The Academic and Personal Benefits of Music Programs
Music education is honestly music to the brain. The wealth of research available regarding the benefits of music education is stunning. A study published by the American Psychological Association (APA) recently found that students who take music courses score significantly higher in math, science and English than their peers. These recent findings echo what research has been telling us for years about the link between music education and academic success. Of course, we like to think that music education has its own value beyond its link to higher test scores. Creating something beautiful is simply good for kids. Let’s dive in to look at some of the big benefits of music programs for kids.
The Cognitive and Developmental Benefits of Music Programs
Many educators mistakenly assume that time spent studying subjects like math, social studies, science and English exclusively is the only road to success in those subjects. However, what we can actually see is that music helps to create well-rounded, ambitious thinkers! Nobody would say that people like Neil Armstrong, Albert Einstein, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Clinton, Thomas Edison or Bill Gates lost an ounce of academic opportunity from the hours they each devoted to learning their respective instruments. All of these world-changers happened to be devoted musicians.
What We Know About Music and Early Learning
Young children have a lot to gain from being exposed to music. In fact, there is a strong connection between music and early language development. The thought is that musical sounds serve as an early template for understanding speech. That means that infants and young children who are exposed to music early on in their lives may get the advantage of learning how to spot how language is composed.
The very makeup of the human brain may be the reason behind why music is so linked with learning. It is believed that musical training helps to develop the left side of the brain. Unsurprisingly, this is the part of the brain that is concerned with processing language. Exposing children to music programs actually helps to “wire” the circuitry in the brain to recognize and imprint familiar sounds. Of course, the impact that music education has on the brain doesn’t stop after the initial period of language acquisition. The brain benefit of music education is something that needs to be looked at and understood throughout the full learning spectrum.
The Developing Brain Loves Music Education
Engaging in music can undoubtedly lead to improved brain development in children. However, it’s important to distinguish between the impact of actually engaging in music education and the impact of simply enjoying music. Both are important for brain development. However, actual music education offers unique benefits that simply cannot be replicated by enjoying songs on the radio. A study out of Northwestern University puts this very important distinction on display. The study discovered better neural processing in students who actively played musical instruments when compared to students who simply listened to music.
There are many benefits that can be observed when children engage in music education. What we typically see is that children become better at processing and communicating information after consistent exposure to music programs. Here are some of the specific benefits that have been cited in studies:
- Improvements in reading scores.
- Better speech processing.
- Better problem-solving abilities.
- Higher IQ.
Children who are exposed to music programs are simply at an advantage when it comes to being able to process information. This even extends to things like math problems that use words because the neural receptors have been developed to understand words and symbols at an elevated level. Of course, the ability to process and communicate information also provides “music kids” with the ability to express themselves in very profound ways. This might just be a benefit that outshines any test score or leap in IQ points!
The Link Between Music Education and IQ
E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga discovered something pretty amazing about the way music can impact the IQs of children. As part of a study, children were exposed to weekly voice and piano lessons. What Schellenberg discovered was that children exposed to music lessons scored three points higher on IQ tests than children who had been exposed to drama lessons during the same period.
The Link Between Music Education and SAT Scores
We also know that students who participate in music education consistently score higher on their SATs than students who do not. Of course, it’s worth noting that the SAT exam doesn’t actually contain a musical portion. This really helps to showcase the point that the benefits of music education spill over into subjects that don’t have any “technical” links to music. Here’s what the SAT College Board found when reviewing scores:
- Students who participated in music scored higher overall when compared to other students.
- Students who participated in music scored an average of 31 points above average in reading.
- Students who participated in music scored an average of 23 points above average in math.
- Students who participated in music scored an average of 31 points above average in writing.
Data also shows us that students in high-level music programs score higher on standardized tests when compared to students who are enrolled in deficient programs. This suggests that having access to a music program isn’t necessarily enough to create positive results. Music learners require quality programs and personalized attention.
How Music Education Creates Personal Connections and Relationships
Yes, it can be very tempting to focus on the ways that music education can set children up for success by enhancing test scores and academic performance. Those benefits should not be discounted! However, the biggest benefit of music education for children may just be the human benefit.
Music is simply a connecting force. We find music across every period and culture of human existence. In fact, it’s pretty easy to make a case for the idea that humans need music. Children enrolled in some form of music education get to take part in a very unique bonding experience with peers. A music classroom is a great place to form bonds while learning to collaborate with others to create a final product that is bigger than any one person. This is a valuable skill that can help a child to build both personal and professional relationships throughout their life.
Many children find encouragement in a music classroom that they simply cannot find in other places. In addition, the benefit of having a constructive creative outlet cannot be understated. Children who perform in concerts gain the confidence to show off their skills in a public setting. Children who have been studying an instrument for a few years also get the benefit of taking on a “leadership” role when interacting with learners who are new to an instrument.
Music Education Promotes Discipline and Perseverance
Most people who pick up an instrument for the first time quickly discover that they are not prodigies! That can actually be good news because it means that a long road of building discipline, perseverance and character is ahead. Children who engage in music education need to learn how to set time aside to practice their instruments outside of school. This is an amazing tool for building time-management skills that will become increasingly important as a child encounters the academic challenges of high school or college. Learning how to balance the workload of musical pursuits with other pursuits is a true character-building exercise that will continue to deliver benefits for the rest of a person’s life.
Benefits for Mental Health
Anyone who has ever snapped their fingers or drummed a foot along to a song knows exactly what music can do for a mood! Engaging in making music has been shown to improve mood and relieve stress in students in high-stress academic programs. Having a musical background is obviously a huge benefit for students as they move toward the challenging coursework of high school and college.
Music Programs Are More Important Than Ever
It seems that nothing sets a child up for academic and personal success quite like music education. Fostering a love of music early on feeds the brain deeply. In addition, music education feeds the soul by creating well-rounded, creative thinkers who know how to share their musical talents and passions with the world!