The Value of Music Participation
Why would college students continue participating in band and orchestra when their majors were in completely different fields? What did they get from it? Why was the experience valuable enough that they would devote several hours a week to playing music? In a study I conducted in 2008, those were some of the questions I asked 12 undergraduate students who were majoring in fields as diverse as accounting, marketing, math, cytotechnology, German history, molecular biology, computer science, elementary education, communication, and sociology. My next blogs will summarize the participants’ responses.
Feeling the “flow experience” that accompanies music production.
Nine of the participants reported a phenomenon when participating in musical activities that closely resembled the experience of flow, defined by Csikszentmihalyi as engaging in challenging activities that involve discovery, stretch capacity, and result in a “highly focused state of consciousness”. The discovery of the wide spectrum of brain regions activated during music performance may partly explain how this occurs. Here are some of the participant’s own words:
Katie: Playing “makes you focus on the music. . . . You get into the music, . . . then those thoughts [problems, worries] don’t matter that much anymore.”
Greg: “It’s the only time my brain only thinks about one thing. . . . I don’t think about anything else.”
Steve: “You’ve got to stay focused when you’re playing music. . . . You’ve got to . . . zone out other things.”
Nate: “When you are playing, you’re . . . ‘in the moment.’”
Jaymie: “Music gets you caught up, surrounded and enveloped into what is happening right now. It doesn’t let you think about money, bills, work… and all the other things that cause stress. . . all you’re thinking about is what is going to happen next in the piece.”
Anna: Music “just completely takes over your mind and you don’t really have a chance to think about all of that other stuff.”
Brad: Playing music, “is also taking me away from everything I have to do for homework or a test or project . . . and I’m just at that one moment I’m playing that song.”