The Value of Learning Music in School

This week, our students were treated to workshops and concerts by world renowned musicians from Sweden, ‘The Bergcrantz Family Project’ with guest artists Johan Kolsut (drums) and Rickard Malmsten (bass guitar). Rickard himself was AISHK’s guitar teacher about 10 years ago. It is wonderful that past teachers and students from AISHK maintain these connections and always wish to pay us a visit on their return to Hong Kong. This speaks volumes about the attachment our community keeps with the school. The band, with Rickard and Johan, are in Hong Kong conducting TV broadcasts for RTHK and performing at the Peel Fresco Lounge this week.

Each member of the Bergcrantz family is a well-respected musician in their own right. Anders Bergcrantz has been voted one of the world’s best trumpeters in a variety of music magazines and has seven albums to his credit and regularly performs around the globe as either a solo or ensemble player. His wife, Anna-Lena Lauren (piano) was voted No.2 composer in 2015 by the 37th Annual Jazz Station awards in Los Angeles. Anders’ and Anna-Lena’s daughters, Iris and Rebecca (vocalists) have a number of awards and albums to their name as well. They have worked with artists such as Benny Anderson (of ABBA fame) amongst many other world class musicians. Their music ranges from jazz, to classical to psychedelic electronic and folk.

It has been a great honour for our students to spend time listening, talking and improvising with such an amazing group, and a memory that they should cherish forever.

There is plenty of research to suggest the benefits of learning an instrument and experiences such as this can only help to encourage, motivate and inspire our students. Many children take up an instrument because they have seen or heard a musical experience that interests them. This may be from hearing a guitar riff on one of dad’s CDs to witnessing a stunning live performance by a professional musician or even one of their classmates. It can even be just the look of a certain instrument, and this is why exposure is such an important component in musical education at school, as well as at home. At AISHK we firmly believe that getting our students to perform, listen or create music as much as possible is vital to their musical, social and academic growth.

‘Bigger Better Brains’ describes playing an instrument as creating ‘fireworks’ in our brains. Even listening to music engages every area of the brain at the same time, most notably in the visual, motor and auditory areas, however, regular practise also stimulates fine motor skills, and these are developed in both hemispheres of the brain, therefore combining linguistic and mathematical precision in the way both sides of the brain work together. This may assist musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively than non-musicians, in both academic and social activities.

How playing an instrument benefits your brain

We currently have over 200 students enrolled in our Instrumental Programme. This is a service we provide for students to learn an instrument here at school. Our teachers are well established in Hong Kong, and many of them are also performing professional musicians. Students are often encouraged to enter exams like the ABRSM exams which are so popular in Hong Kong or participate in our primary recitals or as part of an assembly.

Recently, we have been able to celebrate success for students like Lukas Tsang, Angus Fung, Kylie Hui, Summer Hartnett and Daniel Chen, who all took graded music exams with either ABRSM or Trinity Rock and Pop exams. Students can start with the prep test which is a, ‘no failure’ initial test that helps to prepare for the later graded music exams. These music exams encourage children to learn a variety of different musical styles on their instrument, engage in technical studies as well as develop ear training and sight-reading skills. All of these are essential skills for musical development. Our instrumental programme is operated during the school day on a rotational basis. We find this to be a very successful way of providing the best benefit for a student’s education.

Is leaving the class to attend a music lesson detrimental to a child’s learning?

The study of music not only engages the brain in such a fantastic way, it also creates proven transferable skills such as:

        • The ability to be creative and think outside of the box
        • The ability to plan ahead
        • The ability to take responsibility
        • The ability to collaborate and work effectively with others
        • The ability to think and understand in patterns
        • The ability to manage time and handle several projects at once