Why Music?

There are more reasons, besides the obvious, to involve a student in music lessons.  Music is a remarkable force that can motivate a student in many different academic, psychological and social directions.  A student needs to do more than just passive listening to music.  By studying a musical instrument, one will be involved in the process of music making.  The process is just as important as the outcome.

Music has the power to stimulate the imagination, improve listening and language skills, instill cooperative behavior, increase self-esteem, and enhance the memory.  Music can promote clear abstract thinking and can create, on a subconscious level, a strong sense of physical and psychological well-being.  A student does not necessarily have to be super talented in music to reap all of the benefits that a musical education has to offer.

Learning to play keyboard or string instruments before adolescence affects the way musicians’ brains are “wired,” according to several new studies. In a recent study, preschoolers showed a 46 percent boost in their spatial IQ after eight months of keyboard instruction.  “Music lessons appear to strengthen the links between brain neurons and build new neural bridges needed for a kind of intelligence necessary for high-level math and science,” says psychologist Frances Rauscher of University of California, Irvine.

Three young students share the keyboard of one grand piano

“Music instruction can improve a child’s spatial intelligence for long periods of time — perhaps permanently,” Rauscher told the American Psychological Association.  (Frances Rauscher, Ph.D., Gornon Shaw, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine).

Students with coursework /experience in music performance scored 51 points higher on the verbal portion of the SAT and 39 points higher on the math portion of the SAT than students with no coursework or experience in the arts.  There is also a direct correlation between improved SAT scores and the length of time spent studying the arts.  Those who studied music four or more years scored 59 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math portions of the SAT then students with no coursework or experience in the arts.  (Profiles of SAT and Achievement Test Takers, The College Board, compiled by Music Educators National Converence (MENC), 1995.


Many of you have asked me to print the statistics I read aloud during the recitals.  Here they are:

1.  A 10-year study indicates that students who study music achieve higher test scores, regardless of socioeconomic background.  (Dr. James Catterall, UCLA)

2.  Music develops concentration and memory.   The brain processes of a pianist were traced while he performed and it was found that there were 4.000 neurological processes per minute.   No other vocation requires the mind to perform so accurately.

3.  A study of 7500 university students revealed that music majors scored the highest reading scores among all majors, including English, Biology, Chemistry and Math.  (“The Comparative Academic Abilities of Students in Education and in Other Areas of a Multi-focus University”  Peter H. Wood, ERIC Document No. ED327480)

4.  Music students outperform non-musical on achievement tests in reading and math.  Skills such as reading, anticipating, memory, listening, forecasting, recall, and concentration are developed in musical performance, and these skills are valuable to students in math, reading and science.  (B. Friedman, “An evaluation of the Achievement in Reading and Arithmetic of Pupils in Elementary School Instrumental Music Classes.  Dissertation Abstracts International”)

5.  In a Scottish study, one group of elementary students received musical training, while another group received an equal amount of discussion skills training.  After six months, the students in the music group achieved a significant increase in reading test scores, while the reading test scores of the discussion skills group did not change.  (Shetla Douglas & Peter Willatts. ’94 Journal of Research in Reading)

6.  Two research projects have found that music training, specifically piano instruction, can dramatically enhance children’s spatial-temporal reasoning skills, the skills crucial for greater success in subjects like math and science.  A group of preschoolers received private piano keyboard lessons and singing lessons.  A second group received private computer lessons.  Those children who received piano/keyboard training performed 34% higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability than the others, even those who received computer training.  (Shaw, Grazianow, and Peterson, Neurological Research, March 1999)

7.  Students with coursework/experience in music performance and music appreciation scored higher on the SAT:  53 points higher on the verbal and 39 points on the math than students with no arts participation.  (College-Bound Seniors National Report 1999:  Profile of SAT Program Test Takers, The College Entrance Examination Board, Princeton, NJ).

8.  Data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study showed that music participants received more academic honors and awards than non-music students, and that the percentage of music participants receiving A’s and B’s, was higher than the percentage of non-participants receiving those grades.  (National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988.  First Follow Up, 1990.  U.S. Department of Education.)

9.  The U.S. Department of Education lists the arts as subjects that college-bound middle and high school students should take, stating, “Many colleges view participation in the arts and music as valuable experience that broadens students’ understanding and appreciation of the world around them.”  It is also well known and widely recognized that the arts contribute significantly to children’s intellectual development.

10.  College admissions officers continue to cite participation in music as an important factor in making admissions decisions.  They claim that music participation demonstrates time management, creativity, expression, and open-mindedness.  (Carl Hartman, “Arts May Improve Student’s Grades”, The Associated Press,  October, 1999)

11.  Music majors are the most likely group of college grads to be admitted to medical school.  Physician and biologist Lewis Thomas studied the undergraduate majors of medical school applicants.  He found that 66% of majors who applied to medical school were admitted, the highest percentage of any group.  For comparison, 44% of Biochemistry majors were admitted.  (The Comparative Academic Abilities of students in Education and in Other Areas of a Multi-focus Univerisity, Peter H. Wood, ERIC Document, No. ED327480, The Case for Music in the Schools, Phi Delta Kappan, February, 1994)




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