Music good for brain, pleases ears

The hills are alive with the sound of music again this year on the ranch.

And beyond the hills as well.

In the last two weeks, we’ve attended a violin recital, a band concert, a piano recital and a choral performance to test the acoustics of our school gym and two churches.

Our kids have been dressed up in their “good clothes” almost as much as their “ranch clothes.” I have a little mending to do on my good clothes because I keep popping the buttons on my shirts, my chest swelling with pride as I watch our children play and sing.

Growing up, we never got an Atari game system when it came out, and we bought used cars from the classifieds instead of new cars from the showroom floor, but we always had plenty of musical instruments in the house.

Mostly Mom’s doing, I suppose, since she could play most of them.

We had an old upright piano, a couple of fiddles and guitars, a mandolin, a banjo, an old pump organ and a Hawaiian lap steel guitar.

As my siblings and I began band in school, my parents also made the investments in a clarinet, a flute and an alto saxophone. I got the alto sax, and played it for seven years.

I’m sure most Ataris have hit the landfill, and those used four-door cars have been crushed and recycled, but we still have those musical instruments. The alto sax has been put back into service in my son’s fifth grade band, the piano continues to make music in our house and I play one of Mom’s old fiddles as I help my other son practice his Suzuki violin lessons.

It’s a good thing they last so long. I took a stroll through the music store, and seeing what those instruments cost brand new multiplied my appreciation for our music-making contraptions back home.

Of course, I’m sure they seemed expensive when Mom and Dad bought them 30 and 40 years ago, too.

Since we have the instruments, it seemed only right that we support our school’s music program and invest in the piano lessons and violin lessons, and drive the miles it takes to get to them when our children began to show an interest in music. I believe there is value in it, even if we don’t become professional musicians.

I haven’t played my alto sax a lot since I graduated, but I still can, and I remember how. I only took piano for two years, but I can still play my last recital piece and read music.

Those experiences maybe gave me the courage to teach myself how to play guitar later in life, and pick up Mom’s violin and learn “twinkle, twinkle little star,” along with our eight-year-old.

A friend of mine shared a TED-Ed video that talked about the brain science of music.

Scientists say music stimulates more parts of the brain than just about anything else we can do. Listening to music is good, but playing music is exponentially more stimulating to the old grey matter between our ears. It has something to do with exercising our corpus callosum and improving our problem-solving ability, memory and executive skills. There’s more to this “twinkle, twinkle little star” business than meets the eye.

Whether it’s listening to our daughter sing with my wife in church, watching our middle son step to the stage and confidently play the violin or seeing my old saxophone in the hands of our son at a band concert, I know it stimulates my brain and pleases my ears, but, most importantly, it warms my heart.

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