“Haitians do not consider music a 'frill' or something that is elective. To them music is as important as eating and breathing. It completes their sense of being and helps them put their world in perspective. The need to express themselves through music lies very deep in their souls and they recognize this. Think of the amazing group singing heard on the night of the January 12, 2010 earthquake all over Port-au-Prince.” - Donna Lively Clark (Volunteer teacher of Viola and Chamber Music at Holy Trinity School (Port-au-Prince) and Dessaix-Baptiste Music School (Jacmel), member of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra)
Music has been proven to help students, both inside and outside the classroom. A study done in Switzerland over two years at 50 schools and with 1,200 students showed that those students involved in music enjoyed learning more, were less stressed, and outperformed students not involved in music in areas such as reading and languages. Another study worked with preschoolers that were split into two groups: the first group was given piano and singing lessons, while the other children received computer lessons. At the end, they were all given tests to measure spatial-temporal ability, which covers topics such as fractions, proportions, and ratios. The results showed that the children who had received music lessons performed 34% higher on these tests than the other children. Finally, a study done in 1997 showed that involvement in music can help to lower dropout rates. The study found that the dropout rate of students with no musical experience was 7.4%, while that of students who had been in an ensemble for one or two years was 1%, and that of those who had participated in an ensemble for three or more years was 0%.
Collaboration is a part of any musician's life - whether they are playing chamber music, singing in a choir, or performing as a soloist with a symphony orchestra. Making music with others has been proven to release oxytocin, which is known as a “trusting chemical”. It creates a bond between the musicians and gives them a feeling of well-being.
Making music together, according to scientist and musician Daniel Levitin, can help people see themselves as a part of a larger group. He says, “we've got to pay attention to what someone else is doing, coordinate our actions with theirs, and it really does pull us out of ourselves. And all of that activates a part of the frontal cortex that's responsible for how you see yourself in the world, and whether you see yourself as part of a group or alone. And this is a powerful effect.”
Music also acts as an escape, something else to focus on. As Jeanne Pocius, an American trumpet teacher at Holy Trinity Music School, observed, “The ability to begin a task and see it through, to play a musical instrument, to study skills, to perform yields an ability to cope with daily life. It really does make a difference in creating a positive attitude, in creating hope.”
“When children bow, when they come up, they come up taller.” - Willie Reale, founder of the 52nd Street Project and winner of the MacArthur Genius Grant