Monday, April 30, 2012

Making Music Together Increases Kids Empathy

This morning I came across a really interesting article, "Making Music Together Increases Kids Empathy."

Wow!  Something that we're doing every day can increase our empathy.  I say "our", because we've already decided that learning music is just as good for parents as kids.  This is particularly good news, because, being a sucker for parenting books, I tried to read a book about Emotional Intelligence, and I just didn't get very far.  Not that I didn't think it was important, but the book didn't grab me and I felt a little bad about it.

I'm not going to reiterate the article.  You should go read it. I'm just going to agree with it.  Kids in Suzuki violin are nicer than other kids.  In fact, in four years of group classes, I can't think of a single instance of one child being unkind to another.  The kids at Suzuki Institute and Fiddle Camp, too.  All really nice kids.  I've commented on it and just chalked it up to good luck, "Boy, what a nice bunch of kids in the boys' group classes this year, so supportive and fun," and "You can't ask for a more fun bunch at camp."  

Mountain Road Fiddle Camp 2011

It's surprising because Suzuki violin is inherently competitive.  
"What song are you on?"
"I just finished Book 1 and you're STILL on Minuet 3."
But the competition just seems to spur them on, in a positive way.

Suzuki Institute 2011

People often ask me if Huck is jealous and competitive of Gus' music.  He isn't, at least not in that, "He got a bigger piece of chocolate cake than I did," sort of way that brothers are notorious for.  In fact, I think he's Gus' biggest fan.  

In part, it is because Huck has his peers in his class to compete with.  He and a friend have been neck-to-neck since they learned to play Twinkle, and now they're both finishing up Gossec Gavotte.  When either of them performs a solo for their group class, the other watches attentively and claps louder than anyone else in the group!  That alone is a wonderful lesson, to compete in a supportive and nurturing way.   

Fiddle Camp between classes
So, if playing music with other kids increases empathy, what does this say about family music?  Where do we need empathy more than at home?  Don't we often say the unkindest things to the people we love most?  We're patient with strangers at work and at school, but often there's no patience left for our families.  When we play music together, we listen to each other.  We watch each other and interact.  And it brings us joy.  Sometimes, it doesn't work that way, and someone walks away mad.  But as time goes on, that happens less.  We're learning, and we're learning together as a family.  And if we're increasing our empathy while we're at it, we should all go play some music together.

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