and spirit. He believes that "...the more stimulation that a child receives through music, movement and the arts, the more intelligent she or he will turn out" ("Mozart"). Mead Johnson (the makers of Enfamil baby formula) launched a program called Smart Symphonies, a national program designed to raise awareness of the benefits of exposing infants to classical music. This program features a specially created compact disc entitled Smart Symphonies, which features GRAMMY-winning classical music such as Mozart's Concerto for 2 Pianos, K. 365 (3rd Movement), Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (2nd Movement), and Mozart's Wind Serenade, K. 361 (3rd Movement). These CD's are included in more than a million Enfamil Diaper Bags given to new mothers as they leave the hospital (I received one when I had my son in 1999). Furthermore, this program will contribute $3 million over the next three years to help establish the Smart Symphonies initiative, to further research the effects of classical music on brain development in early childhood, and to assist in bringing classical music to more families ("Babies"). The governor of Georgia (Zell Miller) founded another program, somewhat like Smart Symphonies, in 1998. This controversial program, labeled the Georgia Program, distributes the recording "Build Your Baby's Brain Power Through The Power of Music" to 110,000 babies born in Georgia each year. Selections for this recording include works by Handel, Mozart and Vivaldi ("Classical"). As for the music products that are being sold to encourage the "Mozart Effect", all one needs to do is walk into a children's specialty store such as "The Right Start". Movies, CD's and toys for infants and children using classical music as a selling point can be found in stores like these. For example, "The Right Start" sells movies called "Baby Bach", "Baby Beethoven", and "Baby Mozart". I personally have never seen them, but I have friends who swear their babies are mesmerized by them!!!

According to Kenneth Steele, an associate professor of psychology at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, all this hype about classical music increasing the intelligence of its listeners is bogus. He feels that "the Mozart Effect is pretty much on the wallet of the parents who are buying the CD's. There is no special effect on the baby." Neither his study nor a second study by Christopher F. Chabris could replicate the results of the original 1993 "Mozart Effect" study done by Rauscher and Shaw. However, Rauscher explains these failures based on the fact that they measured the effects of the classical music on general intelligence instead of on spatial-temporal abilities. Steele did another study, which indicated that passively listening to Mozart does not increase the ability to do well at general cognitive tasks, however, his new study furthered the theory that music, as an active process, increases certain cognitive functions ("Mozart").

These studies, as contradictory as they are, may cause parents to wonder if they are wasting their money on classical CD's, movies and toys for their children. Not to fear! Experts do agree on one thing. They agree, as do I, that a variety of music in a child's life, including classical music, can have very enriching benefits ("Can Classical").



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