Review of Good Music Brighter Children by Sharlene Habermeyer

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s! Reviews have been absent for a while here on the blog this past holiday season for the sake of regrouping, spending time with my wonderful family, and for the sake of meeting my goal to thoroughly go through the aforementioned (in the title) book so it could be the next review.

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I was quite intrigued by “Good Music Brighter Children-Simple & Practical Ideas to Help Transform Your Child’s Life Through the Power of Music” after reading the overview of its content, and I was most definitely not disappointed once I got my hands on the book and began reading it! Originally published 15 years ago, this revised and updated version is the culmination of 25 years Habermeyer has spent researching and studying the positive effects music can have on humans.

One thing I really appreciate about this book is that the findings documented in the book are not just credible because of the plethora of stories, studies, practical applications, and personal experiences, but because of the passion and devotion with which Habermeyer writes and lives. Even though it’s over 350 pages long, it’s very nicely laid out into 5 different sections/topics (see below), and I found it very easy to read and understand which was so nice! Plus, it was really refreshing that the book just focuses on the effects of classical music/learning an instrument vs. creating a debate over “good” and “bad” music.

Separated Into Four Sections:

Part 1-Why Music:
Overture: The Power of Music (Chapter 1)
Music and the Brain: Nothing is Minor About Music (Chapter 2)

Part 2-Music In The Home:
Home: Set the Tone with Music (Chapter 3)
Making Sound Choices: Choosing an Instrument & Teacher (Chapter 4)
Practicing: Keeping the Tempo (Chapter 5)
Noteworthy: Learning Values Through Music (Chapter 6)

Part 3-A Need for Advocacy: Music Ed in the Schools:
A Dynamic Movement: Music’s Power to Educate (Chapter 7)
Striking a Chord: Music’s Impact on Cognitive Delays & Physical Disabilities (Chapter 8)
Improvisation: Creativity and the 21st Century (Chapter 9)

Part 4-A Cultural Heritage
Voices in Unison: Supporting the Arts in Your Community (Chapter 10)
The “Do Re Mis” of Starting an Orchestra” (Chapter 11)

Part 5-Finale
Building a Legacy: A Parent’s Responsibility (Chapter 12)

After the final chapter you’ll find 50 pages worth of RESOURCES (some of them mentioned throughout the book), followed by 22 pages of NOTES, and then an INDEX section. It’s definitely structured in such a way to be a helpful tool and enable readers to easily reference specific things. The book was also designed in such a way that each chapter can stand on its own which I think makes it much more appealing for someone who’s only interested in certain topics.

Because I work so much with kids I was quite fascinated by the chapter, Home, which discusses the long term effects music-specifically classical music-can have on children’s brains, even while they’re in utero. As a physically disabled musician myself, Striking a Chord definitely hit home for me and was very relatable and had some very inspiring stories. The emphasis on the need for creative thinkers in the Improvisation chapter was very eye-opening and interesting-particularly all the quotes from those in the business world. The final chapter, Building a Legacy, was one I greatly appreciated. Not because it exhorts parents to be involved in giving their children musical exposure, but because it points out one of the key elements of good parenting that I believe the majority of couples lack: building relationships with their children. On the matter, Habermayer says, “Material possessions, these ‘things’ that permeate our culture, ultimately do not make children or adults happy or fulfilled. When we lose the things in life that really mean something-like a warm relationship with our children-nothing else matters.”

Here are a few other excerpts from the book that were quite fascinating and inspiring:

“Dr. Frank Wilson…reports that learning to play an instrument refines the development of the brain and the entire neurological system. It also connects and develops motor systems of the brain in a way that cannot be done by any other activity. Dr. Wilson believes that learning a musical instrument is vital for the total development of the brain and individual.” (Page 25)

“Thomas Verny found that the unborn child ‘can see, hear, experience, taste, and, on a primitive level, even learn in utero…Although musical studies on babies in utero are continuing, the research suggests that by singing, talking, playing classical music and lullabies, and reading to the unborn child, parents can give them a significant advantage in early language, memory, and music development.” (Page 40; 41)

“When a child learns a musical instrument, most of his senses are being utilized. For example, a child learning the piano is using his eyes to read the music, his ears to hear the correct notes, his hands to play the notes, and his feet to coordinate and play the pedals. All of this requires a level of concentration, memory skills, motor coordination, and symbol recognition. Both sides of the brain, as well as the front and back portions of the brain, are being used to accomplish this incredible feat. Not only is the child experiencing the enjoyment that comes from learning a musical instrument, he is also learning skills that will help him succeed in school and beyond.” (Page 55)

“…But my expectation for them is more than what they accomplish in school and in band-I expect them to represent what they have learned in my program at home, at church, on the job, and in the community…” (Barry Trobaugh, Director of Bands at Munford High School-Page 92)

“‘Even today, I do not love to practice but I do it knowing how important it is.’” (Jenny Oaks Baker-Page 106)

“You could be a genius, but if you can’t cooperate and work with others, your intelligence will not be your greatest asset.” (Page 131)

As I was reading this book and would tell others about it, the word I found myself most often using is, “fascinating.” And though there were certain chapters, philosophies, and viewpoints that I didn’t love, looking back over everything I learned from this book, I can’t get over just how fascinating and phenomenal music is. It’s such a beautiful masterpiece of creation! Toward the end of the book the words of J.S. Bach kept coming to my mind, “I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.”

Whether you’re a parent, music educator, student, professional musician, school teacher, I believe there are things within “Good Music Brighter Children” that every one of you would find profitable. 🙂

To learn more about Sharlene Habermeyer and her research visit her site: www.goodmusicbrighterchildren.com
From there you can also purchase your own copy of the book!

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