President Harry S. Truman, the man in the White House when the United States intervened on behalf of the millions of innocent people who were being displaced and massacred by Hitler's Nazi Germany, claimed to have practiced his piano lessons for two hours every morning during his childhood. Likewise, President Warren Harding was said to be able to play every instrument except the trombone and the clarinet. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) played the organ. Of course we all remember President Clinton and his saxophone, but did you know that President Nixon was an accomplished pianist?
And more recently a girl who was a musician long before she became an academic and then a world-famous diplomat, our own globetrotting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a very accomplished classical pianist. As she was growing up in the Rice home music was a family affair, and as early as age 3 Condi played piano at family gatherings. Her Dad was a minister and she often accompanied her organist Mother in church. The name "Condoleezza" is from the Italian phrase con dolcezza, which refers to playing music "with sweetness." While other kids in her neighorhood were playing outdoors, she was more likely to be found practicing the piano or reading a book.
The list goes on, but the real question is why do people with musical training tend to achieve more in life? There are differing theories about that, but studies have shown a direct correlation between music and the brain's ability to adapt to the world around it. One such test showed that people that had listened to just ten minutes of Mozart's "Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major" and then took a spatio-temporal reasoning test (which is a part of a standardized intelligence test) scored 48% higher than the control group while a second study done at the University of California, Irvine on what has been called the "Mozart Effect" shows a increased IQ score of nine points.
In another study the Bulgarian psychologist George Lozanov discovered that playing Baroque instrumental music in the background had a profound effect on student's ability to learn and retain a foreign language. The key is that highly structured, highly organized music seems to help the human brain to function in a more organized and efficient manner while further studies have shown that discordant music actually has a negative effect on the brain.
Studying music is the perfect way to derive its benefits. At least one study has shown that young children can gain the spatio-temporal reasoning effects mentioned above just by learning to play the piano or organ. Likewise, through the study of music we have the discipline of practice to expose us to great music regardless of our age. Besides for the effect of the music, studying music teaches discipline and the relationship between hard work and reward and there is little in life more rewarding than to hear beautiful music coming forth as a result of one's own effort.
"Music education opens doors that help children pass from school into the world around them - a world of work, culture, intellectual activity, and human involvement. The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music." - Gerald Ford, former President, United States of America
Duane Shinn is the author of over 500 music books and products such as DVD's, CD's, musical games for kids, chord charts, musical software, and piano lesson instructional courses for adults. He holds advanced degrees from Southern Oregon University and was the founder of Piano University in Southern Oregon. He can be reached at http://www.chordpiano.com. He is the author of the popular free 101-week e-mail newsletter titled "Amazing Secrets Of Exciting Piano Chords & Sizzling Chord Progressions" with over 56,650 current subscribers. Those interested may obtain a free subscription by going to http://www.playpiano.com