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    EDUCATIONAL THEORY

    Music promotes child development

    Our mission is to share the joy of making music with people of every age all over the world. We are convinced that exposure to music and musical instruments is extremely beneficial, especially for children, and can positively impact their development.

    Making music fosters creativity and trains perception, motor skills, concentration, and memory performance. In this way, music supports the development of confidence and identity. Music is a universal language that puts everyone on equal footing. It opens up wonderful opportunities for the inclusion and integration challenges we are currently facing. Making music together in a group also helps people develop a series of social skills, cooperativeness, and empathy. This is a great reason to stand up for more active music-making in modern education.

     
    • Making music gives people an opportunity to express themselves, communicate their inner feelings about sounds, tones, and rhythms, and to combine them with other forms of expression, such as movement and dance. Confronting musical “issues” encourages creative thinking, coming up with your own ideas, a wider range of ideas, original ideas, and flexibility. Problem-solving skills are honed in the process.

    • Exposure to music encourages careful listening. Kids discover the sounds that they can make on an instrument and develop a distinct ability to distinguish between volume levels, pitches, and harmonies, strengthening their general receptiveness in all areas of life as a result.

    • Making music requires and supports fine-motor skills. Playing a scale on a keyboard instrument, for instance, requires teamwork between activation and inhibition. When the index finger bends, all other fingers naturally bend too. To stop this from happening, the brain must not only learn to send stimuli to the activated finger, but also to tell the other fingers to stop moving.

    • Several sensory stimuli must be processed at the same time when making music. To produce a sound, a child must plan motor skills and coordinate hand-arm movement to hit the (right) key (eye-hand coordination). The child must also control his or her strength. When playing with others or accompanying a song, the speed and rhythm also need to be synchronized.

    • Playing a musical instrument encourages the formation of synapses. Brain cells are connected, including from the left side to the right side of the brain. In turn, this helps the brain make connections more quickly and improves memory performance.

    • Making music – whether alone or in a group – also has a social aspect that we wish to mention here. Making music creates confidence, even if the player only knows a few songs. Music builds friendships. Music and playing an instrument create identity.

     

    AN INTERVIEW WITH HOHNER MANAGING DIRECTOR STEFAN ALTHOFF

    Book and magazine publisher Gernot Körner interviewed Stefan Althoff, the Managing Director of HOHNER Musikinstrumente GmbH and SONOR GmbH, to mark the new XS accordion going on sale.

    You’re right. We are seeing that day care centers are allotting less and less time to music and, in particular, playing instruments. This is all the more depressing since exposure to music is proven to be very beneficial for children. It offers an incredible range of sensory perceptions, especially in the early years of life. Besides its own aesthetics, playing music has a wide range of development psychology impacts that foster and challenge the child’s entire personality. All education plans reflect this or a similar reality. Music encourages well-being, expression, imagination, creativity, and social skills. It supports cultural identity and intercultural skills. And it teaches people to listen carefully.

    The expectation is that early exposure to math, computer science, natural sciences, and technology will prepare children especially well for the future. In my opinion, this belief overlooks two basic realities. Firstly, none of us know what the future has in store. Secondly, we need well-developed basic skills, like those learned through exposure to music, such as creativity, imagination, and many social skills, to meet future challenges. Today, for instance, we need to deepen integration and inclusion. Music has massive potential here as a universal language. That’s why well-known researchers and experts are calling for day care centers and schools to devote more time to music alongside sports, art, and theater.

    Of course not. Just take a look at how many more music and dance shows are now on television. Famous musicians’ concerts usually sell out quickly, even though ticket prices have soared in recent years. Surveys indicate that 80 percent of Germans are convinced that children should take part in musical activities in day care centers. An instrument is played in almost 18 percent of German households. This proportion has decreased, but almost half of people would like to play a musical instrument, according to a survey by the German Consumer Research Association (GfK). Music has always been a basic need that meets people’s inner drive for aesthetic expression. Even back in the Stone Ages, people used to make flutes and drums out of bones so they could make music.

    In our experience, children are fascinated with an accordion as soon as they see or even touch it. The bellows, the keys, and the buttons all meet the child’s need for discovery. This fascination is reason enough for a few discount retailers to bring toy accordions on the market at regular intervals. But these toys are just that, and are nothing like a real instrument in terms of their handling or sound. Ultimately, the child ends up frustrated so the experience tends to be counterproductive.

    Of course, as the world’s leading accordion manufacturer, we are interested in getting children excited about accordions. Today, it is important to do so earlier and earlier because kids get involved in many extracurricular activities even before they start school. If we do not get them interested until later on in elementary school, it is often too late. We also know from studies that only about 7.4 percent of kids who start to make music between the ages of three and five will end up quitting. We decided to develop an accordion to meet the needs of children aged four and older based on these insights, how excited children get about accordions, and the need to get them interested at an early age.

    The earlier that a person forms a connection with an instrument, the greater the probability that they will continue to play. We really did our homework after the first experiences with the accordion. Children are already much less inhibited than adults. And they are equally open to accordions. It doesn’t take long for them to become real enthusiasts. Unlike other instruments, it is really easy to create beautiful sounds with the accordion. It’s not about turning young children into prodigies in a short period of time. But children can get excited about the instrument in day care centers – an excitement that might be a lifelong companion.

    We developed this instrument based on lengthy experience and fresh insights, and with academic support from the University of the Arts, Bremen. Our developers managed to make the XS much lighter and smaller than other accordions on the basis of completely new technology. First and foremost, we have modified the accordion to meet the ergonomic needs of children, including creating a special strap for them. The HOHNER XS is also much easier to handle and play. The new design allowed us to eliminate about half of the weight of the old beginner accordion while maintaining excellent sound quality. Even professional musicians are really impressed with the instrument’s basses.

    The accordion is certainly part and parcel of Alpine folk music – and we are really proud of that. It is also found in other types of folk music, such as Irish folk-rock, the French musette waltz, and the South American tango – to name just a few famous examples. Over the course of music history, this instrument has traveled the entire globe, becoming part of the fabric of different cultures. Today, you can find many accordionists playing jazz, classical music, and modern pop music. The accordion has gained massive popularity in the modern pop and rock culture, in particular, in recent years. It is a really universal instrument – and that is the message that we are sharing across all of our channels too.

    The accordion provides lots of opportunities for a wide range of experiences due to its character. For instance, the bellows create sounds by drawing in and expelling air so the instrument starts to “breathe.” Exposure to this form of expression through play opens up a diverse range of new experiences.

    The entire range of musical diversity can be discovered on an accordion. It has a melody side, a bass, and can play memorable rhythms. The emotional element of music also comes into play. Both sides of the brain are activated and trained by attempting to combine all of these levels.

    We have also simplified this new instrument for the entire spectrum of early education. This means that people who have not really been very involved in making music in the past can make good progress fairly quickly. Educators are thus able to include the accordion in all musical activities. And because it is so small and light, it is always easy to take along on activities outside the classroom.

    We also want to help make it easier for educators to accomplish their music education mission with the accordion. Music educators Marco Wasem, Elke Gulden, and Bettina Scheer have even developed their own practice book with accompanying materials for this purpose. They believe that the new accordion is not only the perfect fit for the classroom, but also ideally suited for promoting child development.