Music increases brain development. This is what study after study shows for those who are exposed to music and learn to play an instrument.
From increased memory functions to how fast the brain can learn a subject, students are not only using music as an outlet or a leisure activity, but are extending its benefits beyond the music room and into other classes across campus.
These benefits are something faculty and students in the K-State music department are using every day.
“Singing and playing develops the entire brain. It develops the creative side, the emotional side, the feelings,” said Frank Tracz, director of bands.
The band program at K-State, led by Tracz, consists of seven ensembles. The Marching, Concert, University, Volleyball, Aggieville and Cat band and the wind ensemble, are programs open to both music and nonmusic majors on campus.
“It’s great, the fact that the music department has a wide variety and is open to all students,” said Ryan Doberer, sophomore in music education. “Music is good to have, it’s a distraction from general education classes. It’s something outside to focus on more.”
And with concerts and shows weekly, students involved in the band department have plenty to focus on.
“I think as a music major it’s just a part of the business,” Tracz said about how much work the music students put into the program on a daily basis. “It’s one of those things, you don’t consider that work or something you have to do, you want to do it.”
With the variety of ensembles the band department currently has, students have an option of what kind of musical experience they want at K-State.
Students involved with the Marching, Volleyball and Cat band have the opportunity to perform and play at different sporting events throughout the year. The Aggieville band works to pump up the community before games while the wind ensemble, as well as Concert and University band, allow students to play repertoire from a variety of composers in a more traditional setting.
This wide variety of program options is something paralleled by the choir department as well. It has seven different ensembles, including Concert Choir, Collegiate Chorale, Men’s and Women’s Glee, K-State Singers, In-A-Chord and Collegium Musicum.
The different groups provide everything from traditional a cappella music like the In-A-Chord ensemble, to classic choir groups, and music from the year 1750 and prior in the Collegium Musicum ensemble.
“For all our choirs we have nonmusic majors participate, which is a common misconception because they think they have to major in music,” said Julie Yu, co-director of chorale activities.
Yu said she thinks it is great to be able to have everyone on campus involved in the choirs, and said there are definitely academic benefits to being involved in music.
“The big thing is when your sitting in a biology class, your working for yourself. In a choir it’s so different. We really hold every single person accountable,” she said. “The accountability and things like that would transfer to any field of study. I would hope they would say that their experiences performing in an ensemble and being held accountable would benefit what they’re trying to do in life.”
Yu said another great aspect of the choirs is the fact that they are a class, and they can hold the students to a certain level.
“The level of music making that we make on the college level versus high school, we do have to be held at the standard that other universities are at,” she said. “We can only do that if they see it as an academic endeavor.”
Another instructor who finds the value of music in an academic setting is David Littrell, conductor for the K-State Orchestra.
“I think it’s very important. I’m a strong believer in music education that continues past high school,” he said. “It’s a shame to put that many years in it and drop the instrument.”
This orchestra is the only orchestra ensemble at K-State. It is an auditioned group, but is also extended to all students on campus. The orchestra plays a mix of styles throughout the school year, which gives students the opportunity to experience music through a wide variety of composers.
Littrell said playing in the orchestra allows students to learn more than just music, but it can teach them life lessons as well.
“It’s the discipline. You learn self-discipline, and it takes a lot of hard work to play any of these instruments,” he said.
While students are using their experience in the music department to gain a sense of accountability and self-discipline, professors and students alike said they see the importance music has in both their lives and that of the community.
“I realized finding a passion in life is the most important thing,” Tracz said. “The artistic value of what we do here develops the heart and soul of society. It offers entertainment and value to our lives.”