It is no secret that students who are gifted intellectually and/or in various academic areas are served most frequently in our schools. Many have postulated why this is so, and most often the reason given is that these areas are most easily quantified, and this is probably true. In previous newsletter articles, much attention has been paid to the academic and intellectual needs of gifted students, and to the benefits of challenges in these areas for them. Likewise, we have focused on creativity, leadership, and the visual arts in recent publications, but have not focused on the benefits of challenge and support in music education.
Disclaimer: As I began to research this topic, my heart was filled with gratitude for the joys and challenges that music has brought into my life, so I have a special place for music in my heart. As a choral musician with 42 years performing with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Milwaukee Master Singers, various area chamber groups, as a soloist, and as a church musician, music has been a constant source of challenge, inspiration, and comfort in my life. It has “soothed the savage beast,” “opened many of life’s doors,” and given me a glimpse of heaven on earth. It has also frustrated me, taught me patience and perseverance, humbled me, and helped me become a better educator. Music has also afforded me countless hours of “flow,” that space where we are so engrossed that we are oblivious to time and place. If you’d like to know about the concept of “flow,” check out this TED Talk by the indomitable Mihaly Cziksentmihaly,
Flow: The Secret to Happiness”.
Flow can occur in many different areas of human endeavor, and provides fuel for our passions and perseverance. For many of us, however, flow occurs when we are making music and/or listening to music.
So what other challenges and benefits does music provide? In a recent SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted,
publication, Gail Post, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist examines this very topic. Her article is entitled, Supporting Musically Talented Children: Challenging Social and Emotional Roadblocks to Success.” The article is mostly devoted to the challenges that advanced music education can bring to gifted and talented students. She speaks of the boredom that can occur, especially during repetitive practice, the necessary match between attention span and practice, the competition from other temptations in modern-day life (phones, online distractions, friendships), and the necessity and difficulty of mastering music theory by students who “just want to make music.”
Coupled with boredom, some gifted musicians may also be crippled by anxiety and perfectionism. Musically gifted children often have an internalized understanding of what something should sound like. They may have listened to recordings of famous musicians, or watched older students perform at recitals; they compare themselves to these others, and become paralyzed with their own imperfections. They may worry about performance, freezing under pressure, or being the center of attention. They may need counseling to employ tools to help them visualize, calm down, and deal with stress. If they are making music competitively, they may need tools to help them deal with the ever-increasing levels of competition, the ebb and flow of personal motivation over time, and the inevitable feelings of rejection and loss.
Deep involvement in musical activities may also preclude a rich social life. Though band, orchestra, and choral activities foster community, individualized music trajectories usually require hours of solitary practice and lessons. Some students may miss social activities with peers, and may sacrifice one for the other. They may need help to weigh the pros and cons of their decisions.
Finally, many young gifted musicians have concerns about entering musical fields as a career. As one climbs the talent ladder, opportunities become more scarce. Parents/caregivers and educators may either encourage or discourage the aspiring musician. Students themselves may have doubts about their ability to compete in the adult arena. However, whether they decide to choose music as a career, or to pursue music as a hobby, they will inevitably benefit from their musical training. Below are some of the many benefits of music education, according to this article, Evidence-Based Benefits of Music Education, along with the key study papers supporting each benefit. Music education:
These benefits greatly enhance success in many areas of life. It is my great hope that all children and adults experience the joys that music can bring, and that some follow their talent, passion, and dreams to high levels of achievement.
As always, I welcome your thoughts. Together we grow.
Jackie Drummer, Past President
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
(WATG would like to extend a huge thank you to Dr. Martha Aracely Lopez of Milwaukee Public Schools for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators. The translation can also be found in our website blogs.)
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.