Music for Cross Cultural Accelerated Learning

The Search for the Right Music

Ever since Georgi Lozonav, the noted Bulgarian physicist and accelerated learning pioneer, conducted his ground breaking studies about the impact of music on learning, trainers around the globe have been trying to find the perfect musical formula to help them connect participants and produce desired results.

When Executive Oasis International formed a strategic alliance with Kuala Lumpur based FIK International to offer seminars throughout Asia, we wanted to ensure that our approach would be relevant to the various cultures in which we would be working. We weren’t sure what to expect. Acceptance was a lot easier than we anticipated. Asian audiences responded enthusiastically to accelerated learning with its emphasis on session starters, energizers, colourful visuals, and in-depth practice. Along the way, there were a number of pleasant surprises and unexpected discoveries about the importance of music in training. For the first time, we will reveal a couple of these secrets to you.

Asian Memories: My Musical Journey

In January, 2000, I got off the plane at KLIA, loaded my accelerated learning paraphanalia onto a cart and wheeled it out to meet FIK’s Mr. T. Saravanan. I immediately realized that I’d be right at home. You see I am Jamaican. The windshield of the car in which Sam Selvaj was waiting for us had a HUGE Bob Marley and the Wailers sticker.

On the way to the hotel we even passed a club called Marleys with a statue of Bob Marley in the front yard. These were the first clues that it was important for us to include some reggae on our accelerated learning playlist. (Little did I know that, 2 years later, I would be chatting with Malaysian Rastafarians selling Bob Marley tee shirts at the night market and sipping sodas until 2 am on the patio of the Reggae Club along Penang’s fashionable Batu Ferringghi.) More discoveries lay ahead.

At our first session, attended by 65 delegates at Kuala Lumpur’s Regent Hotel, we realized that tucked away in our boxes, we had packed the perfect ingredient to “spice up” our training. We’ll give you a hint. It was music by a particular artist. (Before we were introduced to this music, we had experimented with some royalty free music, produced by a training company. While it was well received in the US, reception from our audiences in Canada had been lukewarm. So, we searched until we found music to which Canadian audiences responded enthusiastically.)

Music by this artist, would also make a valuable contribution to our warm reception in Asia. From Bangkok to Bombay (Mumbai) from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur, the results were the same. In fact, 7 trips and over 1000 participants later, this music has continued to generate excitement wherever we have conducted sessions in Asia. The artist is Ron Korb.

Music by Ron Korb: Ideal for Accelerated Learning

Whether we are in Toronto, Singapore or Penang, participants in our sessions always BEG us for more of Ron Korb’s music. Music is a universal language. The right music can greatly enhance your training sessions. It can create a warm and inviting environment and build participant enthusiasm. The key is to find the right music and add it carefully to the accelerated learning mix.

A Toronto based and internationally acclaimed, Japanese-Canadian flute virtuoso, composer and music producer, Ron Korb has released 9 CDs including “Japanese Mysteries”, “Flute Traveller”, and “Celtic Heartland” the newly released “Ron Korb Live” CD and DVD. Ron’s music transcends boundaries, representing world music at its best. A tapestry of Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Celtic, and Caribbean influences, blended seamlessly together with jazz, Ron has created a truly original sound. Ron has performed on dozens of CDs, TV shows, movie soundtracks (including Being Julia).

Ron has travelled around the globe studying and collecting over 100 indigenous flutes. In Japan, Ron studied the bamboo flute and Gagaku court music. An award-winning song writer, major artists (including Hong Kong’s Alan Tam, Stephanie Lai and Yvonne Lau) have had hits with Ron’s music. Ron and his band regularly tour Asia, North America and Europe.

Preparing to use Music for Accelerated Learning

Based on our experience, here are a few tips for trainers and speakers seeking to ensure that their sessions are well received by multi-cultural audiences both at home and abroad. The first should be obvious:

1. Use music,

Music can cross cultural boundaries and linguistic barriers.

2. Always provide a participant profile or learning styles survey for the meeting planner to distribute and collect from participants prior to your session.

Include questions about musical preferences on this survey. Season to Taste: Catering to Diverse Learning Styles from the Spice of the Month Accelerarted Learning ezine describes how to gauge musical and other participant preferences.

3. Let the seminar organizer, client or meeting planner know that you plan to use music during your session. Provide them with direction about obtaining the appropriate license for legal use of music.

Musical Moments: Music for Accelerated Learning goes into detail about how to legally use copyrighted music and how to obtain royalty free music.

4. Create a musical score for your training or presentation and integrate music into various aspects of your sessions.

There are many opportunities for using music during training. Ron Korb’s repertoire includes selections for every phase of training, for example:

PURPOSE             SELECTION                 CD 
GUIDED IMAGERY    Flute Traveller          Flute Traveller 
BREAKS            The Great East Temple   Japanese Mysteries 
STRECHING         Caravan                 Ron Korb Live 
ENERGIZER         Genji                   Ron Korb Live

5. If your audience is conservative, modify the manner in which you use music during your training sessions.

For example, during the early stages of your seminar, confine your use of music to breaks.

Check out Conservative Corner: Accelerated Learning for Analytical Learners in the Spice of the Month Accelerated Learning Ezine for details.

6. Before you play, a selection of music, briefly identify the composer, the artist and the title of the selection.

7. Involve your audience.

Even if it’s just a 1 day session, you can give the group a chance to select their favourite selections towards the end of the day. We sometimes give the opportunity to select the music for the next break as a reward for a mildly competitive exercise or trivia questions.

8. Add a personal touch to your training by sharing your own culture with participants through your musical selections.

For example, drawing on my Jamaican heritage, I have reggae breaks. I have taught delegates as far way as Kuching (Malaysian Borneo) to dance. Draw on music from your own cultural heritage, incorporate it into you presentations and seminars and it will help you cross cultures as you travel around the globe.

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Will Music Really Make Your Child Smarter?

The nineties have been the decade for widespread news about the affects of music on the brain. Everyone seems to be asking about the “Mozart Effect”, specifically what it is and how to use it to their child’s benefit. It is certainly an exciting time to be a music educator and a parent. We are finally able to look at documented research that shows that music is integral to a child’s growth, and use this information to help our children achieve their full potential. What more do we want as parents than to give our children all of the tools necessary to become happy, well-adjusted, intelligent human beings?

Unfortunately, like most popular theories, the “Mozart Effect” has become watered down in an effort by some people to make more money at the expense of the general public. You can go into any bookstore nowadays and buy “Mozart Effect” books, videos, tapes, and even bumper stickers.

In researching this article I did just that at several local music stores, as well as on the internet. I looked first in the music section, and when I didn’t find any books on the subject, wandered over to the children’s section with my 2 year old daughter. Again, aside from a mixed assortment of compact discs with music for children’s brains, I found nothing of real value for research. Curious, I went to the information counter where I was told that the “Mozart Effect” books, written by Don Campell, were to be found in the “alternative medicine” section! And, they were all sold out. That gave me my first clue that something very interesting was happening on this subject. I decided to research further in the library and on the internet.

The term “Mozart Effect” has come to simplify (by Don Campbell et al) a large body of research by neuro-scientists and experimental psychiatrists showing a definitive link between music study and improved spatial intelligence. This is nothing to be taken lightly. Children are born with over 100 billion unconnected or loosely connected nerve cells called neurons. Every experience that child has will strengthen or even create links between neurons. Those pathways that remain unused will, after some time, die. Because neural connections are responsible for every kind of intelligence, a child’s brain will develop to its full potential only through exposure to enriching experiences. It is important then, to identify the kinds of enrichment that forges the links between neurons.

Music has been clearly proven to improve neurological connections responsible for spatial intelligence. Spatial intelligence is necessary for a person to be able to see patterns in space and time. It is the ability to perceive the visual world accurately and to form mental images of physical objects. This kind of intelligence is used for higher brain functions such as music, complex math, solving puzzles, reasoning, and chess. Music specialists for years have noted that their musically-trained and involved students tend to be at the top of their class, often outscoring their non-musical classmates in mathematical tasks. Until recently, however, there was no way to clearly prove it.

Definitive studies have been done since the early 1980′s when Dr. Gordon Shaw and colleagues presented the trion model of the brain’s neuronal structure to the National Academy of Sciences. By 1990 the team had shown through computer experiments that trion firing patterns produce viable music, when these patterns are mapped onto musical pitches. This study was important in that it suggested that this musical model could be used to examine creativity in higher cognitive functions, such as mathematics and chess, which are similar to music. By 1991, Shaw proposed that music could be considered a “pre-language” and that early childhood music training exercises the brain for some higher cognitive structures.

In 1993 at UCal Irvine, Dr. Frances Rauscher, a Columbia PH.D. scientist and former concert cellist, joined the Shaw team in documenting a pilot study of the earlier research, but now directly applying their findings to people. This preliminary study showed that a group of college students temporarily improved their spatial-reasoning skills after listening to a Mozart piano sonata for 10 minutes. The same study applied to preschool children showed a more permanent improvement.

By 1997, the Rauscher-Shaw team had significant evidence suggesting the benefits of music to children’s spatial intelligence. The team studied three separate groups of preschoolers. The first group received specialized music training, particularly weekly keyboard lessons; the second group received specialized computer training; the third group received no specialized training at all. After several months, the team tested the children using tests designed to measure spatial tasks. Those children who received the keyboard lessons performed 34% better than the children who had taken either computer lessons, or no lessons. And, the effects of the keyboard training was long-term, suggesting that their may indeed be a learning “window” in early childhood, where we may enhance the connections of neurons forever.

Other research has suggested the same thing–that music training in early childhood indeed helps a child’s brain to develop. In the Winter ’95 issue of Early Childhood Connections (ECC), Dr. Edwin E. Gordon, talks about a Music Learning Window. He says, “A child will never have a higher level of music aptitude than at the moment of birth… A child’s potential to achieve in music remains throughout life where it stabilizes at age 9.” Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, found (through magnetic-resonance-imaging of musicians who began training before age 7, began later, and non-musicians) that certain regions of the brain are larger in musicians who started their musical training before age 7.

Now we have an entire scientific collection of data suggesting what music educators have known for centuries– that music has a definitive effect on children’s developments.

So, what do we, as parents, do with this information? Here are some suggestions:

1. Although listening to well-structured and performed music such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach certainly is wonderful for exposure to the arts, it is not simply by listening to music that your child’s brain develops. All of the research has shown that music TRAINING is required. This means getting your children into music lessons early, while the music learning window is at its peak before age 9. Piano lessons seem to be exceptionally helpful, as the keyboard is symmetrical, balanced, and logical.

2. Support your child’s local music programs in schools, churches, synagogues, etc. Here you will find skilled, educated music instructors who will bring new musical experiences to your child, including an appreciation for music in culture, history, and pure listening enjoyment. Demand a quality music education for your children throughout their lives.

3. Reevaluate where music fits into your home. Question why music traditions and activities, once central to family life, have been replaced by mass-market entertainment requiring no familial participation. Get off the couch and onto the floor and sing, dance, play instruments with your child.