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Oregon Family Magazine

Could Your Child Learn to Play the Violin?

08/29/2019 21:24 ● By Sandy Kauten
“No way,” said a fourth grade student when asked that question. He had just opened his violin case and was staring at the instrument. All those knobs and strings, and that mysterious bow – how would he ever be able to play that?

Eight months later, he was performing Star Wars for family and friends in an orchestra with 100 other kids just like him – and beaming with pride.

Welcome to String Academy! This transformation happens every year to students in this unique program offered by the Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras (ESYO). Beginning strings classes taught after school by experienced teachers in a fun and relaxed atmosphere at several elementary schools. Scholarships and on-site access give any child the chance to learn to play the violin, viola, cello or bass. And ESYO provides the instruments!

It adds up to the chance for families to introduce their children to the joy of making music and being part of an orchestra. For decades, scientific studies have demonstrated the positive effects of music education on child development. Indeed, the benefits of learning an instrument are incredibly valuable, often in ways that may not be obvious.

Research has shown the positive connection between active participation in music and increased development of skills needed in many other areas of learning. It’s not just about how to finger a note or hold a bow!

For example, a 2014 Northwestern University study showed that the cognitive benefits of music class can depend on the students’ level of engagement. Children who actually played instruments in class showed more improved neural processing than those who only listened. This type of neurological “growth” aids in literacy which can lead to better overall academic results.

Another study of a music program serving low-income children in Los Angeles showed a remarkable difference in the graduation rate and future college attendance of participating students, compared to the extremely high dropout rate of the area. “It turns out that playing a musical instrument is important,” says the author of the study.

Playing the violin or cello uses all parts of the brain, the left side as well as the creative right. When these processes work together, it strengthens all of the brain’s functions. In fact, these benefits can continue to help in one’s later years, with memory and other cognitive functions.

And let’s not forget the social benefits of playing in an ensemble. Children learn cooperation, discipline, and responsibility, while discovering a new way to express themselves. More often than not, this results in improved self-esteem, more confidence, and a shared sense of accomplishment.

Working toward a goal that at first seems unreachable, but then materializes through sustained effort and practice, is one of the most rewarding benefits of learning a musical instrument. And these benefits can last a lifetime.

If you are interested in trying String Academy for your child, take a look at the Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras (ESYO) web site: http://esyorchestras.org/programs/string-academy-i/

by Holly Spencer