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NY1 News: Study Finds Learning to Play Music Improves Overall Learning

Study Finds Learning to Play Music Improves Overall Learning

A new study sings the praises music instruction and its impact on a child's cognition. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.

Orchestral sounds fill a church in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.

The not-for-profit group Upbeat NYC meets here several times a week after school. It offers students, ages five and up, music lessons for free.

"When I play the violin, I feel like I can do so much. It just inspires me," one student says.

Husband and wife team Richard Miller and Liza Austria founded Upbeat NYC as a way to introduce music into the lives of under-served kids in the South Bronx. Now, a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience finds these young minds are getting more than just a music education.

"It shows for the first time that playing an instrument, and not just listening to music, shows real improvement in the literacy and language function of your child," says neurologist Dr. Jaydeep Bhatt of NYU Langone Medical Center.

Forty-four Los Angeles public school students between the ages of six and nine were observed. The study found the kids who had completed two years of musical instrument instruction were able to better process language.

"Recognizing consonants from vowels and difficult words where letters may sound alike, and distinguishing them—which is very important for early reading," Bhatt says.

Because of their portability and accessibility, the children in the study were exposed to brass, woodwinds and string instruments such as trumpets, clarinets and violins.

Bhatt says while more research needs to be done, however, and that really, the choice of music instrument is less important than early and prolonged exposure to one. As for these kids with Upbeat NYC, they have their own findings.

"It helps me sit up straighter and I can listen better to the teacher from the listening to the conductor," one student says.

"The bow is like a pencil and grabbing it made me write better," says another.

"It helps me to be focused and to concentrate on what I do," a third says.

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