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Oregon Family Magazine

Music Helps Through Hard Times

09/01/2021 ● By Holly Spenser

Music, like children, comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s sharing silly songs or performing major orchestral works, young people thrive and grow through music and its many benefits. As Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras (ESYO) discovered last year, this is also true online!

We’re all looking forward to returning to “normal,” yet the pandemic continues to challenge us. So how can we help children and youth keep their spirits up? A great way is through music. In fact, we think it could be the best way!

Study after study has shown significant cognitive, psychological, and social benefits of learning and especially participating in music at a young age. Northwestern University research found that in order to fully reap the cognitive benefits of a music class, kids need to be actively engaged in the music and participate in the class. Last year, ESYO had opportunity to create new possibilities for playing “together while apart.”

Learning the violin over the ubiquitous, (and now somewhat dreaded), Zoom didn’t seem possible when we first launched online String Academy. But we knew that when you give a child an instrument to use, they become instantly enthralled! Throughout the year, elementary-age students adapted to the online format so quickly that parents were amazed at their progress. By the spring, over 100 children had learned to play violin, viola, cello, and bass online! During their final class recitals, I’m not sure who was more proud – the students or their teachers.

Another recent study found an important correlation between academic success and music education. Dr. Viskontas from the University of San Francisco noted that, “Ultimately, we know that taking vitamins has the most benefit for people who are malnourished. Music is actually the same way, it has the most benefit for people who are impoverished.”

Youth musicians in our upper orchestras also connected with each other virtually with a shared purpose. They gained confidence playing in front of their peers and applauded each other’s achievements with praise and yes, emojis. During their online concerts, friends, and relatives from across the country relished the opportunity to watch these bright young musicians perform online. In the spring, the students couldn’t have been happier when they finally got a chance to play together outside. It was amazing how beautiful they sounded!

Living through challenging times gives us even more reason to provide these opportunities to children and youth. Next year we hope to be learning and playing together in person once more. But knowing we can still bring the benefits of music to young people online is heartening. Being part of our ensembles gave students what they wanted and needed to help them through tough times. Moreover, it was the adults who ended up learning as much from our students –  about perseverance, flexibility, and power and joy of music!

If you are interested ESYO  for your child, take a look at our web site: https://www.esyorchestras.org.