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Music Makes You Smarter

Can learning music really make you smarter?

The Music Education Academy supports the view that students who learn a musical instrument at an early age out-perform students who do not learn music in areas of intelligence, developmental skills, academic performance, and social skills. Furthermore, they are able to transfer their music knowledge and skills to other areas of academic excellence.

The benefit of music education in children’s lives has been widely publicised for over 20 years. Although the literature is supportive of music education and is exciting for music educators, we must be cautious that more research is needed to fully understand the benefits of music education in children.

The Music Education Academy is actively involved in music education research. Through our research, we can ensure that all our students are provided with the highest standard of music education and that our teaching is up-to-date with current trends in music pedagogy. Research indicates that for music education to make a positive impact on a child’s life and development, their music education must involve a comprehensive mix of creativity, singing, active participation, ear-training, improvisation and opportunity. Furthermore, in order for children to fully benefit from music education, it is important that they are taught by trained and qualified music educators.

Below are a number of quotes from the literature that provide evidence of the benefit music education has in young children.

  • “Dr. Rauscher found that students in Group Piano-Keyboard tuition outscored those who received no formal music training by 48% on spatial reasoning test” (Demorest & Morrison; 2000:35).
  • “Children who study music tend to do better academically than those who do not study music. And they tend to behave more responsibly as students if given the opportunity to study music – even if they are from at-risk populations” Wilcox, (1999;33)
  • Students with course work or experience in music performance scored 53 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 39 points higher on the math portion than students with no course work or experience in the arts. Scores for those with course work in music appreciation were 61 points higher on the verbal portion and 42 points higher on the math portion. – The College Board, 1999.
  • Music participants received more academic honours and awards than nonmusic students, and the percentage of music participants receiving As, As/Bs, and Bs was higher than the percentage of non-participants receiving those grades. – NELS:88 (National Education Longitudinal Study), First Follow-up, 1990, National Center for Education Statistics Washington, D.C.
    “Studies that reveal significant changes in Children’s spatial and cognitive development almost all involve the child as actor, not spectator. This is also true of preschoolers through mid-elementary children. The more a child participates, the more wonder and learning he or she experiences” Wilcox; 1999:31).
  • Brain imagery has shown increases in parts of the cerebral hemisphere and in the thickness of neural fibers connecting the two sides of the brain in children who begin stringed-instrument or keyboard study before the age of seven compared to children who are not exposed to this kind of learning. Some scientists theorize that young keyboard and stringer players are using both hands in ways that twentieth-century American children usually don’t have to do” Wilcox; 1999:32).
  • “Music study helps children develop intellectually in ways that help their musical abilities – and other abilities, as well” (Wilcox; 1999:34).
  • A group of second-grade students who were given four months of piano keyboard training, as well as exposure to math puzzle software, scored 27% higher on proportional math and fractions test than children who received no special instruction. – Neurological Research, March 15, 1999.
  • General and spatial cognitive development scores improved significantly for students given piano instruction over the first two years of a three-year period. – Journal of Research in Music Education, Fall 1999.
  • The area of the brain used to analysis musical pitch is on average 25% larger in musicians. The younger the child is when musical training begins, the larger the area. – Nature, April 23, 1998.
  • After six months of piano lessons, preschoolers had spatial-temporal IQ scores (important for some types of mathematical reasoning) that were 34% higher than those of students who received computer training instead of music training. – Neurological Research, February 28, 1997.
  • When music and visual arts training was given to underperforming first grades for seven months, they caught up with classmates who were without arts training and subsequently surpassed them by 22% in measures of math competency. The students also showed a marked improvement in behaviour and attitude. Nature, May 23, 1996.
  • “Participation in music can help students learn to work together toward common goals, resolve conflict, and find new solutions to problems” (Wilcox; 1999:35).
  • The U.S Department of Education lists the arts as subjects that college-bound middle and high school take, stating, “It is also well known and widely recognized that the arts contributes significantly to children’s intellectual development”.
  • The College Board identifies that arts as one of the six basic academic subject areas student should study in order to succeed in college. – Perceptual and Motor Skills, April 1993.
  • Music is about communication, creativity, and cooperation, and by studying music music in school, students have the opportunity to build on these skills, enrich their lives, and experience the world from a new perspective. – Bill Clinton, Former President of the United States of America (Wilcox; 1999:35).