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KidsIn 2012, the USC Brain and Creativity Institute, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, and Heart of Los Angeles embarked upon a long-term research collaboration to investigate the emotional, social, and cognitive effects of musical training on childhood brain development. The early findings of the five-year research project are very exciting and recently, LA Phil CEO and President Deborah Borda and HOLA’s Executive Director Tony Brown recently sat down with USC Brain and Creativity Institute Director Dr. Antonio Damasio, Dr. Assal Habibi, the lead investigator of the project, and Dr. Hanna Damasio, Director of Dornsife Neuroimaging Center to discuss the study‚Äôs implications.

The presentation started with a performance by four YOLA at HOLA students who are participating in the study, followed by remarks from Dr. Habibi. Dr. Habibi explained that after one year of participating in the YOLA at HOLA program, “we have started to see improvements in the auditory skills, including pitch perception and production and rhythm perception. These skills are not only important for processing music but they are essential and necessary for processing speech.” Dr. Habibi explained that these early findings potentially have wide ranging positive benefits across a variety of areas, including emotional and social.

Tony and Deborah Borda then had the opportunity to discuss how this study will impact the work that they are doing in the community. Deborah spoke to the importance of the intersection of the social and artistic imperative. She stressed that arts organizations need to be nimble and reshape to fit the needs of the community. Tony stressed the importance of scientific evidence. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that music education has far reaching benefits, the scientific evidence quantifies the impact. Tony continued that “programs like YOLA at HOLA are putting back what has been stripped out of the school day. There is an educational imperative that these types of programs is addressing.”


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