We have a large and growing percentage of South Asian (Indian) families in many of our programs throughout the U.S. They bring deep cultural roots that resonates with the best of American traditional values of freedom, learning, tolerance and cultivation of their children. I’ve often wondered why Childbloom is so popular with that community. This may answer that question.


By Kevin Taylor

What are the reasons parents allow their children to learn to play the guitar? It may be simply because the child wants to. Or maybe it’s an inexpensive instrument. Or maybe because you want your child to appreciate music. Or you would like to see your child skilled at an instrument. Or you think that it will help your child socially or academically. Or it’s an innocent “enrichment” activity. Or even because taking music lessons is something the parents or grandparents did. Or a combination of some of these reasons.

Parents who commit to lessons eventually will have second thoughts, though. Once the child is involved, it almost always brings some conflict to the home when the child resists practicing according to the the parents’ wishes. Eventually questions arise like, “Is it worth it?”, or “what’s the purpose of this?”, or “Is this a waste of time?”

But there is something more terrifying for the parents than that.

And that is, if the child actually learns to love the discipline and grows significant skill, and wants to study music and guitar in college to pursue a career out of it! That causes real handwringing for the parents! Talk about second thoughts! So if there are no career prospects, why even entertain music lessons?

However here are the facts:

Over 22,000 kids have gone through the Childbloom Program at this writing (2024). Maybe several dozen have studied it casually in college (about 1 out of 300). Less than a dozen have majored or minored in guitar performance (1 out of 3000). Fewer still have pursued a career associated with it (1 out of 5,000). Fewer have potential concert careers (1 out of 10,000). So what good is learning this extraordinary skill at a young age if a career is not the goal?

Here is one answer for both traditional American and Indian families.

“Yoga” was brought to the West by Swami Vivekananda (1862-1902) in the last part of the 19th century. It is part of our many South Asian families’ culture. The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskit word “yuj’, meaning ‘to yoke’ or ‘to join’ or ‘to unite.’ Yoga’s original purpose was a discipline to unite the mind and the body. It has quasi-religious significance that post-modern Westerners have secularized (trivialized?) to mean a type of exercise routine. But its real meaning is deeper than living room videos and yoga pants. It is a disciplined and respectful attitude towards work and effort to unite the mind and body.

Yes, Yoga – as a “yoke” – also implies “work.” Anyone brought up on a farm knows that. The two meanings are linked through the fundamental aspects of labor and effort in the process of working or creating unity of mind and body. The “yoke” is a physical embodiment of “binding elements together” in the process of work. Practice is our “yoke.” And that is what “perfect practice” is, regardless of our age, when we work on our music. Children, if they stick with it, learn to work perfectly through music.

The “work” doesn’t have a goal. The goal is learning how to “work.”

That same principal can apply to any discipline. However, when a child learns or plays the high-skill guitar that we teach, they are engaged in one of the most complicated activities that can occur in the human brain. Even a simple tune will activate vast parts of our neurology. And these parts must be unified (“yoked”) for music to emerge.

For example, each of these guitar actions below activate different cells in various regions of our brains:

  • specialized body posture (proper sitting position)
  • arm movement from the shoulder (“shifting”)
  • hand/wrist movement
  • finger movement of left hand
  • finger movement of right hand
  • feedback from fingertip placement on the string
  • coordination of dissimilar finger movement of both hands
  • coordinated visual eye movement with hand movement
  • strategic (future) placement of fingers, hand, arms in time
  • forethought – thinking about what motions must arise for correct placement while actively playing other motions
  • the process of turning hand/finger combinations into unconscious gestures
  • “tuning out” background sound or layering of parts (texture)
  • integrating activity into a larger sound (ensemble playing – decentering)
  • hearing sound
  • pitch processing and recognition
  • timbre processing and recognition
  • rhythmic processing and recognition
  • attaching cognitive meaning to musical phrases (beginnings and endings)
  • understanding emotional content of passages and responding
  • time conservation (playing in accurate time regardless of the motions involved)
  • memory activation
  • Adding and layering interpretive elements to memorized motor sequences (i.e. ritard/crescendo-decrescendo/portamento)
  • accuracy judgements and modulations in time

When we add the activity of reading music we add:

  • visual processing of an external source of information
  • scanning information in time (temporal/spatial cognition)
  • eye motion
  • Organizing similar information with different eyes
  • translating abstract symbols into body action
  • translating the abstraction of rhythmic notation into bodily-timed mechanisms
  • etc., etc. etc.

All this disparate activity is organized by another part of our brain (corpus callosum) into what comes out…as music! In fact, we can judge the quality of this work – this yoga – by the music that emerges. There are very few other human activities that stimulate and unify our neurology quite as much as playing a musical instrument with two moving hands and fingers.

This is definitely a brain “yoga” in the original sense of Swami Vivekananda’s “Science of the mind.”

Practicing one’s instrument is a very individual activity for a person. Like traditional yoga, musical practice and learning is essentially an individual act. Besides keeping your kids off the street, practicing music can bring them great insight into their strengths, weaknesses, self-knowledge and self-confidence (which can make them pretty dangerous on the street – so teach them morals, too, parents! Music doesn’t do that. It just activates their “super-power.”)

I contacted a few of my past students who studied guitar from the early ages into adulthood (at least 15 years), who are not in a musical career and asked what value they think their musical studies had, since they do not have musical careers now.

Here are some replies:

Eliot Wilde began Childbloom when he was 6 and studied seriously until the age of 21. He and his friend Ryan Voldstad made this great video in their living room when they were 16. They are both 31, now, and successful professionals. Eliot writes:

“These days I work in pharmaceutical analysis as a chemist. I don’t regret my years with guitar in the slightest. I think music can teach anyone that commitment, passion and patience can be their own reward. A great lesson which can be applied to other areas in life, setting up students with an attitude highly conducive to success. “

Another student, Tyler Rhodes, who appears in this video at 16, is now a successful IT professional. He writes:

“Early engrossment with classical guitar and the guidance of a mentor has given me lifelong knowledge that extends beyond the realm of music. Qualities such as self-direction, the art of practice, grit, and an unwavering sense of self-efficacy, are virtues which I have personally discovered are universally translatable to any new discipline. These qualities have empowered me to pursue new ventures with remarkable success. Looking back, it’s clear that I wouldn’t be who I am today without music.”

I am in my mid-70’s. After about 25 years of just teaching students without performing, I have recently taken up practicing, learning new tunes and even performing again – like a student. Trying to resurrect skills I acquired in my youth requires frequent sessions of purposeful playing. Despite physical limitations that have occurred during the aging process my skills are returning with a vengeance. My practice is awakening neuropathways long dormant.The process of “just practicing” reminds me that it is a remarkable door to mental insight, memory, and learning. The results bring great gratification, enjoyment and a profound peace.

This may not be the reason you wish your child to learn and play music, but I can attest that even at an old age, it does have a lifelong benefit and, I believe, a valuable “yoga” worth introducing to your children and persisting through the many challenges that will arise in that process.

Kevin Taylor is founder of the Childbloom® Guitar Program

© 2024 Childbloom Inc.

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