Much has been written about how music affects brain development both in children and adults.
If you spend any time on Facebook you will almost certainly have seen posts about the benefits of music for the brain. From the positive impact music can have on memory and the improvements shown for those suffering from Alzheimer’s through to reducing stress by listening to music.
Simply doing an internet search for ‘How music affects brain development in children’ will deliver you 81,300,000 results on Google.
However, in this day of 'everyone is a publisher', we felt the need to review the evidence based research to get the real picture of how music affects brain development in children.
Like many music teachers, the members of Steel City Strings passionately believe in the benefits of music for children's development. It is the primary reason they created the Celebration of Youth concert series. But they also believe it is important to not take social media statements at face value. So, we were given the job of researching the evidence of how music affects brain development in children.
Our starting point for research was Google Scholar, which weeds out the self published blogs and delivers evidence based research. And we were encouraged to discover that there is an enormous body of research. While we've weeded out the 80 million! blogs on the subject, there are still 265,000 evidence based research papers and articles.
A 2011 study published in the Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal looked at whether there was a causal effect between music training and preliteracy skills. The study divided sixty children into two groups; music or visual arts. At the end of a 20 day training program the children in both groups had improved their phonological awareness. However, the children with music training had significantly improved their visual-auditory learning skills compared with the visual arts group.
Another longitudinal study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly in 2015 found that the frequency of shared music activities in the home was positively associated with children’s vocabulary, numeracy, attention and emotional regulation, and prosocial skills.
A paper with the spoiler-alert title of Childhood Music Training Induces Change in Micro and Macroscopic Brain Structure: Results from a Longitudinal Study compared the effects of music on the development of children's brain structure over a two year period, starting when they were six years old.
Using brain imaging the study started by establishing that there were no structural differences between the children in the after school music training group compared with the after school sports group or the group that did no after school training. The children in all three groups came from the same underprivileged socioeconomic background. After two years of training follow up brain imaging found that the music group children had a different rate of cortical thickness maturation compared to the other groups. They also had higher fractional anisotrophy (a useful measure of connectivity in the brain) in the corpus callosum, crossing pathways connecting superior frontal, sensory, and motor segments.
The message from the cognitive neurosciences about brain plasticity has made the successful leap into the everyday vernacular. However music is now becoming an important area of study within this research area as scientists discover more evidence about the association between musical practice (rather than just listening) and functional and structural brain plasticity. This study argues that some of the sensorimotor and cognitive enhancements associated with music training indicate music making has the potential to be used as an interactive treatment, or even intervention, for neurological and developmental disorders as well as protecting our aging brains.
Start playing music! Whatever your age. Not only is it fun, satisfying and a great social activity, it appears it will protect, and dare we say it, enhance your aging brain.
And if you have children in your life - inspire them to learn an instrument. Whether it is recorder and school or taking up the opportunity to learn the violin.
Steel City Strings has the perfect opportunity for you to inspire kids in your life with the March performances of Celebration of Youth. So, book now and build better brains!
KIAMA - 2pm Sunday March 24
WOLLONGONG - 7.30pm March 30
SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS - 2pm Sunday March 31
June and July 2018 saw Steel City Strings present a spectrum of vocal music in the program Strings with Voices.
The program featured human voice, for the most part, married with a string accompaniment. It also featured vocal music, both solo and choral, drawn from opera, the church as well as from the cabaret and cinema.
Four a cappella (unaccompanied) songs provide a taste of pure vocal harmony whilst the glories of string sonorities appear in one of the mainstays of the chamber orchestra repertoire, Grieg’s Holberg Suite.
Edvard Grieg originally composed his Holberg Suite, Op 40 for piano in 1884. Later that year he adapted the suite for string orchestra to celebrate the 200th birthday of Dano-Norwegian playwright Ludvig Holberg.
Much of Grieg’s music was influenced by his love of Norway’s mountains and Norwegian folk music however in the Holberg Suite he created a suite of five movements based on 18th century French and Italian dance forms.
According to Bjarte Engeset this suite, officially titled Fra Holbergs tid, Op. 40 (direct translation: From Holberg’s Time), “was an exercise in ‘concealing his own personality’. He had worked especially hard to find his own voice; now he needed to adapt to completely different styles—as if donning a Rococo wig!”
Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born on Thursday June 15, 1843 on the ‘lively shopping street of Strandgaten” in Bergen – a small, busy Norwegian town.
The fourth of five children born into a ‘bourgeous’ family, Grieg’s education naturally included music. His father, Alexander, had inherited a successful family business trading in dried fish and lobster. Growing up in this environment influenced Grieg’s development as a composer and according to Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek, Grieg claimed “There is both cod and coalfish in my music.”
Grieg’s mother, educated at the musicconservatory in Hamburg, was a singer and respected pianist. So it is not surprising Grieg showed a strong interest in music, and for the piano as instrument, from a very early age.
The summer of 1885 saw “the most important single event” in Grieg’s life with a visit by his uncle, celebrated violin virtuoso Ole Bull. Bull (dubbed the “fairy-tale god” by Edvard) was so impressed hearing Grieg play his own compositions he convinced Grieg’s parents to send him to Leipzig “to become an artist”.
At 15 Edvard Grieg was sent to study at Europe’s foremost conservatory in Leipzig. There he attended every orchestra rehearsal at the Gewandhaus concert hall spare time allowed. He is said to have later reminisced: “It was a delight to hear so much splendid music. It refined both my spirit and my musical sensibilities.”
Despite developing pleurisy while in Leipzig, resulting in a collapsed lung and lifelong damage and ill-health, he graduated with exceptional results in 1862.
In 1861 Edvard Grieg gave his first concert in Karlshamn, Sweden before moving to Denmark’s capital. In Copenhagen he socialised with well know composers including Gade, his first great idol. During this time he also met the Norwegian composer Rikard Nordraak, whose love of everything Norwegian rubbed off on Grieg.
In 1867, after a three year engagement - and against the wishes of both families - Edvard Grieg married his cousin Nina, whom he met during his time in Denmark. The couple moved to Kristiania (Oslo) where Grieg earned a living as a piano teacher and conductor. It was here, in 1868, where his daughter Alexandra was born. In that same year he also composed his Piano Concerto in A minor which placed him firmly on the map as one of the greatest composers of his time.
The loss of his daughter to meningitis at just a year old saw the couple transition to a nomadic life travelling around Europe until Edvard left Nina in 1883.
It was shortly after this separation Grieg composed Fra Holbergs tid, Op. 40.
You can find more detail on Edvard Grieg’s later life here: Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek
Book your tickets for the STEEL CITY STRINGS performance of Edvard Grieg’s wonderful Holberg Suite Op 40 originally written for piano and later adapted for string orchestra by Grieg himself. This beautiful suite is the opening performance for the Steel City Strings Strings with Voices program - an exciting collaboration with con voci
The premiere of The Passion of Music was an early highlight for this year for Steel City Strings. The film played to over 400 people at Greater Union Wollongong and was introduced by Richard Gill. Watch his introduction from the night below.
Earlier today the ABC Illawarra Mornings with Nick Rheinberger show aired an interview recorded earlier this week with Tony Williams (Director, The Passion of Music) and Karella Mitchell (Principal Cello, Steel City Strings). Nick spoke with Tony and Karella about belonging to a community orchestra and also being involved in the making of The Passion of Music.
Listen to the interview .
The Passion of Music premiers this Sunday at Greater Union Cinemas, Burelli St Wollongong. Tickets are still available so come along and experience how a community orchestra shares their Passion of Music.
If you need more, and would love to feel the intimacy of a live performance, Steel City Strings first program for 2018, Great Chamber Works tickets are also available now.
Do not miss this opportunity to go behind the scenes of a community orchestra and feel their Passion of Music.
SUNDAY 22nd October at 2 pm
The Pavilion, Kiama
Booking link: https://www.trybooking.com/NSDX
SATURDAY 28th October at 7.30 pm
Wollongong Art Gallery
Booking link: https://www.trybooking.com/NSEA
Concerto Grosso in F Minor Op 1 Pietro Antonio Locatelli I. Largo IV. Grave II. Andante V. Largo Andante III.Pastoral VI. Andante-Adagio VII.Pastorale ad libitum
Divertimento in F KV 138 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart I. Allegro II. Andante III. Presto Sacred and Profane Dances Claude Debussy I. Danse sacrée II. Danse profane soloist, Paulina Smirnov, Harp Little Suite for Strings Op 1 Carl Nielsen I. Präludium II. Intermezzo III. Finale Sleep World Premier Andrew Ford for String Orchestra
We are really excited about the 76 min Documentary movie Tony Williams has made about Steel City Strings. It has been accepted by Documentary Australia Foundation (DAF) as a film worthy of fundraising promotion. Please click the link and ENJOY!
What Tony needs now is some financial support to launch the film with all expenses paid – musical copyright fees, post-production audio etc.
Steel City Strings is honoured and delighted to announce that the distinguished composer Andrew Ford, OAM, has accepted the invitation to be Patron of the chamber orchestra.
Andrew has been active at the University of Wollongong and in the Illawarra region, especially the Southern Highlands.
After viewing Tony Williams’ (Four Donkey Films) documentary Steel City Strings – The Passion of Music, Andrew “was very impressed” by the orchestra, and “just as importantly, I also liked all the people on the screen”.
As Steel City Strings plays music and Andrew writes it, we look forward to a fruitful and enjoyable relationship.