As a musician myself, I have long believed in the transformational power of music. Throughout my life I have found music to be a light in dark times and a way to connect with others across otherwise insurmountable barriers. No matter our political views, our languages, or our allegiances, we can all pause to appreciate the beauty of music.
This idea, music as a force for good, is supported by science. Studies have shown music to be a universal language that interacts with all parts of the brain: from processing the sound itself and connecting it with emotions and memories, to invoking physical movement and activating the visual cortex. Just listening to your favorite music can release more dopamine and improve your brain’s overall cognitive functioning.
For those who play music, the benefits can be even greater: research has shown that music can restructure the brain and positively impact the way information is processed, especially when musicians start early.
Brain scans of those who began playing music as children, while their brains were still developing, show that the nerve fibers connecting both sides of the brain, or the corpus callosum, are much more significant when compared with people who don’t play music. Whether musical training was an integral part of a person’s childhood or just a short-lived hobby, the lasting effects can have a huge impact on their mental health, and communication and problem-solving skills.
Because both sides of the brain are used while playing music, musicians are better able to interpret competing information from both brain hemispheres. Reading music involves translating symbols on different lines of paper into information about hand and body motion: which hand to use when playing the piano, when to regulate breathing when operating a wind instrument, or how to hold your shoulders when playing the violin.
On a piano, the right hand may be playing a melody while the left hand simultaneously plays supporting notes at the same time. Musicians gain not only the ability to process information from competing sides at the same time, but also the ability to think about information differently. Due to the biological impact of playing music, its advantages in everyday life reach far beyond the music room. According to the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, musicians also possess strong memory and reading skills because music and reading use the same cognitive mechanisms.
The cognitive and emotional benefits of learning music early is one of the many reasons I am proud that my family’s charitable organization, the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation, supports musical initiatives for young people, such as the Perlman Music Program (PMP).
Founded in 1994 by violinist Toby Perlman, PMP brings life-changing opportunities to young musicians looking to hone their craft in a judgement-free space alongside some of the most renowned musicians in the world, including Ms. Perlman’s husband, Itzhak Perlman. A world-famous violinist, Mr. Perlman is a four-time Emmy winner who has performed for the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush.
PMP offers studio classes, chamber ensembles, sight-reading sessions and discussion forums for Mr. Perlman’s instruction. Students are also offered the opportunity to participate in a travel residency in Tel Aviv. Not only are these students immersed in a new culture, but they are given the opportunity to play music with alumni of the program, including members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Programs like PMP help to build the next generation of leaders, who, by harnessing the power of music, can work together to create a brighter future for everyone. We are proud to be able to make this vision possible.