The Benefits of Music Instruction in Schools

     Image
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 

By Marcela De
Vivo
Art
and music are usually the first programs to be cut from the school
budget. Considered to not be an integral part of learning skills and
information that would be useful in the future (on the job, out in the
real world), these “frivolous” classes are deemed secondary to math,
science and English courses. 

Despite this belief, recent research has revealed that music classes in school can enhance the students’ education,
improve their performance on tests and teach them life lessons (like
cooperation, teamwork and diligence) that would benefit the student as
much as, if not more, the rote memorization of historical dates. 
It
appears that learning to play an instrument provides the foundation to
all learning. Here are a few of the ways music instruction can benefit
students: 
Music lessons improve language and reading skills  
Recent
studies show that early musical training helps develop the left side of
the brain, which is known to be involved in language and reasoning. In
order to learn to read, a student needs a good working memory, the
ability to distinguish sounds and make connections between sound and
meaning. Each one of these individual skills can be enhanced through
learning to play a musical instrument.  
Early
music training appears to help rewire the brain to distinguish between
relevant and irrelevant information—a skill that is necessary to learn
language and reading. This ability does not seem to diminish with time
either. 
In a recent study, Northwestern University researchers recorded the brain waves of college students
in response to complex sounds. The brains of students who were exposed
to childhood music lessons were better able to pick out essential
elements, like pitch, in the complex sounds—even if they hadn’t taken a
music class in years.  
The
benefits these students gained from taking music classes stayed with
them, regardless of whether or not they still practiced. 
  
Music training improves spatial-temporal ability  
It’s long been recognized that just listening to music has been proven to enhance learning, IQ, and test scores, but studies have shown that direct participation in music lessons stimulates students even further.  
A
review of 15 studies involving 701 children, ages 3 to 12 years,
suggest that children exposed to musical training performed better on
spatial-temporal tasks compared to their peers who had not engaged with
music. The areas of the brain that responded the most to the music
lessons were areas related with the development of pattern recognition,
counting and organization.  
All
these skills are necessary for solving equations and visualizing how
various elements should fit together in math, science, computer science
and architectural courses.  
  
Image courtesy of worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 
Music class improves performance on tests 
Children
who received at least two years of piano keyboard instruction scored
higher on a standardized arithmetic test than children who were not
exposed to any musical training. In addition, an analysis of 24 studies
that tested over 500,000 high school students also demonstrated a strong
correlation between prolonged musical training and higher reading test
scores. 
A
2007 University of Kansas study compared student test results between
schools that had a strong music program versus schools with little or no
music programs. The results showed that the students who received
strong musical training performed over twenty percent higher in both
English and math scores on standardized tests.  
Researchers speculate that not only do music lessons improve the student’s language and reading skills and spatial reasoning skills, but they also train the student to concentrate—a focus needed to perform well on tests.  
  
Studying music teaches the importance of diligence and teamwork 
Improvement
and a successful performance can only be achieved through hard work and
a great deal of practice. Learning to play an instrument instills
discipline and helps establish a link between diligence and excellence. 
By
enrolling in a musical course in school, the student is signing up to
be part of a team—every member must perform their part in order to play
well. Learning to perform in concert with others is a skill much needed
in the workplace as well as in daily life outside of school. 
  
Music strengthens the brain 
Research
indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, shows more neural
activity and growth than a non-musician as music lessons require more of the brain to be used. Children
who were given music lessons during the school year tested up to 3 IQ
points higher than students who had not been exposed to music training. 
Far
from being a secondary and unnecessary course, music instruction in
school supports, improves and enhances a student’s experience and
performance in school. Music lessons can provide the solid groundwork
for future performance on tests as well as in class.  
The
benefits from music courses in school reach well beyond the years they
were earned, extending well into college, work and beyond. If your
school does not offer classes that teach music to its students, consider
renting a piano or any other instrument that your child may enjoy and enroll him or her in music lessons. 
About Marcela De Vivo
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Southern California whose writing
covers several different topics, including business, marketing, alternative
medicine and technology. As a mother of three, she strongly encourages music to
be a part of their daily life as it is extremely beneficial for development and
growth. 
 

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