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Column: Music changes lives – every young person should have the chance to learn

Through music education, many of society’s most vulnerable young people dare to dream of greater things for their futures, writes Chris Maher.

Chris Maher

LET’S FACE IT, when it comes to academia, not everyone is a budding Einstein. I’m sure we can all recall the brain-boxes and the trouble-makers from our days at school – the happiest days of our lives, they said. But what, if any, subjects did you excel at? And, more importantly, how can you be certain your child isn’t falling through the cracks in our education system?

If you think of our education system as a fisherman’s net designed to catch the biggest, most profitable fish while letting the little ones swim through the gaps – safe for a while yet – you’ll quickly realise that some children will inevitably slip through the education net. After all, subjects such as maths and science may come easy for a few, but most have to work hard to achieve acceptable grades. Some really struggle and inevitably end up suffering low self-esteem for not understanding what seemingly everyone else does.

It’s not just the student that is left feeling frustrated; the poor teacher has the unenviable task of trying to fit the proverbial square peg into a round hole. Remember all those negative report cards?

No surprise then that many young people endure rather than enjoy their school days, while other, more extreme, cases end up leaving school early (sans the leaving certificate and thus the opportunity to go on to third level education) often perpetuating a vicious cycle of incomplete education resulting in limited employment opportunities and increasing the potential for a life on, or close to, the poverty line. This is not just a problem for the individual but for our society as a whole.

So how can music help?

Research by neurobiologist Nina Kraus and the NAMM foundation, just one of thousands of other studies, found a significant relationship between music instruction and positive performances in such areas as reading comprehension, spelling, mathematics, listening skills, primary mental abilities (verbal, perceptual, numeric, and spatial) and motor skills.

By learning a musical instrument, particularly as part of a group, young people have the opportunity to express themselves creatively which in turn helps to build their confidence in and out of the classroom. Not just a fantastic hobby that lasts a lifetime – the wide-ranging, life-changing benefits of learning a musical instrument can help with every area of a child’s development.

Music has been breaking down barriers and building bridges across social divides for hundreds if not thousands of years.

When the Musical Youth Foundation was established it was with one simple mission: “to provide every child on the island of Ireland with access to a musical education”.

Thanks to the support of partner organisations like StubHub, the Musical Youth Foundation have already provided over 1,000 hours of professional music tuition to at-risk young people in Ireland. In many cases helping to re-engage the young people with the overall education process, ensuring that they at least complete the secondary school education process. Through music education, many of these most vulnerable young people dare to dream of greater things when it comes to education and that can’t be a bad thing – education is the greatest gift we can give our nation’s young people, they are after all our nation’s future!

Chris Maher is the CEO and founder of the Musical Youth Foundation.

To find out more and get involved with the Musical Youth Foundation children’s charity visit www.musicalyouthfoundation.org

Uploaded by RightToMusic

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Chris Maher

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