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Senior Capstone 2018

5-24-2018

The Power of Music: An Autoethnography

Wendy J. Rosales

Los Angeles Leadership Academy HS, wrosales100342@laleadership.org


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Senior Capstone 2018

The Power of Music: An Autoethnography

Abstract

A case will be made about the effects student musicians receive when learning how to

play an instrument. An instrument is an important part of music. It is an object or device for

producing musical sounds. First presented is a claim stating that when a student chooses to use a

musical instrument, it encourages the individual to have academic success. The second claim is

stating that playing an instrument can give social-emotional effects to a student. The final claim

is that with the help of playing an instrument, ones brain is able to develop quicker and more

successful than those who don’t play an instrument. The following analysis was investigated

through researching facts by David Byrne, Christopher Chau, Theresa Riforgiate, Diana Deutsh,

Colin Lecher, Erika Montgomery, Sofia Oliver, Olivia Roxanne, the National Association for

Music Education, the American Psychological Association, and Primephonic.

Keywords: student musician, instrument, academic success, social-emotional effects, brain


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The Power of Music: An Autoethnography

Wendy J. Rosales

Los Angeles Leadership Academy HS, Los Angeles, California, USA

A case will be made about the effects student musicians receive when learning how to

play an instrument. An instrument is an important part of music. It is an object or device for

producing musical sounds. First presented is a claim stating that when a student chooses to use

a musical instrument, it encourages the individual to have academic success. The second claim is

stating that playing an instrument can give social-emotional effects to a student. The final claim

is that with the help of playing an instrument, ones brain is able to develop quicker and more

successful than those who don’t play an instrument. The following analysis was investigated

through researching facts by David Byrne, Christopher Chau, Theresa Riforgiate, Diana Deutsh,

Colin Lecher, Erika Montgomery, Sofia Oliver, Olivia Roxanne, the National Association for

Music Education, the American Psychological Association, and Primephonic.

The Incident

It was an early afternoon, I was called out of class to head to the auditorium. As I walked

out, I felt very excited but also nervous. I had been telling my parents about this day for weeks,

and it was finally here. I entered the auditorium where there were other fourth graders looking

around the tables. Every table had a different set of musical instruments layed out. Beginning on

the table to my left was the flute, then the clarinet, the trumpet, violin, the cello, and finally, the
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piano. Although every instrument looked unique, my heart was set on playing the piano. I felt as

if I was floating on air while walking towards it. Before I was able to choose the piano, our

music conductor quickly made an announcement, “Students, the piano has already been chosen.

Any other instruments are available. It is first come, first serve.”

My heart dropped to the bottom of my stomach. My dream of playing the piano vanished

within seconds. My heart told me to quit, but my gut told me to stay. I chose to stay and decided

to give another instrument a try. As I kept searching for the next contestant of my musical

aspiration, I was mesmerized by one beauty, the violin. The scarring on its body showed that it

was ancient, inbetween its strings were an initial of “R.C” carved, and its color was glowing like

a fresh, red apple. I will always remember this instrument because I had never played, touched,

or even seen a violin up close. I was simply hypnotized by its presence.

My first instinct was to grab the violin by its roughed up body and neck, to claim it as my

own. Actually holding the violin and feeling its texture, brought to my mind that it felt like a tiny

guitar. Out of curiosity, I grabbed the bow and slightly pressed it against its strings. I had no clue

it was such a sensitive instrument that when I pressed down, it let out a screeching sound. I felt

my skin turn boiling hot because I was so embarrassed of what I had just done. However, my

music teacher reassured me, “Don’t worry about that, it’ll take time to learn how to play this. It’s

everyone's first time.” After he spoke with me, we all took a seat with our instruments and he

congratulated us for being Betty Plasencia Elementary Schools’ newest orchestra group. He

continued talking, but my attention was elsewhere.

I began thinking, “Classical music isn’t really me… What am I doing playing this type of

music?... What if I don’t have enough talent to play the violin?... I never imagined I would

actually do this...” From the moment I laid my fingers on its strings, I knew it was such a
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captivating creation. It was as if I had discovered a whole new world. I had my doubts in the

beginning, but after taking a moment, my heart knew that the violin was my breath of life and

my new dream.

Analysis

Introduction

A couple of years ago, I joined an orchestra group in my elementary school, Betty Plasencia. I

was new to the music community, but noticed I always had a passion for the piano. I never

played in my entire life and before I even could, I had to change this infatuation from the piano,

to the violin. It may seem like it was such a saddening event, but it was really the first step to my

love for music. Music has become one of the greatest motivation in my life and it has made me

the person I am today. When I think about music, I think of the following lyrics from a song

called, “Thank You For the Music” by ABBA, because it surprisingly expresses my view to

music:

Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.

Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty. What would life be?

Without a song or a dance what are we? So I say thank you for the music

For giving it to me. (ABBA, 1977, 8-14)

Music is a form of art that is translated through genres, instruments, or films. It is the vocal and

instrumental sounds combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and

expression (Google, 2018). The American singer-songwriter and pianist, Billy Joel once said, “I

think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are

all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” In today's time, I

believe that music can be a genuine way to happiness and freedom. It can unite people of every
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color, race, gender, or age. There are no limits to music. Whether it’s by tapping your foot,

humming in your head, or shaking a bottle filled with rice. Music is everywhere.

Study of Focus

Music is the art or science of composing and performing. Music is a sound perceived as

pleasingly harmonious. In an article called, “Periods”, from Primephonic (2018), study has

shown that music has been a part of the world since the 500’s with six historical eras of music.

The Medieval music era began around the early 500’s to the 1400’s and it was mostly music that

was sacred and secular. The Renaissance era then came along in the 1400’s through the 1600’s.

Throughout these years, “sacred music was the principal type of formally notated music across

Europe” (Primephonic, 2018). The third historical era of music was the Baroque period of 1600’s

through the year of 1750. The years of Baroque brought Opera, Cantata, Oratorio, Concerto, and

Sonata. The fourth era was the great Classical in the years of 1730 through 1820’s. Classical

music brought musicians: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. In the following years of 1780

through the 1910’s, the Romantic era came to be known as the fifth era of music. Romantic

music came to be “composed for the average person to enjoy, increasing audience numbers and

making music publishing more widespread” (Primephonic, 2018). The sixth era that is known is

the Modern/Contemporary era starting in the 2000’s and continuing. The article, “Periods” says,

“Postmodernism is less of a historical period and more of an attitude” (2018).

In this essay, there will be research and data given that explain how music can

specifically change a students life. Research has shown that music can affect an individual in

many positive ways. The information will come from authors and organizations like: Sofia

Oliver, the National Association for Music Education, Erika Montgomery, Olivia Roxanne,

David Byrne, Diana Deutsch, Christopher Chau and Theresa Riforgiate, who all give valid
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information on the subject of music. From examining the neurological, academic, and social-

emotional effects on a student musician, it is clear that the use of an instrument can positively

impact a students’ academic success, social life, and brain development.

Academic Success

When a student chooses to play a musical instrument, it opens a door for the individual to

have the encouragement they need for academic success. According to the National Association

for Music Education (NAFME, 2017), “An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested

and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other

subjects” (2017). Music can bring joy and a sense of unleashing energy to a person whenever

they play or hear music. If school is the only way a child can receive that feeling in music, it will

encourage the student to continue school and want to do well in their remaining classes because

without good grades, they won’t be able to obtain that music class.

Student musicians get positively affected in their exams, which lead them to achieve

academically. The NAFME (2017) states, “Students who have experience with music

performance or appreciation, score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on

verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.” It is clear that

being involved in music as a student can be a big step for the individuals future in school.

Acquiring a high score in the SAT’s already gives an individual a greater chance for college

submissions, so this is very beneficial to a student because their chances in getting into colleges

rises. Down below is a chart from Colin Lecher’s article, “This Is Your Brain On Music” (2013),

illustrating another example of how being a student musician can benefit the child when taking

the SAT by receiving higher scores than those who are not music performance students or music

appreciation students. From examining the chart, it says for “Music Performance Students”, they
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score 53 points higher in verbal and 39 points higher in math, compared to students who aren’t in

music.

Not only does being involved with music benefit a students test taking skills, it also

improves one's overall Grade Point Average (GPA) and actual learning skill. Olivia Roxanne

(2011) speaks in her article, “Students Who Play Instruments Perform Better in School”, about

how band and orchestra student musicians have higher GPAs than kids who are not in band or

orchestra. This statement strongly connects to the fact, “Learning to read and comprehend music

can even help in reading and understanding

literature in school classes” (Montgomery,

2016). The link between these two facts is

that having a high GPA means the student is

doing very well in their regular classes. Many

students have trouble in subjects like English,

except those who play music because reading

music is like reading a William Shakespeare

excerpt. It’s very complicated but there’s so much hidden meaning and beauty to it. The child

can relate their music to the subject they are learning.

Social Life

After attentively doing research on how being a student musician can affect an

individuals life, results explain that being a part of music, can guide the students life into another

direction. No one really knows what goes on in another person's life that sometimes without even

knowing it, that person's life can be heading into the wrong direction. It can be that they don’t

have a special place to release their negativity. Studies have shown that music can be an
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inspiring way to release and grow as an individual. Roxanne states, “Kids who are in orchestra or

band have the lowest levels of current and lifelong alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse” (2011).

Playing an instrument can act as a relief system for a young student. The enchanting sounds that

instruments release, can soothe an individual's feelings, that after playing, they already feel

relaxed. There’s no need for the child to turn to drugs or alcohol to feel “relaxed” if they are in a

musical group because it can be their way of coping.

To add on to this fact, music can get one feeling better about themselves or others in a

way where the person is growing. It is a form of art that is powerful enough to assist an

individual like if Music was a friend. David Byrne, author of How Music Works (2012), writes,

“Music can get us through difficult patches in our lives by changing not only how we feel about

ourselves, but also how we feel about everything outside ourselves.” For the music to help an

individual grow as a person, it is allowing their social life to be something new or different.

Committing to learn how to play an instrument can increase a person's self-esteem, which allows

them to have better social skills and be seen as a “well-rounded” individual (Montgomery, 2016).

Being in a musical program can also assist a student to think about their future in the real

world. In 1990, an organization called Austin Classical Guitar (ACG), was formed to inspire

individuals in the community through musical experiences of deep personal significance. An

ACG article, “How learning to play an instrument can improve your life”, author Sofia Oliver

(2015) says, “This program helps develop skills that students can turn into a career if they

choose, but that will help them in the long run to learn to cope with their behavioral issues and

focus that energy into something positive- making beautiful music.” Being involved in a musical

program like the Austin Classical Guitar, can inspire the individual to be aware of having to
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work with others, which will eventually come in handy when having a career. Playing music

regardless is de-stressful, but when playing with others as a group, it can feel incredible.

Brain Development

The use of an instrument has been proven to be able to impact a student academically and

in their social life. Beyond these two ideas, the use of an instrument also improves the body’s

main power, the brain. According to the American Psychological Association (2018), “The

human brain is an amazing and powerful tool. It allows us to learn, see, remember, hear,

perceive, understand and create language.” The brain is one of the most important organ of the

human body. When an individual plays an instrument, their brain grows magnificently. For

example, “Scientific studies have shown how much classical music can impact activity in the

brain and lead to a calmer temperament, but further studies have shown that actually engaging in

the musical process and learning to play an instrument can refine an individual’s attention to

detail and ability to focus in other areas as well” (Oliver, 2015). The brain is brilliant and music

is like a teacher to the brain. It opens the mind to be able to think more outside of the box.

To add on, participating and playing an instrument can increase a students knowledge. In

Diana Deutsch’s, The Psychology of Music (2013), she gives a fact that there’s an increase in IQ

when children who participated in a 36-week music program are compared to other children that

took drama lessons. It seems that music is way more educational and beneficial than a simple

class like drama. Playing music benefits the brain by allowing it to receive more useful

information. For example, “By understanding best, rhythm and scales, children are learning how

to divide, create fractions and recognize patterns. It seems that music wires a child’s brain to help

him understand other areas of math,” (Montgomery, 2016). A student musician can benefit from

using an instrument by increasing their understanding in normal subjects at school.


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Opinion

There are many solid information and ideas that illustrate how effective using an

instrument is to a student musicians life. In the music community, students’ skills can increase,

their brain can develop much more, and their mentality or thoughts for themselves and the world

can positively change. Academic success is defined as achieving good grades, but to also

thoroughly learn the material that the grade is earned for. “Students learn to improve their work:

Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead

of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study” (NAFME, 2017). The use

of an instrument can impact the social life of a person, whether the individuals can play or not. If

a child is getting their confidence back by music, there's a great chance that their social life will

positively change because they’ll be more open to everyone. In addition, the brain develops a

students knowledge but also as said in Christopher Chau and Theresa Riforgiate’s, The Influence

of Music on the Development of Children (2010), formal music training increases development

of memory, language skills, and perception.The importance of this research is that when learning

how to play or already knowing how to play an instrument, more positive effects can happen to a

students life than negative. Music can be more than just sound. It can be a passion, feeling, or

learning subject that will forever grow.

Conclusion

After carefully examining facts leading to the effects of music towards a student

musicians’ life, it has been proven that there can be amazing changes. When researching through

various sources and authors, there are reliable claims that conclude benefits through education,

personal life, and mental health when one plays a musical instrument. Music can improve a

students decision in education, whether it’s by leading an individual try their best in school or
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continue their education after high school. The power of music is so strong, it comforts a person

to be a better version of themselves. Music has also been recorded to improve the mental

stability of an individual's main power source, the brain. Music, a beautiful form of art, has been

known since the 500’s and continues to become a popular, well-liked creation. Teaching young

individuals how to play a musical instrument can create an incredible movement for the world

that can lead to success in life. Creating communities and environments for music can be a great

step to accomplishments, self-improvements, and healthy developments.

References

ABBA. (1977). “Thank You For the Music”. The Album. Atlantic Records.

Byrne, D. (2012). How Music Works. NY: Three Rivers Press.

https://books.google.com/books?id=fLGVDgAAQBAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Chau, C., & Riforgiate, T. (2010). The Influence of Music on the Development of Children. San

Luis Obispo, CA: Psychology and Child Development Department.

http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1009&context=psycdsp

Cognitive Psychology Explores Our Mental Processes. American Psychological Association.

(2018).

http://www.apa.org/action/science/brain-science/index.aspx

Deutsch, D. (2013). The Psychology of Music (3rd ed.). Amsterdam: Academic Press.
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https://books.google.com/books?id=yPtXixrt-ooC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_

summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Google. (2018). “Music”. Google.

https://www.google.com/search?q=music+definition&oq=music+defin&aqs=chrome.0.0j

69i57j0l4.3583j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Lecher, C. (2013). “This Is Your Brain On Music [Infographic]”. Popular Science.

https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-02/your-brain-music-infographic

Montgomery, E. (2016). “10 Benefits of Children Learning a Musical Instrument”. Peterson

Family Foundation.

https://petersonfamilyfoundation.org/music-therapy/10-benefits-children-learning-musica

l-instrument/

Oliver, S. (2015). “How learning to play an instrument can improve your life”. Austin Classical

Guitar.

https://www.austinclassicalguitar.org/how-learning-to-play-an-instrument-can-improve-y

our-life/

Roxanne, O. (2011). “Students Who Play Instruments Perform Better In School”

http://www.teenink.com/hot_topics/what_matters/article/402976/Students-Who-Play-Inst

ruments-perform-Better-in-School/

20 Important Benefits of Music In Our Schools. (2018, April 25).

https://nafme.org/20-important-benefits-of-music-in-our-schools/https://nafme.org/20-im

portant-benefits-of-music-in-our-schools/

(2018). “Periods”. Primephonic. https://www.primephonic.com/periods


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