Teenagers Through the Twilight Years: Still Connecting the Dots

You thought I was done talking about music, didn’t you? There’s still more to say! Like I said in my previous blog, music is a life-long pastime. The benefits don’t end when a child enters school, and it’s important to acknowledge that. The benefits of music last through our twilight years!

If you have ever been in contact with teenagers, you know how important music is to them. Think back to your own teenage years: how many hours did you spend in your room singing into your hairbrush? The article “Music for Babies-Music for Teenagers” references a 1989 report from The Journal of the American Medical Association in which Dr. Elizabeth Brown asserts that “between the seventh and twelfth grades, the average teenager listens to 10,500 hours of rock music, just slightly less than the entire number of hours spent in the classroom from kindergarten through high school.” If that was the case in 1989, consider what it is now with music on the internet, mp3 players that can hold thousands of songs and all of the music-based TV shows on air. If that calculation doesn’t attest to the importance of music to teenagers, I don’t know what does. It’s continuing to connect the dots, even if the teenagers are completely oblivious that it’s happening.

I’ll pose the same reflection as I did for early education songs. Think about songs teenagers are listening to now, like Shinedown’s “Second Chance.” You’ve probably heard it. Some of the lyrics include: I just saw Halley’s Comet, she waved/Said why you always running in place?/Even the man in the moon disappeared/Somewhere in the stratosphere. So, how does this song connect dots? First, it reinforces the concept of half-rhymes, where words don’t rhyme exactly, which is used frequently in the poetry of renowned authors like W. B. Yeats and Emily Dickinson. Second, it mentions meteorological terms such as Halley’s Comet and the stratosphere. That’s beyond the melody, rhythm, knowledge of verses and choruses which are emphasized through music.

For those of you who want to see results, I refer you to the published average SAT scores of Texas students who participate in music programs across the last ten years. Those students participating in music programs continually score a minimum of 100 points higher than the national average, up to more than 500 points higher. Does this mean they are smarter? No. There is no evidence indicating that standardized tests measure intelligence. But, those dots are connected, strengthened and their significance is evident.

Jenni Jacobs made an excellent comment on my last blog. She said, “…We can turn on the radio, hear a song from 20 years ago and still remember every lyric… because music has engaged our emotions, our memory, our language centers, the sensory centers… and every other part!” There are songs that make me sad, make me happy, make me calm, make me excited. There are also songs that when I hear them, I am immediately reminded of an event, relationship or specific year of my life. They are forever linked.

I leave you with a study from Boston University which used music with memory tests in people with Alzheimer’s disease. The study showed that patients with Alzheimer’s, when given a series of memory tests involving lyrics to recently-written children’s songs, learned more lyrics when the words were set to music rather than simply spoken. While these are preliminary results, released only six months ago, the potential is amazing. The dots may still be connected, even in the face of illness. As we move through our lives, it is undeniable that taking time to incorporate music has a wealth of benefits, and I hope you have come away from these blogs with more knowledge of these benefits than you had before. I know I did.