by Kathy Kucsan, Ph.D. | Education Director
Ideally, both. Since we’re a music school, you probably expected that we’d say, hands down, music! But kids have so much to learn and explore, why insist that they make the impossible choice between sports or music? I’m advocating for a healthy dose of both, if that’s what students want. Over many years of teaching, I’ve seen students balance soccer or softball and music lessons. They grew up, went to college, and most have careers that don’t involve either. But they play in community orchestras, softball leagues, jazz combos and take Pilates classes, among other things.
Out in the world at large, there are many athletes who are also musicians (this is my favorite example). And there are musicians who are athletes. This clip shows musicianship, aerial dance and athleticism all at the same time.
There are a few things to be aware of when making decisions about which direction to go. Of course, a child may gravitate toward one or the other. Requiring them to take lessons or play soccer, though, can be problematic. I’ve spoken with many parents who were forcing their child to take piano lessons, and the exchange goes something like this: “She won’t practice! She hates coming here! I don’t know how to make her like it!” The answer here is undeniable. Or, somewhat the opposite: “He only wants to take guitar, but I think he should play soccer this spring instead. He can catch up next fall.” The guitar teacher and I suggest that the student do both. Sometimes it works, and that’s a happy moment.
Dr. Corey Block, DPT, Physical Therapist at University of Michigan Medsport (Board Certified Sports Specialist and trumpet player in her youth) says, “Kinetic movement is vital for youth development with both sports and music as effective opportunities for this. Sports at a young age is unmatched in its benefits for bone development. Music accelerates motor learning and hones fine motor control skills.” So, while children are boosting brain development by learning to read music and play the violin, they can also be running around the soccer field and supporting healthy bone growth. As they reach high school, they may be focusing on music, sports, or another activity entirely. For those who play in the band, research from the American College of Sports Medicine shows that “the physical challenges and demands of participating in a competitive high school marching band are similar to those experienced by athletes who compete in sports like football.” And according to The Sports Journal, music can influence athletic training by supporting motivation, distraction from fatigue, and acquiring and synchronizing motor skills. Most people I know have special playlists for running, biking, or working out.
Should music and sports be considered on equal footing when deciding on activities for ourselves and our kids? It’s an apples-oranges question, though there are experts who strongly promote either position. We think that both music and sports are important in different ways, and each provide huge benefits. At the Center, we’re much better at teaching you how to play Beethoven sonatas than we are at free throws. But an ideal day for us could be a hike to Royal Arch and then catching the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra in rehearsal. Or running the Oatmeal Festival 5k and then going to a Broadway Boomers rehearsal. Exercise and practicing, listening to, or playing music, in no particular order.
The basic chart below shows generalized benefits and a comparison for both music and sports participation in elementary school (i.e., individual lessons on any instrument, playing in the school band/orchestra; participation in extracurricular athletic activities).
Education Director and Co-Founder