It’s about that time of year again. You’ve seen it…stores are bustling, bells are ringing, parents are scrambling… No! No, not the holidays. I’m talking about Back-To-School! (But there is quite a similarity between the two, no?)
“Music develops analytical thinking because it requires students to be creative. They don’t just regurgitate memorized facts. They have to apply those facts.” – Dr. Kevin Strother
I’m talking about the time of year when schedules become hectic, time becomes precious, and the number of hours in the day seems to get shorter as the list of things to do becomes longer. Homework and after-school activities take the reigns while parents work to accommodate these new additions into their schedules.
With all of the craziness that a new school year can bring, some parents opt to eliminate any additional activities from their child’s schedule. Music, unfortunately, has been known to be the first to go, as its benefits are not as commonly understood as the physical benefits to playing sports. But what if I told you that a child who engages in music education tends to have higher test scores than a child who doesn’t? What if you knew that language and math skills were drastically improved in students who learn how to read and play music?
And that’s not all.
The benefits of music education are not limited to a newly acquired skill; there is proven overall improvement in the life of a child musician.
Don’t believe me?
To prove it to you, I have compiled a list of benefits that music education has on children.
(Okay, well, maybe you did believe me…but I really like lists anyway…)
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
- Language skills. According to PBS (Public Broadcasting System), “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways.” Learning a musical instrument also improves how the brain understands human language, which can help students learn a second language.
- Improved test scores. Studies have shown that students who are involved with a high-quality music education program in school perform better on tests than students who don’t engage in music. PBS reports, “A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs.”
- Self-esteem. Music allows students to try something new and develop confidence as they master singing or playing an instrument. “When students are working towards a common goal, they appreciate that their ‘voice’ and interests are heard and understood by others. This joint effort creates a sense of secure acceptance that is critical to their self-esteem,” states PBS.
- Listening skills. Music involves listening to yourself and to the rest of the ensemble. Musicians need to hear tempos, dynamics, tuning, and harmonies. This helps auditory developmentin the brain.
- Math skills. Reading music includes learning quarter, half, and whole notes, which are essentially fractions. As Getting Smart explains, “When a music pupil has spent time learning about rhythm, he has learned to count. He is not counting numbers, per se, but he is most certainly using logic to count out the rhythms and bars, and working his way methodically through the piece. Many musical concepts have mathematical counterparts.”
- Making the brain work harder. Research shows that the brain of a musician works differently than a non-musician, according to PBS.‘There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University. “When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain.”
- Relieving stress. We all know that listening to a favorite artist or song can lift a mood and relax us. The same goes for creating music. It gives kids a great release, allowing them to immerse themselves in something that’s fulfilling and calming. I know that no matter how stressed I was in school, I would always come out happy and relaxed after choir practice.
- Creativity. Music certainly nurtures kids’ creative side. This can have an impact on their futures. The Arts Education Partnership states, “Employers identify creativity as one of the top five skills important for success in the workforce (Lichtenberg, Woock, & Wright, 2008).” The partnership also suggests originality and flexibility are benefits of music education because they are key components of the creativity and innovation music requires. Finally, graduates from music programs report that creativity, teamwork, communication, and critical thinking are skills and competencies necessary in their work, regardless of whether they are working in music or in other fields.
- Helping special needs children. Music can have a powerful impact on kids with special needs. It helps them find a way to communicate and open up, which they may struggle with otherwise. For this reason, and despite cuts to music programs, schools are increasingly implementing music therapy after-school programs to benefit students with disabilities.
- Higher graduation rates. Schools with music programs have higher graduation rates. DoSomething.org reports, “Schools with music programs have an estimated 90.2 percent graduation rate and 93.9 percent attendance rate compared to schools without music education who average 72.9 percent graduation and 84.9 percent attendance.”
Music is not “just another curricular activity”. The benefit to learning this universal language is immense, and can have a huge impact on a child’s life. So when it comes time to choose electives for school, choose music. You won’t be disappointed.