The Importance of Early Music Musical Training

Oliver Sacks: And you’ll find that even a few minutes of five finger exercises will make functional changes in the brain, so the brain’s response to music in physiological terms is almost immediate although obviously it would take months or whatever to have anatomical changes. But a year of Suzuki training will produce physical changes in the brain, and there have been studies looking at the brains before and after a year of training. And so whatever gifts a  person has or doesn’t have, musical training seems to be very important, the more so if it’s early.

If music can so alter the brain, at least the musical parts of the brain, when people are young, one would wonder the role of music in education, and whether this enlargement and benefit can spread to other parts of the brain, whether it will facilitate reading, memory, concentration, focus, and there’s quite a lot of evidence that this is the case, and therefore strong arguments for including music in education. But I stress this is something beyond the so-called Mozart effect. A little Mozart under the pillow, a teaspoon of Mozart, while it’s very pleasant and it may introduce people to Mozart, in itself, that’s not enough. There needs to be real engagements with music and a lot of it.

Try this for Sight-Reading!

There is a growing market for sight-reading exercises. Great to see, but it still comes down to the student doing this activity regularly. I became more than competent at sight-reading from an early age for two reasons; (1) I had an older sister who had lots and lots of music (all originals – there were no photocopiers then), and so I would pick up different pieces to play; (2) playing for my church required me to be able to play just about anything that was thrust in front of one (OK – it was mostly chordal and predictable harmonic gestures, as hymns etc were) – but this saw me gain a greater confidence. As well, my mother (who was a school teacher and would buy much music and exercise books (sight-reading and technical) – was great believer in owning the resources) purchased every available Sight-Reading book on the market at the time. But now there are websites which offer resources for students and teachers. Try this one.

As various examination boards publish their own to help students and teachers understand the required levels for each grade. To download the Trinity College London Publications Catalogue 2011 for details about its full range of repertoire and teaching resources, go to

Vitamin D lack linked to Mozart’s death

SAN FRANCISCO, July 4 (UPI) — Classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart may have died from a lack of vitamin D, U.S. and Austrian researchers suggest.

William B. Grant of the Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center in San Francisco and Dr. Stephen Pilz of the Medical University of Graz in Austria say in the 18th century, the health benefits of ultraviolet-B light from sunlight and vitamin D were unknown, and people may have thought infectious diseases were more common in winter.

Low serum vitamin D level is an important risk factor for several types of infection, including pneumonia and sepsis, cardiovascular disease and renal disease, the researchers said.

In an article published in Medical Problems of Performing Artists, the researchers wrote at the latitude of Vienna, 48 degrees North, where Mozart lived, it is impossible to make vitamin D from solar ultraviolet-B irradiance for about six months of the year.

Mozart died Dec. 5, 1791, two to three months into the winter and he is reported to have suffered many infectious diseases, including catarrh, fever and polyarthritis, sore throat, bad cold, vomiting from between mid-October 1762 to mid-May 1783.

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Richard Gill: The young person’s guide to the orchestra … is lacking

If you are interested in reading more about the national curriculum and the music education debate, click onto Richard Gill’s article in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sept 2009):