Many Christians today debate the spiritual value of musical training and performance. Is time spent developing musical talents actually worth anything spiritually? Lets take a look.

The Value of Music

Before we consider the importance of musical excellence, lets get a grasp of the value of music itself.

Academically

According to an article[1] written by the National Association for Music Education; music has been shown to help improve memory, language skills, and coordination. It also helps to develop an individual’s creativity and imagination. Musical practice and performance is also very helpful in developing self-confidence.

Music programs in schools have an affect on graduation rates and school attendance as well. An article[2] from DoSomething.org states that schools without a music program have an average graduation rate of 73%, while schools that do have one boast graduation rates of around 90%.

Socially

Music has been a part of almost every culture since the beginning of the world. The first Biblical reference to music is found in Genesis 4:21 – His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.

Music is very social. Whenever there is a large gathering of people for any reason, there is usually some form of music involved (e.g. weddings, graduations). Some of my fondest memories include singing and playing instruments with other people.

Emotionally

Music can communicate thoughts without having to worry about language barriers. Even if you cannot understand the lyrics of a song, you can usually feel the same emotions that the composer was feeling when they wrote it. Some music is intentionally composed without lyrics so that the writer can tell a story using the listener’s imagination. For an example, listen to this recording of “Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev.

Spiritually

Music is an essential part of worship in almost every religion, with the notable exception of Islam. It is a prominent part of the Jewish faith, and we still use many of the Jewish Psalms in our Christian worship today. Hindu music is very prevalent in India, and a large portion of classical Indian songs come from the Hindu faith. Interestingly, Muslims do not use music in their worship services; but they see the universe as a giant symphony composed and performed by Allah[3].

In the Christian faith, music is especially important. Not only is the Bible full of songs, but singing is the only form of art that is commanded in the Bible. Paul says in Ephesians 5:18-19“…but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart”. A few other verses that command us to sing are Psalms 9:11,18:49, 21:13, 57:9, 95:1, and Colossians 3:16.

The Value of Musical Training

Musical training is very valuable. Although it may not yield immediate results, the benefits can last a lifetime.

Discipline

Musical training is a great way to develop discipline, especially in children. Music lessons can help develop goal-setting and perseverance. Establishing a steady routine and structure is very beneficial to anyone, especially children in developmental stages.

Development

Musical training has a huge impact on the mental development of children. It can also help adults increase their mental capacity. One of the most important things it helps develop is brain plasticity, which in a nutshell is the brain’s ability to change itself to adapt to different scenarios. Improving brain plasticity especially helps increase memory and learning abilities. Musical training forces a person to process abstract concepts in a way that other activities can not.

Excellence

Perhaps the most obvious product of musical training is improving musical excellence. Musical ability is a gift from God, and choosing to not develop that gift is like never opening a gift that your best friend gave to you. The Bible says And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men…” (Colossians 3:23, KJV). This verse tells us that when anyone sets out to do something, they should do their personal best. I personally feel that refusing to develop a talent or ability is like refusing to do your best.

Developing musical excellence does not mean that you have to be arrogant about your musical abilities. Showing pride in an ability by flaunting it is definitely not “doing it unto the Lord”. However, any performance with a lack of musical excellence is often very distracting to the listeners.

The Value of Musical Performance

Musical performance has many benefits. Let’s take a look at some of them.

The Benefits of Performance

Musical performance has many benefits that extend beyond music. Doing well when performing gives an incredible boost to self-confidence. Preparing for a musical performance also helps to learn goal-setting, and forces you to learn to improve abilities.

Musical Performance in Worship

Musical performance in a worship context has been debated by the Christian church for centuries. I personally believe that some musical performance can have a place in worship services. While focusing too much on a performance can diminish the spiritual value of a song, there are some benefits to performance in a worship context.

Listening to music in a worship service instead of singing gives you an opportunity to interact with the music in a new way. It allows you to forget about your personal performance and focus on the message of the song. It also allows you to experience music that you could not otherwise engage in because of its difficulty.

Performing spiritually focused songs allows you to experience music in a much more intimate way. The amount of practice required to perform well helps you to see a song in a completely different light. It also helps you gain a deeper perspective of the meaning of a song.

Some people question some choral groups such as Oasis Chorale or Heart and Voice for being selective about who can sing on their choir. While it is may not be spiritually beneficial to exclude people based on musical skill, it allows the choir to perform complex songs with very little practice time. Having personally experienced a taste of what they go through, I can confidently say that if these groups were not selective about their members they would not be able to perform a large portion of the songs they choose to sing.

Next up: the morality of music

References:

Unless noted otherwise, all scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1 – “20 Important Benefits of Music In Our Schools” – http://www.nafme.org/20-important-benefits-of-music-in-our-schools/

2 – “11 Facts About Music Education” – https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-music-education

3 – Ruth Parrott – “The Importance of Music in Different Religions” – http://www.farmington.ac.uk/documents/new_reports/WR70.pdf

4 – “How musical training affects cognitive development: rhythm, reward and other modulating variables” – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3957486/

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