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Cello Stock PhotoWhilst there is no clinical proof that classical music benefits children’s emotional and physical development, for decades psychologists and therapists have advocated early exposure to the world’s best music.

This is nothing new, however. Any family with a piano knew and played classical compositions. Children learned about classical music at home. The piano was the 19th and early 20th century equivalent of today’s ‘entertainment centre’.

Dr Ellen Weber summarises psychologist Don Campbell’s findings on classical music and mood (emphases in the original):

Gregorian chant creates quiet in our minds and can reduce stress.

Slower Baroque music, such as Bach, Handel, Vivaldi or Corelli, can create mentally stimulating environments for creativity and new innovations.

Classical music, such as Haydn and Mozart, often improves concentration and memory when played in the background.

Romantic music, such as Schubert, Schumann, Tchaikovsky , Chopin and Liszt, enhances our senses and increases a sense of sympathy and love.

Impressionist music, such as Debussy, Faure and Ravel, can unlock dreamlike images that put us in touch with our unconscious thoughts and belief systems.

Campbell wrote The Mozart Effect in 2001. The book examines the effect of classical music on young people. Bright Hub Education explains the theory (emphases mine):

The study of the impact of classical music on young children’s brains is often referred to as The Mozart Effect. In the 1990’s, two musically minded neuroscientists put the theory of the Mozart Effect to the test. They tested several college students using a standard IQ test after exposing the students to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D major, a relaxation recording and complete silence. The interesting results of that test were that the students performed better on the spatial reasoning portion of the test after listening to the Mozart piece than either the relaxation recording or silence. The little discussed piece of this research is that the effects of the music appear to wear off after about fifteen minutes. The college student’s scores dropped back to normal twenty minutes after listening to the music.

Bright Hub summarises how and when classical music can help children develop their mental acuity:

For example, Gregorian Chant can quiet the mind and promote relaxation. For an early childhood educator, Gregorian chant may be a good choice of music for rest time or even a good snack time selection. Bach and Vivaldi are thought to stimulate creativity. Why not try to play these musical selections while children are painting at the easel or working with craft materials? Classical composers such as Mozart and Haydn are thought to improve concentration and memory, a good choice for children working on puzzles, manipulatives or other math activities.

Of course, contemporary music has its place, too, especially for physical activity. However, we are inundated with it, whilst classical music is largely ignored.

Campbell has written four other books on the Mozart effect and has also compiled a CD of Mozart’s music for use in the preschool environment. Another Bright Hub Education article says that playing Mozart alone can direct children to calm down or engage in classroom activity:

How can preschool teachers incorporate this technique in their classrooms? The easiest way is by playing Mozart effect music like Mozart’s “Symphony No. 40 in G Minor” or “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra” as the kids settle down for naps. Many preschoolers find it difficult to relax and sleep during nap time, and the effects of calming music are well-documented …

Another way for preschool teachers to utilize the Mozart effect on their students is by playing classical music, especially works by Mozart, in the background while preschool children are working in centers or playing. Some of Mozart’s well-known energetic selections are “Sonata in D Major,” “Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik,” or “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Educating children in classical music is one of the greatest favours we adults can do for them. Not only are they able to gain a trained ear for it but they also learn to love it from a young age.

My mother used to play Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite a lot when I was little. I could hardly wait to see the ballet, which was one of my Christmas gifts when I was nine years old. What a treat!

This early exposure also helped me in the two mandatory music appreciation courses I took in secondary school and at university. A whole new world came to life via instruments and genres. For that, I shall be forever grateful.

So let’s start exposing children to this musical world, take them to concerts, ballet and, perhaps, the opera. It helps to make them well-rounded, educated individuals.

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