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Why live music is so beneficial to our children

My childhood memories growing up in the Dankworth family are fond ones. I remember our home being regularly filled with musicians and hearing the deep strings of a double bass being plucked from within my dad’s practice room.

Throughout my early years, having been brought up surrounded with Jazz music (with my grandparents being Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John Dankworth that’s about as good as you can get) and immersed in live music of all genres including choral, classical, and latin sounds, I can safely say this has positively influenced my adult-self in many ways.

I want to open your eyes to the benefits of quality live music for children, as professionals like myself believe in, and also let you in to why Jazz is such an appealing art form to indulge in from a very early age.  

Photo: Emily and father Alec Dankworth

Why is live music so beneficial to children?

Through years of research, it’s clear that introducing live music into a child’s learning programme is hugely beneficial to their development. Musical experiences in childhood can speed up cognitive development, especially in the areas of language and reading skills. Live music also nurtures important social skills such as sharing, bonding, confidence and patience.  

A case story that really fascinates me took place in Yorkshire, UK in November 2017. A derelict school on special measures became a national leader by making music compulsory, adding six hours per week in their curriculum for every student. It is now in the top 10% nationally for pupil progress in reading writing and maths due to this drastic change.

Why is Jazz Music especially beneficial?

As we improvise in Jazz music, we are creating rhythms, exploring dynamics and pitch and forming melodies. As we do this in a creative shared environment, Jazz music is encouraging self-development and building our confidence.  Listening to and playing Jazz music stimulates the mind, boosts creativity, relieves stress and enhances the ability to memorize. 

Jazz has around 40 sub-genres and is said to be the most versatile and dynamic type of music in the world. An example that demonstrates the versatility of our Jazz artists; Dame Cleo Laine is the only female performer to have ever received Grammy nominations in Jazz, Pop and Classical musical categories. A Jazz player experiences massive amounts of mental stimulation, having to engage the brain in multiple ways that a classical player doesn’t. Challenging time signatures like 12/8 and 5/4, complex African or Latin rhythms, interacting with the other players in call and response scenarios and Improvising which is essentially composing on the spot. When we improvise we have to know proper chord structures in order to choose the notes we want to put into our invented melody all within the blink of an eye. I’ve heard so many people say they hear Jazz as unstructured noise. It’s really the opposite of that. 

Photo: Jingle Jam Music Musicians

Why should parents take part in children’s music classes?

Children's response to live music is different from recorded music and babies respond more when the music comes directly from the parent. To get the full benefits of music, children need to sing, clap and dance along with the songs. Really interacting to the music tells the brain to make sense of it. I formed Jingle Jam Music for under 5s and Babies in order to explore all the benefits that quality live music brings to our little ones. In our classes, we believe strongly in child and adult participation, with music being innate in the relationship between infants and parents. Parents actually improvise with their babies every day without realising it.

At Jingle Jam Music, we combine the spirits of Jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Charlie Parker with our favourite nursery classics, whilst improvising, exploring rhythms, dynamics, sounds and movement. We are sowing the seed of creativity within our children, using songs, sounds and stories to help flourish their amazing little selves.

Photo: Jingle Jam Music class

Live music is hugely beneficial to our development from an early age with the relationship between parent and child playing an important part. Most of the emphasis in the early years is placed on reading, writing and numeracy, and not enough on the benefits of music. What will it take us to turn this around?

Jazz music in particular gives us a sort of brain workout, challenging us with high levels of mental stimulation and as a result, training our children to think critically and creatively. Its many components allow our children to become well-rounded, high achievers with great skills in memory and discipline.

All the evidence is there. Now let’s act and get your child into a LIVE music class to see how they fly!

About Emily and Jingle Jam Music

Having graduated with MMus in Jazz Performance from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and a choral scholarship from University in Canterbury I went on to discover the early years sector. I formed Jingle Jam Music in order to introduce families to live music and Jazz in an authentic creative process. You can read more about us on the website.

Emily has a diverse musical upbringing; as the granddaughter of Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John Dankworth and father bassist, Alec Dankworth, she has travelled all over the world performing, passing on her musical talents to listeners. Venues include Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club, The Barbican Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Centre, (NYC), and BBC Radio and BBC Television.

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