For many years, we have heard about studies attempting to show a connection between musical training or listening to classical music with extramusical benefits, such as advanced brain function or activation. Remember “Mozart Makes You Smarter” and all the articles urging women to play classical music near their pregnant bellies, to name a few? The conclusions of some of those studies have been challenged or debunked, while others have produced some promising results. Either way, there can’t be much harm in listening to more Mozart or bellying up to your classical playlist for baby’s sake.
Music certainly has a profound and positive effect on my mental state and my life in general in many ways. But while it’s personally validating to have hard data about music’s additional positive effects on the brain, intelligence, math scores, IQ, and such, these studies also make me a tiny bit uneasy, especially when they are used to justify the importance of music and music education. Maybe listening to classical music increases math scores in children, and maybe musical training in childhood affects IQ. But even if they don’t I believe music and musical training have intrinsic value, even without all those extra bells and whistles. Listening to music and making music are pleasurable and valuable activities all on their own, for kids and for adults. Whether or not math scores improve, children should have access to musical activities and training. It can inspire creativity, emotional expression, teamwork and discipline. Most importantly, it creates happier, more well-rounded adults. The world needs people who love music, and the arts in general, simply because the arts are fundamental to our broader culture. So even if Mozart doesn’t make us smarter, Mozart makes us happier. And that is enough for me!