Music is a part of most people’s lives, whether through playing an instrument, singing or simply putting on headphones and listening to some favorite songs.
These hobbies may not always seem significant, but for many teenagers music is incredibly important and even helpful.
Music can act as an oasis for some students; it can be a place to escape to in times of need or distress.
At Waterfront Elementary, a Buffalo Public School where 85 percent of students are refugees, music provides a safe haven for many kids.
Instructors from Buffalo’s Community Music School help students find this haven through after-school music classes.
Jennifer Koch, the executive director at Community Music School, said that students need music instruction to relax and find a connection with others.
At Waterfront, the students speak 18 different languages, making it hard for them to express themselves with words.
"They find music to be a way of expressing themselves that they otherwise can’t do," Koch said. In this way, music closes a gap among peers and helps create new friendships.
Music can create new relationships in more than one way, however. At the Music is Art summer camp, students from all over Western New York come together to learn about music. Tracy Shattuck, Music is Art’s executive director, said kids who would otherwise never know each other meet at the summer camp and bond over music.
Together, the students work toward a common goal of a successful music career.
Music is Art also dedicates time to teaching teenagers about other aspects of the music industry. Learning about overlooked features of the industry can allow teenagers to think about different career options for the future.
Many of the programs at Music is Art teach kids about working in the music industry in unexpected ways, such as music management, education and even music therapy.
"We spend a lot of time helping kids understand they need a backup plan. You might want to be a rock star, and that’s great, but what are you going to do in the meantime? What else can you do in the music industry to still be involved?" Shattuck said.
Music’s influence on teenagers can be helpful to high school students in other ways.
According to the National Association for Music Education, music education promotes self confidence and high self-esteem. This trait can improve one’s happiness and help students realize greater goals.
When discussing Music is Art’s summer camp, Shattuck said, "One of the main things we try to stress in our camp is how music can really build up your self-esteem and your confidence. We think the self-esteem and the confidence is important, and music helps kids have that."
Additionally, music education teaches hard work and dedication, as stated by the National Association for Music Education. These are vital skills that can help students succeed in any endeavor.
"Music is not something that you can just pick up and learn. It requires commitment. That sort of discipline is important when you are going to college, looking for a job or when you are in a professional position, because you’ve learned the discipline and focus that you need to devote to something in order to be successful," Koch said.
Music can also have more personal effects on teenagers.
Some adolescents have come to use music as a form of communicating feelings. Songs with sad melodies can be used to express sorrow and pain. On the other hand, upbeat songs may be used to express a light and happy mood.
Koch said, "For an adolescent brain, when it’s hard to come up with the words to say how you feel, you can turn to music and take those lyrics and say ‘this is how I feel.’ "
It may not always seem like music has a great impact on young minds, but the effect music education has on teenagers is lifelong.
So those radio songs, orchestra concerts, music lessons and mandatory fourth-grade chorus classes may mean more than originally thought; they could mean increased dedication and determination, higher self-esteem, new friendships, astounding opportunities, and wonderful memories.
Sarah Crawford is a sophomore at Nardin Academy.