Want to Change Your Child’s Life? Give Them Music Lessons

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof,
Because I’m happy. –

At last month’s Grammy’s, Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” won Best Pop Solo and Best Video, and his live performance galvanized the audience. It’s easy to see why his snappy, motivational tune has been so successful.

Yet, it was his CBS Sunday Morning interview that made the comments fly on Facebook. Why?

Because on CBS, Pharrell credited his high school music teachers for his success, right along with his grandmother, who originally suggested he take drum lessons at age 15.

Yes, the man that Billboard magazine called “the top music producer of the past decade” named his high school band teachers (all of them) as the principle reasons for his success.


It’s not just explosive talents like Pharrell who benefit from music lessons. Even when the horn playing is less than perfect, musical training helps children in numerous ways, according to a study in theJournal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

The study, one of the largest to investigate the effects of playing an instrument on brain development, confirms that playing instruments helps develop fine motor skills right along with emotional and behavioral maturation. To reach these conclusions, the researchers analyzed data including MRI scans of 232 healthy children between the age of six and 18 who play a musical instrument.

"What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument, it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control,” said James Hudziak, M.D., a psychiatrist and the lead researcher, in this Washington Post article.

We’ve known for some time that the cortex, or outer layer of brain, changes in thickness a­s a child develops. As neuroscience advances, we’ll know more about the exact pathways that make practicing an instrument such a beneficial activity, especially for kids with ADHD.

This underscores one of the arguments for keeping music in the elementary school curriculum i.e. that making music involves whole brain processing, which ultimately trains the brain.

In fact, both music training and music therapy help those with ADHD in areas of working memory, executive functioning and other high level skills that become significant as we humans mature.

For now, I strongly recommend that my patients and their families select an instrument and follow Pharrell’s lead. You don’t need to hire Pharrell’s teachers, whose names were Mrs. Warren, Mr. Warren, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Sharps and Mr. Copley.

Find your neighborhood music teacher and have your child select an instrument whose sound piques their interest.

Parents may also need to get a great set of noise-proof ear phones for those early days of practice!

The Cadenza Center for Psychotherapy and the Arts

At the Cadenza Center for Psychotherapy and the Arts, a dedicated roster of therapists, educational and behavioral consultants treat the developmental, emotional, cognitive, physical, and behavioral needs of both adults and children. Founded in 2001 by Michelle Hintz, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist and board-certified music therapist, the Cadenza Center provides general services including individual and family therapy incorporating active treatment strategies such as sensory integration, DIR/Floortime, and social pragmatics.

Patients come to the Cadenza Center for treatment of a wide range of diagnoses, from test anxiety in children to adults with complex clinical profiles, multiple diagnoses, and challenging situations. The team also treats children and adolescents who are hospitalized. In South Florida, Dr. Hintz is particularly well-known for her work with individuals that have limited verbal skills and aggressive or oppositional tendencies.

Educational Services. Cadenza Center professionals perform evaluations for learning disabilities, conduct and behavioral disorders, autism, mood and personality disorders. They are available to attend IEPs and conduct school visits, and frequently consult with other professionals to coordinate treatment strategies. Dr. Hintz serves as an expert witness in legal cases in criminal and family court, and also works with young adults struggling with relationship and work issues.

Virtual School. Children who need a unique, structured learning environment can attend virtual school at Cadenza Center, receiving individualized instruction with expert tutors, and facilitating the inclusion of frequent, brief individual and family therapy sessions. This comprehensive, coordinated approach to education and therapy creates a seamless structure for developmental growth in kids with unique challenges.

Creative arts. Music therapy and art therapy are used in combination with traditional outpatient psychotherapy. This integrated approach is incorporated into the Cadenza Center’s after-school enrichment and summer camp programs, which were among the first offered to children with special needs in Broward County.

ABA. At the Cadenza Center, individual child-directed ABA, social and self-care skills, and play therapy can be incorporated into the patient’s treatment plan.

At the Cadenza Center, children and families with unique challenges find treatment, acceptance and hope.

Cadenza Center for Psychotherapy & the Arts
450 N. Park Road, Suite 400
Hollywood, Florida 33021

Michelle Hintz, Psy.D.

Dr_Michelle_HintzMichelle Hintz, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist, board-certified music therapist and founder/owner of the Cadenza Center for Psychotherapy and the Arts, Inc. At the Cadenza Center in Hollywood, she is joined by a roster of therapists, educational and behavioral consultants who work on developmental, emotional, cognitive, physical, and behavioral needs.

Dr. Hintz treats adults, children and their families using cognitive behavioral, developmental, and systems-oriented frameworks. At Cadenza Center, her patients include children with complex clinical profiles, multiple diagnoses, and challenging situations, including the treatment of children and adolescents who are hospitalized or involved with the legal system.

In South Florida, Dr. Hintz is known for her work with children on the Autism Spectrum Disorder during the past twenty years, including those who have limited verbal skills and aggressive or oppositional tendencies. Dr. Hintz regularly conducts school visits, attends IEP meetings, and consults with other professionals to coordinate treatment strategies. She has served numerous times as an expert witness in court and is recognized as an expert in the diagnosis, treatment and management of autism spectrum disorders

A longtime member of the Continuing Education Committee of the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT), Dr. Hintz is highly-sought after as a presenter at local and national conferences on topics ranging from music therapy to psychology. She sits on the editorial board of two national, peer-reviewed journals and her writing credits include several chapters in textbooks. In 2011, she co-authored Guidelines for Music Therapy Practice in Developmental Health, published by
Barcelona Publishers.