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1999 LLLI Conference Sessions:
The Power of Music

By Johanna Horton
Jacksonville IL USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 5, September-October 1999, p. 168

Don Campbell, author of The Mozart Effect, was on fire with enthusiasm for his subject, delivered with passion and sincerity. He's an impeccably trained musician who has devoted attention recently to the realm of how organized sound affects our minds and bodies. He features Mozart's music because Mozart, who grew up in the perfect auditory environment, was young when he wrote his music, so it appeals to all of us. Any kind of music can help our minds and bodies, as long as it's good and has integrity of melody - Folk, Gospel, Rock, Country, Broadway, whatever. (He also said "as long as it's not too loud," although he noted that studies show that even loud music can help those with attention deficit disorder.)

The different factors in music - rhythm, pitch, tone quality, melody - affect different parts of our brain and help us to organize brain and muscle activity in productive ways. Campbell handed out two paper plates ("the cheaper and flimsier, the better") to each attendee, and led us in clapping them, moving them high or low or to the left side or right side, swishing them together, even pretending to squash mosquitoes with them - all in response to what the music urged us to do. He said that parents can easily join their children in doing this create-it-yourself activity to whatever music they please. Then he explained that each of these movements corresponded to important sensory integration skills. No wonder it was so much fun!

The reaction of the toddlers and babies to the music was phenomenal - they'd clap or dance or tilt their heads to hear better, and they didn't even know what they were "supposed" to be doing. Campbell seemed amazed at how well the music captured their attention even in the crowded session room. He doesn't usually have young ones in his audience! When we hum or sing to our babies or dance with our babies, they pick up on the vibrations and the patterns, and this helps them grow and develop. Hum while you nurse. After three minutes of humming, both mother and baby will be more relaxed. He sang to us and talked in rhythm and rhyme, and encouraged us to do the same with our children as part of daily activities and routines. Rhythm and pattern are the foundations of learning. What children hear in the first three years determines how they speak. As I was listening, it occurred to me that these are all things fathers can do with their children. I raced to the microphone during the discussion time to broadcast this loud and clear to those attending!

Music is more than art and entertainment. Campbell spoke about the transformational power of music in health, education, and well being. Music can improve the health of families and communities: reduce stress, relax, or activate the body, it can heal and educate. After hearing him I went right down to the bookstore and got sets of his "Mozart for Children" CDs to give as baby presents.

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