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Iraqi Kids growing up in the sound of explosions and sirens, find Refuge in Music

The motto of "Children's Orchestra," a summer program is “Culture fights backwardness and extremism”

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Iraqi kids playing musical instruments. Image source: VOA

Sept 06, 2016: In Iraq and many other places in the world, children grow up to the sound of explosions and sirens too often. But in a classroom in Basra, a different sound surrounds them — music.

“Children’s Orchestra” is the brainchild of Adnan Sahi, head of the music department at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Basra. The motto of this summer program is “Culture fights backwardness and extremism.”

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“Human behavior in general, and children’s is a response to a stimulus- a reflection of their environment,” Sahi says. “What we’re trying do is keep the Iraqi child from the negative environmental effects caused by the surrounding violent tensions. We try to keep our children away from the language of violence, the language of exclusion.”

This is his work of art. He envisions the “Children’s Orchestra” as a safe haven for these children. Kids as young as five can join the program to learn a set of skills they would never pick up, if they were left to play in the streets.

Enrollment in this music school is free, but students had to buy their own instruments.

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Ridha Falah says playing instruments is a unique experience for him. “I haven’t seen a piano before, only on TV,” he says, “but now we are playing with one in addition to the guitar and violin, so it’s way better than playing with toy guns and that sort of stuff.”

Instructors volunteer to work with kids because they share Sahi’s belief that music can shield children from the violence around them and provide them with a fun and positive summer experience before they go back to school.

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Basra’s “Children’s Orchestra” is not the first attempt to help kids heal and thrive through arts.Other projects included an art program in an Iraqi orphanage in Bagdad, and a ballet school in Arbeel.

Different approaches to the same end; using art to change Iraqi children’s lives, so they can change their world. (VOA)

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Here’s Why Smart People Learn Music Faster Than Others

Study says that smart people learn music faster than others

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A smart person is likely to learn music faster than the others. Pixabay

Smart people may learn music faster than others, say researchers from Michigan State University in a study.

Published in the journal Intelligence, it examines the relationship between intelligence, music aptitude and growth mindset among beginner pianists.

Growth mindset refers to whether students believe they can improve basic abilities, like piano ability.

“The strongest predictor of skill acquisition was intelligence, followed by music aptitude,” said study researcher Alexander Burgoyne.

In the study, 161 undergraduates were taught how to play ‘Happy Birthday’ on the piano with the help of a video guide.

After practice, the students performed the 25-note song multiple times.

Three MSU graduate students judged the performances based on their melodic and rhythmic accuracy.

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Researchers asked the students to play piano to assess their musical skills and then conducted a cognitive test to know if they are smart or not. Pixabay

There were striking differences in the students’ skill acquisition trajectories. Some learned quickly, earning perfect marks within six minutes of practice.

Others performed poorly at first but improved substantially later.

By comparison, some seemed to fade as if they had lost their motivation and others never figured it out, performing poorly throughout the study.

To find out why did some students fail while others succeeded, the researchers gave the students tests of cognitive ability that measured things like problem-solving skills and processing speed, and tests of music aptitude that measured, for example, the ability to differentiate between similar rhythms.

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They also surveyed their growth mindset.

“The results were surprising, because people have claimed that mindset plays an important role when students are confronted with challenges, like trying to learn a new musical instrument,” Burgoyne said. (IANS)