Many studies conducted by scientists and educators over decades have verified what we already know to be true: music is beneficial in many ways to people of all ages, skills, and interests. Music education is good for the brain and the body. But despite an overwhelming body of evidence in this regard, music education is, unfortunately, one of the first classes to be cut when budgets grow tight.
Here are reasons music education matters to students, parents and teachers:
Music education improves coordination.
Many studies link music education to hand-eye coordination, and it makes sense since music requires certain motor skills that can’t be learned in non-musical settings. Holding a pencil, for instance, is vastly different than learning how to manipulate the strings on a violin. Both are useful skills that require slightly different brain responses and strengthen hand-eye coordination in unique ways.
Music education produces a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence.
Music education inherently focuses on accomplishment. From the earliest days when a piano teacher presses a sticker on the completed page of a child’s piano book, accomplishment becomes the goal. Over time – whether students are working toward song or skill mastery, or whether a student is preparing for a concert or recital – the goal of accomplishment remains the same. Once a certain accomplishment is achieved, the music teacher and student almost immediately work together to set a new goal. This cycle of goal-setting and achieving grows a sense of confidence in music students that accomplishment can be possible with time and effort.
Along with accomplishment comes a sense of self-confidence. Regardless of a teacher or parent praising a child on his or her potential, students are most likely to improve their self-confidence most effectively through personal achievement and realizing a goal. When a student masters the ability to play a song in front of a teacher, then a family member and eventually a school auditorium filled with peers or families, he or she realizes he or she alone was ultimately responsible for the performance. And that knowledge can lead a student to grow in personal confidence which can bleed into other areas of growth and achievement.
Music education enhances emotional development.
Music is often viewed as an emotional tool. Indeed, a recent study revealed that music training helps students not only develop fine motor skills but also to mature emotionally and behaviorally. It does so in a number of ways, including enhancing self-reliance and positive attitudes.
In 2014, another study by the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry – one of the largest studies of its kind – investigated the effects of learning an instrument on the development of the brain. Most notably, the study concluded that music education helps students with emotional development. While this is not terribly surprising, given the correlation between emotion and music performance, it does verify what teachers and scientists have suspected all along. Students who pursue music education are often more emotionally advanced.
Music education strengthens discipline and intellectual curiosity.
Perseverance – or the ability to work toward a goal even when presented with challenges – is an important life skill that is honed over time with music education. Very few students of music are able to master an instrument or skill without expending serious “blood, sweat, and tears.” Hours of practice are generally required, as is the obstacle of constant critique. This discipline can be carried into other areas of life over time.
Students who engage in self-study required to practice and master various music techniques and songs are generally less intimidated to pursue self-study in other areas and subjects. A student who can muster the self-discipline to sit at the piano for hours, for instance, carefully working out the notes or dynamics of a new piece until he or she is able to play it well, is likely equipped to learn whatever he or she wants to learn in other areas of interest.
Music education raises test scores, iQ and freedom to engage in self-expression.
Researchers analyzed 10 years of SAT scores, revealing that students given four years of high school art courses – including music – received significantly higher scores than students who did not take art courses. Specifically, the students who did take courses including music education scored highest on verbal and math testing. Various other studies noted in our STEM to STEAM infographic reveal the following:
• Students who study the arts are four times more likely to receive recognition for academic achievement.
• Students tend to score 98 points higher on SATs if they studied the arts for four years in high school versus students who studied for half a year or less.
• Students who focused on music appreciation scored 61 points higher on verbal sections and 42 points higher on math sections.
Another study, this one by E. Glenn Schellenberg from the University of Toronto at Mississauga and published in the 2004 issue of Psychological Science, revealed that students given music lessons over the course of a school year tested an average of three I.Q. points higher than the students who did not take music lessons. These results are consistent with similar studies. Bottom line: Music education is good for brain growth.
Beyond academic or cognitive improvements, music also offers students a unique outlet for self-expression. In a time when students are facing greater personal issues and battles than ever before, it is critical for them to be given a way to use their voice and be heard by those around them. Many students are tempted to engage in self-expression that isn’t ideal or helpful for personal growth, but music is a healthy alternative.
Music education creates community.
Observe music camp or marching band and one thing becomes increasingly clear: students of music understand and engage in community. Music education encourages students to work together as a team for personal and collective good. This experience builds trust, strengthens interpersonal skills, and yields friendships unlike most other areas of study.
Music education enriches the lives of those who are given the opportunity to learn and grow. If you are interested in continuing to help the next generation pursue music, consider an online Master of Music in music education degree. Learn more by visiting Kent State University today!
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/classic-recorder-flute-whistle-185798/
Vaugh, K., & Winner, E. (2000). SAT Scores of Students Who Study the Arts: What We Can and Cannot Conclude about the Association. Journal of Aesthetic Education 34(3/4), 77-98.