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Oregon Family Magazine

String Theory!

07/01/2016 ● By Sandy Kauten
With focused intent, a young cellist picks up his bow and leans into a bit of the Star Wars theme. He looks up with a grin that is pure satisfaction – mixed with undeniable delight. “It’s… like… the coolest thing I’ve ever done.” says Brandon, the first year cello student.

Welcome to Beginning Strings! This kind of magic happens often during String Academy classes provided through the Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras (ESYO). Because budget cuts have reduced instrumental music instruction, especially for strings, these after-school classes are offered in several Eugene elementary schools.

Learning to play a violin, viola, cello or bass can bring a wealth of benefits to your child – benefits that can last a lifetime. For decades, studies have shown that the positive effects of music education are many and varied. Learning an instrument teaches far more than how to finger a note or hold a bow. It gives children an engaging activity that increases the development of natural abilities and skills needed in many other areas of learning. For example, a strings program in California for very young elementary students showed improvement in math proficiency four times that of non-participants after only one year. Reading and language skills are also known to improve through music instruction. And research has found a link between musical training and spatial reasoning, which is important for future learning of many kinds – from solving geometry problems to successfully packing a backpack for school.

But playing the violin or cello is beneficial not just for academic development. Learning and playing an instrument uses all parts of the brain – on both the left side and the creative right. No, your child won’t become smarter by making music, but they’ll gain many valuable benefits – both academic and artistic!

By tapping into listening, focusing, and fine motor skills, playing an instrument integrates and uses many different parts of the brain at once. Science has shown that these processes working together strengthen all of the brain’s functions. In fact, studies have determined these benefits 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 a musical group. Discipline, patience, responsibility, cooperation and awareness are all enhanced through orchestral instruction. The result is a shared sense of accomplishment, and often, increased self-esteem.

As any parent knows, there’s a lot to be said about the value of sustained effort. Reaching a challenging, but achievable, goal is one of the most rewarding benefits of learning a musical instrument. After all their individual practice and perseverance, after rehearsing with peers toward a common goal, children are thrilled to be able to perform for their families, and for themselves.

For those in ESYO’s String Academy classes, the concerts are a chance for all of us to witness that satisfaction – that delight – in these young new musicians. Remember, this isn’t about becoming a professional musician or landing a job in an orchestra some day. Learning an instrument lights a spark and opens a door to incredibly valuable experiences. It gives a child the opportunity to stretch their own internal resources, and perhaps accomplish something they never thought they could. Whether they play for a year, or five years, or for the rest of their lives, the skills and experiences gained while learning and playing a musical instrument are beneficial every step of the way.

 If you are interested in trying String Academy for your child, take a look at the Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras (ESYO) web site:

by Holly Spencer, Executive Director

Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras (ESYO)