Educators across America constantly fight for resources from school boards and other government organizations. While administrators want their schools to be fully funded, they sometimes have to make tough decisions and make cuts to certain programs.
Oftentimes, the school arts and music programs are the first to lose funding. Some officials might think cutting these “softer” classes won’t have an impact on students, but they’re wrong. Music classes give students a reason to look forward to coming to school each day, which decreases the chances of school dropout. Music, in particular, can impact brain development and expressive elements in ways that other subject areas cannot. Here are a few reasons music needs to stay in American schools:
Music Enhances Overall Academic Performance
Image via Flickr by Ben Gesoff
Music as a class doesn’t just help students become better musicians. The benefits of learning music extend beyond the stage and into other subjects.
The Humanist recently shared results from a 10-year study that tracked 25,000 middle and high school students. The students who participated in music classes received higher scores in standardized tests than those who had little to no musical involvement. The survey results were of significant difference. Students who participate in music classes averaged 63 points higher in the verbal section and 44 points higher in the math section of the SAT. Considering students can get a maximum of 800 points per section, an additional 40-60 points could be the difference between an acceptance or rejection letter from a university.
Students who have access to music classes can be more well-rounded and reap the benefits in other academic subjects.
Music Triggers Spatial-Temporal Reasoning
There’s a particular reason why math scores are also affected when students study music. Music requires a very specific type of brain activity called spatial-temporal reasoning. According to Mic, this form of reasoning is used to solve complex problems and help students come up with solutions or identify patterns. Like other parts of the brain, this reasoning concept works like a muscle: the more it is used, the stronger it becomes.
Students become better problem solvers by studying music, often without realizing it. Music is often presented as an elective or fun activity that breaks up the day.
“Cutting electives does not motivate the students who are least likely to pass a state test,” Laurie Futterman writes at the Miami Herald. “In fact, the classes like music, shop and art are the academic breaks in an otherwise bleak day — the very extras that keep them showing up. And if students don’t show up, how will they improve in reading or math?”
When students stop worrying about solving problems, they’re better able to learn new information and come up with solutions they hadn’t thought of before.
Music Provides an Outlet for Self-Expression
Unfortunately, the schools that are in danger of cutting music education are typically the ones that need it most. These are schools in underserved areas who lack the funding and fundraising ability to afford expensive instruments, school trips, and even teaching staff for an adequate music program.
According to the Education team at Seattle Pi, music provides an outlet for creative self-expression. When students feel sad, scared, or angry, they can turn to music and express their emotions in a healthy way. The American Academy of Teachers of Singing has seen this phenomenon in action. It reports that coming up with improvised songs increases one’s ability to solve problems and work through challenges in a constructive manner. For example, participating in spirit songs at school helps students form bonds with peers who can provide emotional support in difficult times. Music can be cathartic and help adolescents face difficult years.
School Curricula are Becoming Increasingly Inter-Disciplinary
The reason state budget workers want to cut music and other art forms from schools is because they believe all subjects operate in silos. In their minds, science is just a subject to learn about nature and chemicals while history is just a class to learn about the past. However, educators argue this isn’t true. It’s almost impossible to discuss one subject without pulling in elements from the others.
Music students use math to count out rhythms and use programming basics to create complex systems when they compose. Furthermore, scientists use creativity to come up with solutions to problems and tap into language arts skills to present their findings.
This combination of arts and other courses like math is one of the main reasons the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) has been changed to STEAM, with the A meaning Arts. When students have a strong understanding of music and arts, they can apply their lessons to solving problems in other disciplines.
Cutting Music Programs is a Short-Term Solution
Oftentimes companies look to see what people, departments, and resources are expendable when times get tough. Administrators can’t cut courses like math and reading, which are large parts of the standardized testing curriculum, but they can cut classes like art, music, and foreign language that aren’t directly correlated to school board evaluations. However, these cuts don’t solve budget problems.
According to Music Parents Guide, music classes typically have a high student-to-teacher ratio. When music programs are cut, students still need to go somewhere during that hour of the school day. This means schools end up hiring an additional two or three teachers to distribute the students evenly now that they’re not in a music class. Even if all students from a music class switched to physical education or a study period for that hour, school boards will still have to hire additional staff to monitor them.
More music teachers are using their positions to become lobbyists in their districts for change. Not only do they want to keep their programs, they want to expand them. If you want to join the fight to keep music in schools, learn more about pursuing a Master of Music in music education. You can learn how to become a music leader who champions ideas and shapes them into innovations. The master’s program can help you develop key leadership skills to build a business case and explain in data-driven detail the way music educators can directly engage different learning styles.