Music and youth, an important partnership

BETHEL — Music can transform people. How? According to, (a Kohl's/Penfield Children's Center project), music can stimulate the brain's alpha waves which in turn invokes a feeling of peace and tranquility. It also boosts the development of perceptual skills that enhances language.

"Sometimes music helps us to articulate things that we wouldn't be able to articulate otherwise," says Crescent Elementary Music Teacher Melissa Birkhold. "As a music teacher, it's a real privilege to be able to help my students develop this awareness, as well as their ability to express the awareness, and just to develop their creativity in a general sense."

When Sarah Scaffold, one of Woodstock Elementary School Instrumental Teacher was asked how music can change a student's life, she says music gives the students a place to be grounded. They're with the same peers for 3-4 years, working towards the same goal together. There is a growth with the same set of people. It can also help in small ways by helping them make connections to music, teaching students work ethic and perseverance by having them go home and practice. It teaches them focus.

The interesting part of being part of an orchestra or band, is the student must be focused on their music notes and how they are playing their instrument, but simultaneously, they must also be focused on what the conductor is doing and each section of the orchestra/band. Students are able to sharpen their focusing abilities from this experience.

Safford also says music gives them a chance to belong, it gives them an identity. She adds that kids get so excited to play instruments, it's the highlight of their day.

Students get the opportunity to try numerous instruments depending on their grade and the class. In Birkhold's music class, students are taught how to play the recorder, xylophone, and other percussion instruments. They also get to sing.

"They sing a variety of songs, and I incorporate a lot of little stories and games that get them singing," Birkhold says. "Especially at the younger elementary ages, lessons are heavily movement-based and play-based.

Tapping into their innate capacity to learn through movement and play enables me to develop their rhythmic skills and facilitate opportunities for them to connect to the more expressive qualities of music. Students also learn to read music, and to compose their own music, both individually and collaboratively."

At Woodstock Elementary, it's a bit different.

The third, fourth, and fifth graders can choose to play the violin, viola, or the cello. In addition, fourth and fifth graders can play band instruments such as the flute, clarinet, alt. saxophone, trumpet, trombone, or percussion. More so, once they're in fifth grade, during the recess they have the option to play rock band music on rock n' roll instruments such as guitar or bass guitar. The school provides the instruments with the instruments it currently has.

Music, unlike language, ignites every part of the brain, including motivation and emotion, according to the Penfield site.

"I've seen music enable students to take more ownership of their learning, and become more proactive in seeking out new learning opportunities," says Birkhold. "I've seen students develop confidence in their musical abilities when confidence is sometimes lacking in other areas of their education. I've also seen students reach new levels of independence and competence in terms of their ability to engage socially with their peers and with adults."

According to the National Association for Music Education, "70% of those who were involved in music say that it was at least somewhat influential in contributing to their current level of personal fulfillment."

"There's also a strong connection between music and the social/emotional development of young people," Birkhold says. "The science has been there for a while to show that positive correlation. I think COVID shed a light on what that truly looks like in young people, and why it is so important that we continue to find creative ways to support their social/emotional growth."