Tooting my own horn of wisdom

My fellow band geeks and I would like a word with all you ”cool” kids who laughed at us in school.


That’s the word. Try not to stumble over it.

See, the Journal of Neuroscience published a study by Northwestern University that shows that kids who took music lessons command sharper minds as adults.

Here’s a sharp-minded test for you. What did the flautist say to the trumpeter as the band marched in the snow? “Watch out for ice because if you don’t C-sharp, you’ll B-flat.”

If you’re chuckling or groaning, congratulations, you’re probably one of the smart bandos. If you’re scratching your head, probably not. Either that or my dog has fleas. (Ask a ukulele player to tune you in to that one.)

Anyway, the scientists hanging out at Northwestern discovered that the auditory brain stem – the thing that processes sensory and cognitive cues – reacts faster in people who played music as kids. By the time we hit our mid-50s to late 70s, our cognitive skills are firing a bit faster than the dullards who didn’t.

Remember all the times you tried to practice at home and your family yipped at you to knock off the racket? I remember stuffing sweat socks into my trombone to muffle notes.

It now occurs to my musically honed cognitive skills that I wasn’t as rotten a musician as everyone thought. I bet those awful sounds had something to do with damage caused by smelly sweat socks.

Anyway, it turns out I wasn’t blistering ear drums; I was fortifying my brain.

So when will science vindicate the rest of the stuff people used to harp at us about?

For example, running with scissors. Seriously, has any eye ever been poked out by someone running with scissors?

I bet if science studied it, it would prove that kids running with scissors improves dexterity, agility, alertness, quick-twitch muscle reactions, heart rates and all sorts of other benefits. Maybe not in the kid doing the running, but certainly in everyone else in the room.

What about baths and boys? If science studied this one, it probably would find that moms who forced their kids into the tub every day erred by washing off the protective layers boys built up to keep him safe from all manner of germs, bugs and viruses. At least that’s what I tried to tell my mom at bath time.

Maybe science also would discover that Play-Doh crumbs actually improve the life of carpets.

Science might even prove that dirty clothes left to air out on backs of chairs or draped on doorknobs clean themselves after a while, thus saving hampers and the environment. At least that’s what I thought I discovered in college doing personal research in the men’s dorm.

How about daydreaming? My teachers and my parents forever sniped at me to pay attention to my work. Dad was particularly painful upon this point whenever I was the one driving the tractor in the hayfield. No good can come of daydreaming, they insisted.

I became a writer. One of the coolest things about being an author is legalized daydreaming. When I’m staring out the window, or even resting my eyes in my easy chair, I am NOT goofing off. I am hard at work plotting out my next book.

I’m sure there are more examples of worthy scientific research that needs to be done. Tell you what, I’m going to pick up my trombone and cogitate for a while. Pass the sweat socks. They should be aired out by now.

—- Write Burt at or find him on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.