Starting on the Right Note: Music lessons give children lifelong benefits


Recite the alphabet. Can you do it without mentally singing the tune you learned in preschool? The songs we learn as children influence how we think as adults, how we understand the world, and how we view ourselves. The North State offers many opportunities for children to take music lessons, actively producing some of the music that will not only build their childhood, but shape their adult lives as well.

The Wright Keys Academy

With the slogan, “Music for Your Whole life,” The Wright Keys Academy of Musical Arts in Chico, CA, offers lessons for even the youngest children, starting with parent-infant classes led by a music therapist. As owner Sandy Wright watches a dozen other instructors teach more than 200 students a wide range of instruments, she sees music bolster children’s self-esteem and emotional health. Group lessons develop kids’ social skills, while studying music fosters patience and persistence.

“Kids work and work practicing a piece, and when they finally ‘get it,’ they learn that when they put in the effort, they can achieve,” Wright says.

Confident musicians of all ages can join classes that focus on a specific music style, such as Afro-Cuban and jazz. Currently, most lessons are taught one-on-one, but the Wright Keys Academy is preparing more group classes for 2017. In response to students’ desires, the academy even plans to offer pop/rock combo classes.

“Our goal is to foster creativity in all students, no matter what type of music they’re interested in or what kind of instrument they learn, so that they become independent musicians who don’t need us anymore,” Wright says.

The Music Connection

Sally MacMillan  with 2014 Teen Music Contest winner Adele Duval.

Sally MacMillan with 2014 Teen Music Contest winner Adele Duval.

Sally MacMillan never dreamed of owning a business, but after working at The Music Connection for 9 years, she couldn’t imagine anyone else owning it. Since buying the business in 2003, MacMillan has invested in the North State’s music community through her thriving retail stores and music studios in Chico and Redding, CA. At the Chico location, approximately 35 professional musicians impart their wealth of knowledge and skills to more than 300 students each week. In Redding, 15 teachers instruct approximately 200 students. MacMillan believes the popularity of the lessons reflects how music “meets kids where they are.” As kids grow, learn and change, music can offer connection with others or the peace of solitude, discipline or a creative outlet.

“I’ll have someone come and say, ‘My son needs structure in his life. Could music do that for him?’ Yes, it can! And the next person will come and say, ‘My daughter is so stressed, she needs relaxation. Could music do that for her?’ Yes!” MacMillan says. “What else can touch every arena of life, unconstrained by time and place?”

While research continually proves the value of music to improve brain development and test scores, MacMillan sees these as secondary benefits. “Music holds its own,” she says, “It is valuable in and of itself.”

Shoppe Serendipity

art-0117-music2Over 7 years ago, Kris Taylor opened Shoppe Serendipity, a gallery-gift shop showcasing local artists of all shapes and sizes in Yreka, CA. “I want my gallery to be a place where you’ll find whatever you’re looking for in the arts,” Taylor says. Accordingly, she has dedicated two of her studios to music. For $35 a lesson, people of all ages can study cello, piano, voice and more. Four talented instructors offer nearly 130 years of combined experience through one-on-one lessons, and the shoppe’s newly-hired flute teacher hopes to open up group lessons.

“It’s not easy to find music teachers who can connect with children,” Taylor says. “But these instructors are amazing; they can teach both adults and children.”   

Last year, grantors from the Morgan Siskiyou Foundation partnered with the Siskiyou Family YMCA and Shoppe Serendipity to bring the Young Musicians Program to life. Through the foundation’s generosity, Shoppe Serendipity now offers $10 lessons for children ages seven to nineteen years old who may be hindered by full-price lessons. Eager students have filled all 20 of the program’s slots and there is a waiting list for future sessions.

Taylor sees firsthand how music helps kids academically and socially, developing their confidence and abilities to organize, think critically, and imagine. Lessons also bring joy to budding musicians as Taylor recalls one 8-year-old who came for her first vocal lesson, “She was so excited, she just vibrated,” Taylor says.

Music is part of everyone’s emotional health, regardless if they play an instrument or not. Even the least musical person will often turn to their favorite tunes in response to each day’s highs and lows. Actively learning an instrument enriches children’s emotional, mental and social development in ways that merely listening never could. Visit your local music store to learn how you can help your children start their life journeys on the right note.   

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Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

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