Children and youngsters can greatly benefit from making music together in a band, musical ensemble or orchestra. Among the individual benefits that collective music-making provides are: confidence, development of a sense of aesthetics, teamwork, problem-solving skills and deep focus, discipline, striving for excellence, leadership, determination, self-worth, perseverance, cooperation and coexistence, competitive spirit, and academic success.
This article was inspired by The Venezuelan System of Children and Youth Orchestras, better known as “El Sistema”. This system of youth orchestras has helped thousands of children through collective music-making practice.
Individual Benefits of Collective Music-making.
Based on my five years of participatory observations as a member of a Youth Orchestra and my years of studying orchestral practice and teaching music to children and adults, I can state that collective music-making provides multiple benefits, which begin at the individual level and are disseminated to families and communities.
The individual level includes the spiritual, moral, intellectual, and affective development of youngsters involved in collective musical practice, which helps them to develop their full potential. Among the individual benefits that collective music-making provides are: confidence, development of a sense of aesthetics, teamwork, problem-solving skills and deep focus, discipline, striving for excellence, leadership, determination, self-worth, perseverance, cooperation and coexistence, competitive spirit, and academic success.
Children and teenagers gain self-confidence through the making of music. They feel that they are important members of a group, the orchestra. Teachers and conductors pay great attention to them, making them feel that they are creating something important and beautiful by working together. They confront musical challenges, work toward hard-to-achieve goals, and exhibit their newly gained confidence during their performances.
The young musicians also develop a sense of aesthetic beauty through sensual experiences starting in their early years. They listen to and play exquisite music, they touch and feel beautiful instruments, they practice and play surrounded by the wonderful architecture of world-class theaters and concert halls, and they even develop their own aesthetic through the act of dressing to perform.
Music empowers. First, one looks for excellence in the music played, and then one looks for excellence in everything else. That is the magic of the arts. The arts transform individuals’ sense of beauty; then, after they have seen the intrinsic value of the arts, they are not satisfied with anything less.
The orchestral structure provides an excellent ground within which to learn to work as a team player. The orchestra is an example of how to live properly in a democratic society. In the orchestra, everybody has a specific function and collaborates with everyone else to achieve a common goal. The young musicians learn that to make good music, they have to listen to each other and work as a team.
The orchestra or musical ensemble is the ideal micro-democratic society. Through the orchestral practice, children and youth learn that the contribution of each member is directly related to the general orchestral outcome. In the orchestra, they need to listen to each other and work as a well-tuned instrument. In this way, the orchestra is comparable to a piano, with every member equivalent to a key and where every key is fundamental to the successful functioning of the whole instrument.