Stand up, and sing along with Peter, Paul, and Mary:
How did you feel when you were singing? Inspired? Happy? Contemplative?
How many of you do your exercise while listening to music?
How many of you listen to music while driving?
I say music is a necessity just like the air that we breathe and the water we drink. I can’t claim to be the original thinker of this. Keith Richards of Rolling Stones tweeted this back in 2011.
Let me tell you why music is a necessity.
When we listen to music, it activates multiple areas of the brain including those associated with movement, planning, attention, and memory. It changes our brain chemistry. Listening to music we enjoy stimulates the release of dopamine that makes us feel rewarded.
Take, for example, the corpus callosum. This is the bridge between the brain’s left hemisphere and the right. The left brain is responsible for creativity and the right for logic. Brain research has shown that this connection is unusually thick in those who have been playing music from a young age. The researchers say that Einstein’s genius can be explained because of his thick corpus callosum.
I want to share a personal story to illustrate the importance of music. The woman you see in this picture was my older sister.
She lost her life to MS (multiple sclerosis) at a young age. Over 20 years, she slowly lost her motor function and was confined to a wheelchair and towards the end bedridden. It reduced her to a life of depending on others for necessities. During all that time, the one thing that could lift her spirits was music. In those days we didn’t have the iPods or Spotify or iTunes. There was a cassette player on which she would listen to music she loved. And she would talk about it. Music was her therapy.
Which brings me to the importance of music in medicine.
- People with Parkinson’s can learn to walk more easily when the music rhythms help their gait.
- Autistic children find social interactions become easier when accompanied by music.
- Spinal surgery patients require much less anesthetics when music is played during surgery.
- Premature babies gain weight faster music is played in their rooms.
Music can help dementia patients control their symptoms such as agitation and help them deal with tier anxiety and depression. When these patients listen to music they can relate to and enjoy they tend to keep their language and speaking skills longer.
We talked about music as medicine. Let’s look at how it impacts growth.
In the Miami School Readiness Project, the researchers tracked the progress of 31,322 ethnically diverse, primarily low-income students. The students were tracked from the age of four. The results indicated those who were exposed to music, and took part in music classes, had much better cognitive, language, and social skills, and did much better in standardized math and reading tests in fifth grade than those who did not. A more recent study of 112,000 Canadian students confirmed these findings.
When you learn to play an instrument, besides all the benefits you get from listening, you also get additional benefits.
Make music a part of your life. If you have children, expose them to music early in their lives. If you are in your 60s and worry about old age diseases like dementia, start discovering the healing power of music.
Toastmaster note: I delivered a variation of this for a project on persuasive speech.