Tuesday, October 25, 2022

What Researchers and Experts Have to Say: The Benefits of Music and Music Making for Young People

Source: The NAMM Foundation

By Sam Piha

We know through our own personal experience that music and music making is very important to youth. However, it is useful to identify research that speaks to this issue. We continue our spotlight on the power of music in afterschool. You can view our previous blogs here.

Research expands understanding about the impact of music making and music education, the importance of music at every stage of life, and relationships between music and physical and emotional wellness… There is an increasingly robust literature of recent research findings that support the developmental importance of music in adolescence.” – The NAMM Foundation

There is an abundance of research on the importance of music for adolescent development. Below we offer a few findings from research on the benefits of music and music making for youth development.  

Music creates a much-needed sense of belonging in the lives of teenagers. Teenagers are known for feeling isolated from society and friends. Music, as an art form, can serve as an outlet to express the feelings of frustration that come with feeling isolated. Listening to music can also give teens the chance to feel connected to musicians and other fans of specific musicians. 

Music is also something that can be enjoyed fairly privately and away from judgement, allowing teens to tailor their experiences to what they actually would like to listen to or play. Learning how to play music also gives teens real, impressive, marketable skills, making them feel useful and capable. Writing and making music is also a way for teens to express themselves as privately or as publicly as they wish.” – Author and music therapist, Cara Jerniga 

Bridging Societal Gaps
Our society tends to be very racialized, and experiences tend to be very different depending on race or ethnicity. Music provides the opportunity for teens of all races and ethnicities to share a common bond and learn about each other's cultures and backgrounds. For instance, much of the Rap and R&B genres are rooted in Black culture, and many of the prominent performers and names in those genres are Black. Music is also usually very personal to the experience of the artist, so through those things, music can be used as an educational tool for teenagers to learn about backgrounds differing from theirs.” – Author and music therapist, Cara Jerniga 

Executive Functions
Music may expose the child to challenges and multi-sensory experiences which enhance learning abilities and encourage cognitive development. In particular, music can also engage cognitive functions, such as planning, working memory, inhibition, and flexibility. These functions are known as executive functions.” – Researcher, Dave Miranda

Source: Heart of LA

Developmental Resource 
Music influences important aspects of adolescent development; music can represent a protective and a risk factor; and music can serve as an adjunct component in prevention and intervention. Therefore, it is proposed how music is a developmental resource in adolescence. It is argued that research on the developmental role of music can create a window to the everyday psychological, social, and cultural needs of contemporary adolescents.” – Researcher, Dave Miranda

Music provides opportunities in school for teens’ engagement as performers, composers and intelligent listeners, and these activities and qualities appear to be deeply meaningful to them. For teens who are desperately seeking relevance, musical study may give them the balanced experience they require.” – NAMM 

Stress Relief and Coping 
Music is a well known outlet for stress relief. Many people actively turn to music as a coping strategy when processing stress or sadness, because it helps shut out the noise of the world and the noise inside our heads. Furthermore, music is increasingly being used as a form of therapy, and music therapy in some capacity has existed for centuries. Teenagers, especially those going through puberty, conflicts with friends, or the college process, are under a high amount of stress. Listening to music has been seen to help teens process or release difficult sensations or emotions in a healthy way.” – Author and music therapist, Cara Jerniga

Music helps adolescents release or control emotions and helps coping with difficult situations such as peer pressure, substance abuse, pressures of study and family, the dynamics of friendships and social life, and the pain of loss or abuse.” – The NAMM Foundation

What music and music making means to teens? It helps define them as they grow up, it gives them purpose and meaning, and contributes to their success in school and in life.” – Joe Lamond, president and CEO, NAMM

Source: DJ Mackswell

Music can also provide teenagers with a skill or hobby that is special to them, which can help further build identity and give teens something to be proud of during a period of life that is often characterized by low self-confidence. Music is an incredibly powerful tool that can be accessed and appreciated by people of all ages and backgrounds, and for that reason alone, it should be appreciated and utilized by anyone and everyone.” – Author and music therapist, Cara Jerniga

The Brain
Research shows that making music changes the brain, and that these brain changes have tangible impacts on listening skills, learning and cognition.” – Nina Kraus, Ph.D., Director, Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, Northwestern University

Music training leads to greater gains in auditory and motor function when begun in young childhood; by adolescence, the plasticity that characterizes childhood has begun to decline. Nevertheless, our results establish that music training impacts the auditory system even when it is begun in adolescence, suggesting that a modest amount of training begun later in life can affect neural function.” – Tierney, Adam T., Jennifer Krizman, and Nina Kraus

Below we cite 4 videos that explain the benefits of music and music making in the lives of young people. 

How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain- Anita Collins

On November 7, 2022, from 10am- 12pm PST, Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation will be sponsoring a webinar on this topic entitled, The Sound of Learning: The Importance of Music in Afterschool. Speakers will include researcher Patricia Shehan Campbell (UW), Les Peters (LBYMCA), Jon Bernson (BACR/SNBC), Kevin Peraza (Youth Institute Alumni) and Ren Daraio (Temescal Associates). To learn more and register for this informative webinar, click here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

YOUTH VOICE: The Meaning of Music Participation In and Out of School

Source: www.pexels.com

By Sam Piha

We will do well to listen to what teens tell us about music as a common need and a constant presence in their lives. Music is their social glue—a bridge for building acceptance and tolerance for people of different ages and cultural circumstances.Patricia Shehan Campbell, Ph.D.

Anytime we want to better understand what things mean to youth, we should ask them. Below are some summaries and statements on the importance of music in young people’s lives originally published on the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation website.

Music is my life. It's a safe haven. - Student at Skaneateles High School.

Source: Davis Sanchez, pexels.com

The study conducted by Patricia Shehan Campbell Ph.D (University of Washington), titled “Adolescents’ Expressed Meanings of Music in and out of School,” was based on responses by 1,155 teens who submitted student essays to Teen People magazine as part of an online contest. Throughout their essays, students expressed their thoughts regarding learning and playing music and revealed that they value music making as a central aspect of their identities.

The findings include:

  • Playing music provides a sense of belonging for teens
  • Making music provides the freedom for teens to just be themselves; to be different; to be something they thought they could never be; to be comfortable and relaxed in school and elsewhere in their lives
  • Music helps adolescents release or control emotions and helps coping with difficult situations such as peer pressure, substance abuse, pressures of study and family, the dynamics of friendships and social life, and the pain of loss or abuse
  • Teens believe developing musical skills and performance is important since it paves the way to musical opportunities as skills develop
  • Teens long for more variety and options for making music in school, including the expansion to instruments and technology used in popular music
  • Adolescents are genuinely committed to their instruments and their school ensembles because they love to be involved in these musical and social groups
  • Teens believe that music is an integral part of American life, and that music reflects American culture and society
  • Teens feel that playing music teaches self-discipline such as “there are payoffs if you practice and stick with something”
  • Adolescents are of the opinion that playing music diminishes boundaries between people of different ethnic backgrounds, age groups and social interests
  • Teens associate playing music with music literacy, listening skills, motor ability, eye-hand coordination and heightened intellectual capabilities.”

A Good Resource for Research

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation is a not-for-profit association dedicated to advancing active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs.

On November 7, 2022, from 10am- 12pm PST, Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation will be sponsoring a webinar on this topic entitled, The Sound of Learning: The Importance of Music in Afterschool. Speakers will include researcher Patricia Shehan Campbell (UW), Les Peters (LBYMCA), Jon Bernson (BACR/SNBC), Kevin Peraza (Youth Institute Alumni) and Ren Daraio (Temescal Associates). To learn more and register for this informative webinar, click here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Millions of Youth Are Newly Eligible Voters in 2022

Source: Photo by Mikhail Nilov: https://www.pexels.com

By Sam Piha

The 2022 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth. We can frame these efforts as “meaningful participation”, “civic engagement”, “youth leadership” or “community service”. There are a number of organizations and initiatives that have designed curriculums, program tools and other materials to assist afterschool providers in their efforts to engage youth in the 2022 election. Consider working with youth to organize a voter registration event in your school. At the end of the blog, we list some resources on how youth can get involved.

Did you know that:

-“Young people who have turned 18 since the 2020 election are a sizable group that is diversifying the electorate and can have a decisive impact on the midterms. There are an estimated 8.3 million newly eligible young voters for the 2022 midterm elections—meaning, youth who have turned 18 since the previous general election in November 2020. These 18- and 19-year-olds comprise 16% of the 18-29 age group for the 2022 election.” - Peter de Guzman, Researcher

-Young people can pre-register to vote at the age of 16. There are a number of ways that youth can be involved in the 2022 election, even if they are not old enough to vote. These include sponsoring a voter registration event, supporting family and friend’s participation, uplifting stories and issues they care about, supporting a candidate’s campaign through volunteering or being part of the election process.

-“There are distorted “assumptions about young people and how they participate in political processes that are common and are often triggered by lack of understanding and/or by prejudice. These persistent assumptions inaccurately characterize the everyday experiences of most youth – who do not constitute a homogenous group – and can lead to discrimination of young people, negatively affecting their capacity to participate in political processes… Assumptions about young people that distort the actual picture include the following: 

  • they are apathetic about and disengaged from politics – so, for example, they don’t bother voting
  • they lack maturity, experience, and knowledge, implying they are not capable or intelligent enough to make informed decisions (such as when voting) and are easily manipulated
  • they are “anti-state,” with a propensity for violence and extremism.” – The ACE Project


We learned about how teachers and youth workers can use a video by rapper, Yellopain, entitled, "My Vote Don't Count," which can be viewed by clicking on the image below. 

Source: Yellopain, Youtube.com


Below are a number of other resources that you can check out:

You can also learn more by exploring these websites:


In recent months schools and educators have been attacked under the guise of critical race theory, parent rights and the call to ban certain books. We published three LIAS blogs and a briefing paper (14 pages) on this topic of the education culture wars. We also sponsored a webinar entitled, Education Culture Wars and Maintaining Bipartisan Support for Afterschool. We posted a recording of this webinar on our How Kids Learn Youtube channel, which quickly received over 700 views. 

New stories of the education culture wars continue to pepper the national news and we expect this to increase over the course of the upcoming election season. 

Below we list some new articles:

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

An Afterschool Innovator: Bringing Urban Music to Afterschool

Source: Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center

By Sam Piha

We first met Jon Bernson decades ago at the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center (A.P. Giannini Middle School, SF). Jon founded an urban music program, which taught young people the skills and business of being a DJ. This program has evolved over the years and Jon is now the Director of Creative Arts at Bay Area Community Resources. As an early innovator in afterschool music programs, I asked Jon a number of questions regarding the power of music in afterschool and below are his responses. 

Jon Bernson, SNBC

Q: What are the ages of youth served in your program?
12 - 14 (Middle School).

Q: Do you think music is important to youth? If yes, why?
To some youth, music is life-changing and transformational. To some, it does not speak as loudly, but in my experience, it has profound effects on most teens. Some reasons that come to mind: 
  1.  Music is the language of emotion, and has far more complex ways of communicating feelings than written or verbal language. Developing the ability to express oneself through music allows youth to communicate feelings that are often difficult for them to express with words alone. 
  2. To many, music is a shared interest that allows youth who may have little else in common the ability to come together around a shared passion. In this respect, it can break down geographic, language, cultural and age barriers that other forms of education and activism may struggle to provide. 
  3. Music soothes the soul. Simply put, listening to music takes the mind off of many youth's troubles. It cannot remove these troubles, but it can give them distance, so that when their troubles return to their consciousness, they have a better perspective, as a result of the distance they've gained. 
  4. Music is a conduit for inspiration. It is a way that artists can speak with one another across time and space. Without knowing another person, youth can feel that they are intimately connected to another artist, whether that is a friend, mentor or someone famous. By hearing another artist, youth get ideas, and are given a yardstick with which they can compare their results and aspire to greater heights. 

Q: How does your program engage youth in music? 

  • Listening to music
  • Learning how to play an instrument
  • Dj skills
  • Making beats
  • Recording music

Q: Please describe one example of how your program engages youth with music?
A: Since 1997, we have been teaching youth how to DJ and produce their own music. During that time, we have produced 58 compilations of youth-produced music. In most cases, this series documents the first attempt our youth have ever made to create their own original piece of music. While most youth are encouraged to draw or paint original pieces in art classes, our education system rarely teaches and supports the mysterious pathway that leads to the creation of original work. 

Q: What benefits do you think come from youth engagement with music?
Confidence, when youth stick with the process. The tools to express themselves. Community and a connection to a lineage of artists that spans many years, as well as the broader community of artists around the world. Because we use technology and touchscreens to make music, we have helped many youth to understand that our screens are not just passive devices but tools for creativity that can change and influence their peers, their community and their world. This is one of the greatest lessons we try to impart in our program: that it may be harder to create than consume, but it is far more rewarding. 

Source: www.pexels.com

Q: What benefits do you think carry into adulthood?
A: Creation over consumption is a lesson described above that we've seen many youth carry with them into whichever field they choose to pursue, whether musical or not. We are cognizant that most of our youth will not become professional musicians or DJ's (though some do), but everyone will have developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for the elements that are needed to create music. Not least of which is the courage to take the leap of faith and follow a spark of inspiration until they are finished making what they started. 


Jon Bernson, SNBC
Jon Bernson is BACR's Director of Creative Arts and is the founder and coordinator of SNBC's Urban Music Program (UMP). Jon is also the founder of Sunset Media Wave, a mixed-media blog run by high school students out of SNBC's community storefront. Outside of UMP, Jon is the songwriter behind several musical acts, including Exray’s, whose music can be heard in David Fincher's Academy Award-winning movie, The Social Network. Jon is also a resident playwright at Playwrights Foundation and was a 2015 artist-in-residence at the de Young Museum.

Using Art As A Medium To Teach SEL

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