As passionate musicians and educators, we are aware of the tremendous and measurable benefits of a musical education. However, one of the biggest obstacles that we continually run into is the fairly common belief that music is somehow less important than the core subjects like math, language, and science. It often is relegated to the world of "specials" or "extracurricular activities".
That data sings a different tune, however. It shows a vast improvement in many cognitive, emotional, empathetic, and academic areas, not to mention that it increases one's enjoyment of life and understanding of culture.
Below are some of the well documented reasons as to why musical education is right for your child and for you, whatever age you may be. (Below information originated from this post.)
1. Musical training helps develop language and reasoning: Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on young minds.
2. A mastery of memorization: Even when performing with sheet music, student musicians are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization can serve students well in education and beyond.
3. Students learn to improve their work: Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.
4. Increased coordination: Students who practice with musical instruments can improve their hand-eye coordination. Just like playing sports, children can develop motor skills when playing music.
5. A sense of achievement: Learning to play pieces of music on a new instrument can be a challenging, but achievable goal. Students who master even the smallest goal in music will be able to feel proud of their achievement.
6. Kids stay engaged in school: An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects.
7. Success in society: Music is the fabric of our society, and music can shape abilities and character. Students in band or orchestra are less likely to abuse substances over their lifetime. Musical education can greatly contribute to children’s intellectual development as well.
8. Emotional development: Students of music can be more emotionally developed, with empathy towards other cultures They also tend to have higher self esteem and are better at coping with anxiety.
9. Students learn pattern recognition: Children can develop their math and pattern-recognition skills with the help of musical education. Playing music offers repetition in a fun format.
10. Better SAT scores: Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.
11. Fine-tuned auditory skills: Musicians can better detect meaningful, information-bearing elements in sounds, like the emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have better auditory attention, and pick out predictable patterns from surrounding noise.
12. Music builds imagination and intellectual curiosity: Introducing music in the early childhood years can help foster a positive attitude toward learning and curiosity. Artistic education develops the whole brain and develops a child’s imagination.
13. Music can be relaxing: Students can fight stress by learning to play music. Soothing music is especially helpful in helping kids relax.
14. Musical instruments can teach discipline: Kids who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They will have to set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.
15. Preparation for the creative economy: Investing in creative education can prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The new economy has created more artistic careers, and these jobs may grow faster than others in the future.
16. Development in creative thinking: Kids who study the arts can learn to think creatively. This kind of education can help them solve problems by thinking outside the box and realizing that there may be more than one right answer.
17. Music can develop spatial intelligence: Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.
18. Kids can learn teamwork: Many musical education programs require teamwork as part of a band or orchestra. In these groups, students will learn how to work together and build camaraderie.
19. Responsible risk-taking: Performing a musical piece can bring fear and anxiety. Doing so teaches kids how to take risks and deal with fear, which will help them become successful and reach their potential.
20. Better self-confidence: With encouragement from teachers and parents, students playing a musical instrument can build pride and confidence. Musical education is also likely to develop better communication for students.
However, even with all of the aforementioned reasons, it often faces an uphill battle. Below is a wonderful example of this kind of thinking and a rightfully forceful response. (Originally from this post.)
The current core subjects as outlined in No Child Left Behind are English, reading or language arts, math, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history and geography.
The Senate ESEA bill adds “technology, engineering, computer science, music, and physical education — and any other subject as determined by the state or local educational agency."
Historically, core subjects have made up a much shorter list — sometimes as short as the oddly named Three R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic. In 1989, the National Governors Association released a set of education goals that listed English, math, science, history and geography. Following up on that conference, President George H.W. Bush released “America 2000” in 1991, which outlined a national education strategy listing the same five subjects as core curriculum.
As Bob Morrison of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership writes about that period, the arts community started pushing to add arts to the list outlined in America 2000 but were rebuffed. In a letter responding to one music education advocacy group, Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander said he would certainly want his local schools to provide arts, but they were “extra-curricular.”
Responding to Alexander and America 2000, Michael Greene — chairman of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences who oversees the Grammy Awards — used the pulpit of the 1992 Grammys to criticize the federal Department of Education’s lack of inclusion of music or arts as a core curriculum.
According to Morrison, Secretary of Education Alexander called a friend in the Nashville music business to ask, “Who is Mike Greene and what is his [expletive] problem?” A few days after, a concert was planned by arts advocates protesting the threatened elimination of the music program in Maryville, Tennessee — which happened to be the hometown of Alexander.
Eventually the pressure led to an announcement shortly after the Grammys speech by the secretary of “America 2000 Arts Partnership,” which strengthened the emphasis of arts. That emphasis was written into law in 1994 when President Bill Clinton signed the “Goals 2000” education reform measure (later replaced by No Child Left Behind), which for the first time set up national curriculum and standards for arts education.
So while arts are currently outlined under existing federal legislation as a core part of U.S. education goals, they’ve enjoyed a relatively short history with that status. Arts and music advocacy groups aren’t ready to assume that status is safe in future rewrites to federal education guidelines, and groups like NAfME have led letter-writing and social media campaigns to lawmakers working on the ESEA. For now, they are celebrating getting to this point as they watch to see whether national leaders can agree on and finalize the law.
While we at Amidei School Of Music consistently make the case of the usefulness of music education, it is often one of the greatest challenges that young would be musicians face, most commonly from parents who don't recognize the vital and important nature of such education. We (all music educators, ourselves included) must do more to make the information and benefits around music instruction to be known.
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