When I started piano lessons at 5 and added clarinet lessons at 6, I’m sure Mom and Dad had no idea they were preparing me for a career in tech. The art classes, operas, dance performances and trips to the Met Museum of Art and MOMA sprinkled throughout childhood and adolescence were aimed at making us “cultured” and “civilized”. So we would understand the better parts of the human spirit. Dad’s claim was that the arts are “one of the ways we see God”. Whatever one’s take on that, it can certainly be asserted that the arts are a way of experiencing “divineness” in life.
And while music and the arts have been a lifelong passion and wellness lifeline for me, I am convinced that my arts education is also responsible for success in my largely non-arts-related tech marketing career. I recently spoke out about how art saved my career in tech. Watch my story here.
The Importance of STEAM Education
Because of the development of recent brain mapping technologies, it can also be effectively argued that adding arts to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, in turn making it STEAM education (add the A for Arts) is essential to growing the next generation of inventive, problem-solving technologists.
An article called “Using Music to Close the Academic Gap” published in a 2013 issue of The Atlantic Monthly states that most recent studies largely present the contrast between the brains of musicians and non-musicians and/or of instrumental music students to students without this training and there are clear indicators that neural activity is improved by the study of music.
A recent report on WBUR radio covered a study done at Boston Children’s Hospital by neuropsychologist Nadine Gaab.
There’s a lot of evidence,” Gaab says, “that if you play a musical instrument, especially if you start early in life, that you have better reading skills, better math skills, et cetera. The question is, what is the underlying mechanism?”
“Initially we thought that it’s training the auditory system, which then helps you with language, reading and other academic skills,” she says.
Instead, in a study published last month, Gaab and her team delineated a connection — in both children and adults — between learning to play an instrument and improved executive functioning, like problem-solving, switching between tasks and focus.
And what tech executive doesn’t need THOSE skills? True innovation comes from considering a problem or solution from every angle – not just driving down deep into a particular, new technology that may be innovative but does not solve a problem or does not have a real-world use that potential users and customers can easily understand.
Read an earlier blog post of mine for more reasons why STEM education should be STEAM.