Millfield Prep School’s Head of Music, Elly Sturges, talks about why learning a musical instrument can have such a positive affect on children’s development in other areas of the curriculum.
Learning a musical instrument, playing in an ensemble or singing in the choir are encouraged for all our pupils at Millfield Prep School. Pupils at Millfield Pre-Prep are introduced to music from an early stage in their education, with Year 1 learning the ocarina and Year 2 having the opportunity to learn either the violin or cello in their class lessons with specialist teachers for the duration of the year. Year 4 participate in our Orchestral Programme which allows pupils to learn an instrument as part of their class music lessons and culminates in all Year 4 pupils performing as an orchestra in our annual Summer Concert. There is also a real focus on musical inclusivity at the school and we are proud to say that all our pupils participate in at least one large-scale performance every year.
With almost 50% of our pupils electing to learn an instrument, we deliver 260 individual music lessons, alongside the regular music curriculum, every week. We offer tuition on a wide variety of instruments; everything from popular choices like singing, violin, flute, guitar or piano, through to the more unusual such as bassoon, harp or marimba. Co-curricular clubs and ensembles are also popular with pupils, with our 25 clubs including orchestra, chamber choir, various rock bands, brass group and jazz and blues bands, allowing pupils to practice together and learn from one another.
We feel that music does not just help children add to their skillset, broaden their co-curricular horizons and socialise, but that learning to play an instrument also has many other benefits to a child’s education, outside of their Music classes.
The practice of learning to read music teaches not only the symbols and notes themselves, but also develops skills in pattern recognition. Children learn to think critically and develop problem-solving skills too – all traits which are most helpful in Maths classes. Music requires children to count, understand beats and rhythm, all of which are measured in numbers.
Pupils learning music develop their motor skills and hand-eye coordination, because learning a musical instrument requires the brain to work at advanced speeds, controlling multiple parts of the body at different speeds whilst also reading the music. Increased coordination certainly benefits pupils in other subjects across the curriculum, including Art, ICT and Sports.
Learning an instrument is like a workout for your brain. It teaches your mind how to create, store and retrieve memories more easily, as you learn hand positions, which strings and keys match up to different notes and the theory behind the music, as well as learning songs, scales and arpeggios by heart. This exercises the part of your brain responsible for storing information, a handy tool in any area of learning.
Playing an instrument takes time, patience and perseverance. It is not always easy, and requires practice and dedication to really master. However, it is also hugely rewarding when a pupil discovers that they can play a piece from start to finish, sing a new harmony or master challenging timings, all showing that their perseverance has paid off.
Not only does music give children the opportunity for self-expression in a completely unique way, but here at Millfield Prep, pupils have an abundance of chances to perform – either in our small and informal Tea & Music Concerts, or in our larger-scale performances, such as the hugely popular Rock & Pop Concert, Spring Concert or our annual Carol Service at the prestigious Wells Cathedral. As pupils embrace these opportunities, their confidence, both in themselves and in their musical ability, grows. This confidence translates into other elements of learning, giving children the courage to take risks and try new things, be confident when giving presentations or speaking in front of the class.
Learning an instrument also means learning to read music. Not only does this improve children’s comprehension and sight-reading skills, but also teaches effective multi-tasking, as they play and read simultaneously.
Concentration & Listening
When children learn to play an instrument, they also have to develop their concentration, not just during lessons, but also during solo practice after school or at home. Pupils have to learn to listen to their music tutors in lessons, as well as the sound the instrument makes, the pitch, tone and rhythm. Being involved in one of our many co-curricular music groups, such as the wind band, orchestra, choir or jazz band, means listening to the other people and instruments in the room, and learning to play in harmony.
Music at Millfield Prep is regarded as an essential element in the education of children and plays a very important role within school life. Music Scholarships are available to pupils from Year 6 upwards and gifted and talented pupils are taught in a parallel programme, to further their development as advanced musicians.
Find out more about Music at Millfield Prep here.