By Bindu Subramaniam – The author is a singer-songwriter, author, and Founder and CEO at SaPa – Subramaniam Academy of Performing Arts
Today, we continue to grapple with uncertainty. We are no longer trying to “win” this time indoors, or “hustle” our way out of the pandemic. We’re just doing our best, trying to get through the crisis one day at a time.
When it comes to schooling and time spent with children, we’re left asking more and more questions. How can we continue to keep children meaningfully engaged while safely indoors? How do we work around the (very real) concerns of too much screen time? How do we make up for lack of community time and structure? And how can the adults spend time on their emotional well-being, too?
Music can be a great influence – both for children and the grown-ups. Music is a gateway to developing 21st century skills like teamwork and communication, and it is an especially great way to bridge many of the gaps created by online schooling.
Here are some reasons why a structured music curriculum is great for children’s emotional well-being:
1 – It provides them with socialising opportunities: With online classes, kids are missing out on snack breaks, group projects, and play time – all crucial to community development. Introducing fun virtual musical activities gives them a chance to bond with their peers.
2 – It inspires them to be better, without being preachy: Children are grappling with prolonged uncertainty, and music can be used to cater to their Social Emotional Learning (SEL) needs. Music education helps build the five pillars of SEL – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making – without being too heavy. One example of this is using a song like We Shall Overcome to give them social context and make them sensitive to others’ struggles, without burdening or preaching to them.
3 – It helps them concentrate better: Studies show that, with structured music education, almost every part of the child’s brain is being used. It keeps students calm, and inhibits impulsive behaviour. With most parents and educators concerned about shortened attention spans over the last year, music can be a great balancing factor.
4 – It helps kids spend energy: Today, children and grown-ups are struggling with online fatigue – a result of stress and too much time spent sitting. If we design the music curriculum to include rhythm activities and some elements of movement, it is a great way to get children to get rid of some of the restlessness.
5 – It makes them (and us) happy: Music is a powerful mood booster. And it’s important that we prioritise emotional well-being over productivity; after all, how can we stay motivated to work if we’re not feeling any joy?
There are many reasons why parents and educators should make music an important part of a child’s learning journey – like math, or language skills. It boosts academic performance – we’ve seen a sharp spike in attendance and reading ability in kids after music was added to the curriculum. Music is also a powerful way to build confidence and appreciation for diversity. But most importantly, it helps us cope with uncertainty.
For better or for worse, we have to accept staying indoors and learning online as the only safe, fairly long-term solution. That means we should focus on making things easier – both on ourselves and on the kids. The last year has proven, more than ever, that mental well-being should be first priority, and music is a great way to stay centred.
So, whether you’re introducing rhythm-based activities, teaching children to make simple musical instruments at home, or using songs from around the world to teach important life lessons – it makes a big difference. With a new school year round the corner, and the virtual learning environment here to stay, music is a great addition to the curriculum.