Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Piano Lessons: A force for Spiritual and Intellectual Development

Bryan has been taking piano lessons for the past year or so. He sometimes doesn't want to practice -- (nothing too unusual there!) For now, mama has to sit with him in the living room to help him stay on track with his practicing. His tendency is to practice for a little while, and then drift into playing songs that are not a part of his current lesson. Or, alternatively he may suddenly think of something else besides piano that that he has to do RIGHT NOW! Unless he is being monitored, it may take a couple of hours for him to get in the 30 minutes of practicing he is required to do, unless he has help to stay on track.

Bryan is taking piano lessons for several reasons. The first reason is obvious, to learn music, and to one-day be able to play church hymns on his mission, if called upon. Playing Church Hymns also can be a source of spiritual strength and inspiration. I have found this to be the case in my life, on many occasions. Sometimes when I am troubled, or have had a rough day, I will sit down at the piano, and play the hymns. In so doing, my perspective improves. The clouds of doubt tend to dissipate. The sweet quiet confidence of the Spirit of the Lord returns to my heart. In short, playing the hymns is a form of worship, and invites the Holy Spirit into our hearts and minds.

The second reason Bryan is taking piano lessons is a little less obvious: Occupational Therapy. Bryan is has some disabilities in his motor skills and coordination. Piano is a way to develop the fine kinds of motor skills that he needs to improve upon. These skills are necessary to help him to write better. A couple of weeks ago we had Bryan tested by an independent (non-school district) Occupational Therapy evaluator. Bryan has made great strides in the last year in the development of his fine motor skills, and coincidentally enough, he has been taking piano lessons for the past year. It is also true that he is another year older and he is another year more mature, and he may be developing some of these skills naturally.

Finally the least obvious, but one of the more important reasons for Bryan to take piano lessons is to help in his overall mental processing abilities. At a BYU Education Week a few years ago we had the opportunity to hear from a professor of music, Michael Ballam, of Utah State University. He believes that the study of music is able to help in overall mental development, and in the ability to organize and sequence tasks -- which is the very help that Bryan needs most. You can read more about the effects of musical instruction and listening to good music on intelligence here. Professor Robert Cutietta, of The University of Arizona also advocates the ability musical instruction to enhance learning in other areas.

1 comment:

B. said...

Mmmm... glad to hear your son is improving as he learns to play the piano! Thanks for the reminder about Michael Ballam. I loved his presentations at Educaiton Week.

I would never practice piano when I was a kid and learned to play the guitar instead. I'm thinking about learning to play the piano now though ;)