Why the Cello?

The cello is a favorite of composers, conductors and producers of many different styles of music. If you enjoy listening to the cello, then actually playing the cello is going to bring new pleasure into your life.

Ian B. Johnston demonstrating why the cello is the instrument to learn.The only requirement is that you want to try.  If your reasons for wanting to start or get better on the cello are the attraction and love of music, then you have chosen a most democratic and satisfying pastime!  Music is here for the whole world.  It is way up at the top of the list of “reasons to be alive.”  And like anything else in life, you will get out of it as much as you put into it.

For young and old alike, there are other reasons to play.  Studying music and playing music enhances academic performance in young people, provides an oasis of peace and joy, reducing stress for adults, mitigates the symptoms of arthritis, and delays the onset of “senior moments” in older adults.  Here are just a few of the studies that have confirmed some of these effects:

  • A Columbia University study revealed that students in the arts are found to be more cooperative with teachers and peers, more self-confident and better able to express their ideas. (Source: Burton, J., Horowitz, R., Abeles, H. Champions of Change, Arts Education Partnership, 1999.)
  • Students indicate that arts participation motivates them to stay in school, and that the arts create a supportive environment that promotes constructive acceptance of criticism and one in which it is safe to take risks. (Source: Barry, N., Taylor, K. and K. Walls Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, AEP, 2002.)
  • A study examined the influence of music education on nonmusical abilities, the effects of music lessons on academic performance, and cognitive abilities. The study revealed that students who participated in music lessons showed statistically higher intelligence quotients. (Source: Glenn Schellenberg, Music Lessons Enhance IQ, Psychological Science, Vol. 15, No. 8, 2004.)
  • A study of rural and urban inner-city schools found that arts programs helped schools in economically disadvantaged communities develop students’ critical-thinking and problem solving skills. (Source: Stevenson, L., Deasy, R., Third Space: When Learning Matters, AEP, 2005.)
  • Music majors are the most likely group of college grads to be admitted to medical school. Physician and biologist Lewis Thomas studied the undergraduate majors of medical school applicants. He found that 66% of music majors who applied to med school were admitted, the highest percentage of any group. For comparison, (44%) of biochemistry majors were admitted. Also, a study of 7,500 university students revealed that music majors scored the highest reading scores among all majors including English, biology, chemistry and math.  Sources: “The Comparative Academic Abilities of Students in Education and in Other Areas of a Multi-focus University”, Peter H. Wood, ERIC Document No. ED327480, “The Case for Music in the Schools”, Phi Delta Kappan, February, 1994
  • High school music students score higher on SATs in both verbal and math than their peers. In 2001, SAT takers with coursework/experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 41 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework/experience in the arts.  Source: Profile of SAT and Achievement Test Takers, The College Board, compiled by Music Educators National Conference, 2001
  • According to Dr. Nina Kraus’s work with the Harmony Project, students who are involved in music are not only more likely to graduate high school, but also to attend college as well.  Kraus N., Slater J., Thompson E.C., Hornickel J., Strait D.L., Nicol T. & White-Schwoch T. (2014), “Auditory learning through active engagement with sound: Biological impact.”

The benefits of music training are not limited to children and teens.  There are many studies confirming advantages for adult music learners:

  • Playing music reduces stress and has been shown to reverse the body’s response to stress at the DNA-level (Dr. Barry Bittman).
  • Playing music “significantly” lowered the heart rates and calmed and regulated the blood pressures and respiration rates of patients who had undergone surgery (Bryan Memorial Hospital in Lincoln, Neb., and St. Mary’s Hospital in Mequon, Wis.)
  • Playing a musical instrument can reverse stress at the molecular level, according to studies conducted by Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Applied Biosystems (as published in Medical Science Monitor).
  • Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a study with 30 depressed people over 80 years of age and found that participants in a weekly music therapy group were less anxious, less distressed and had higher self-esteem (Friedman, “Healing Power of the Drum,” 1994).
  • Playing music increases human growth hormone (HgH) production among active older Americans. (University of Miami).
  • Age-related delays in neural timing are not inevitable and can be avoided or offset with musical training, according to a new study from Northwestern University. The study is the first to provide biological evidence that lifelong musical experience has an impact on the aging process.  A. Parbery-Clark et al, Neurobiology of Aging 33 (2012) 1483.e1-1483.e4.

Photo by Marie-Catherine Dubuc

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