By Peter J. Eliopoulos and JoAnn Falletta
If you’ve ever attended a Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra performance, you’ve experienced firsthand how the talents of our orchestra’s musicians contribute to the quality of life in our community. Less, however, is known about the impact our musicians, and their music, make on childhood growth and development.
These are not insignificant contributions. Numerous studies have shown a link between music education and academic achievement, and even to the development of high-achieving professionals. Music stimulates our brains, getting our synapses firing to create and maintain neural pathways.
We travel these neural pathways with all types of thinking, not just for music. Children involved in music have been found to have improved spatial-temporal reasoning, reading fluency and other cognitive skills.
Community symphonies can play a strong role in music education, particularly in light of how younger generations want a hands-on experience and enjoy connecting with the performers.
The BPO is, indeed, connecting with our youth by offering the Music for Youth Concert Series, which aims to reach 50,000 young people this year, and by having musicians work with local students through “BPO Connect,” a program bringing unique arts engagement into schools. As our musicians work individually with students, they “awaken the possibility … and shining eyes” by inspiring the passions of students, to borrow a phrase from Boston Philharmonic Conductor Benjamin Zander.
Our BPO musicians find local students participating in their school band or choir are often the students who project more confidence, energy and a true open-mindedness.
And, the concentration required in musical training serves to discipline young minds for other life tasks, such as performing well on academic tests.
The arts inspire critical thinking, problem solving and team building, all skills contributing to success in today’s economy.
They also generate an economic impact. According to a 2014 study by the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, arts and cultural organizations contribute an estimated $87 million to the local economy and support about 2,200 jobs.
All of this leads to the importance of strong partnerships between businesses and local cultural institutions. By supporting organizations such as the BPO, local businesses are contributing to the economy in a number of ways. A thriving cultural community makes it easier to recruit and retain employees in Buffalo.
Amid the many worthy charitable organizations seeking our support, it’s important to keep in mind the full scope of the contributions of a professional symphony and its musicians. We urge you to enjoy a concert of any kind at Kleinhans and experience another important reason Buffalo is a special place.
Peter J. Eliopoulos is a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra board of trustees. JoAnn Falletta is music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.