10 Ways Music Education Benefits Students

In an effort to trim budgets and improve academic performance, music education is disappearing as a result of state officials cutting the arts from schools.

Some believe that music isn’t as important as the core academic subjects. However, research has shown that benefits of music education include students’ academic success.

Here are 10 benefits of music education that highlight why it should be an integral part of students’ lives—whether inside or outside of school.

1. Language skills. According to PBS, “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways.” Learning a musical instrument also improves how the brain understands human language, which can help students learn a second language.

2. Improved test scores. Studies have shown that students who are involved with a high-quality music education program in school perform better on tests than students who don’t engage in music.  PBS reports, “A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs.”

3. Self-esteem. Music allows students to try something new and develop confidence as they master singing or playing an instrument. “When students are working towards a common goal, they appreciate that their ‘voice’ and interests are heard and understood by others. This joint effort creates a sense of secure acceptance that is critical to their self-esteem,” states PBS.

4. Listening skills. Music involves listening to yourself and to the rest of the ensemble. Musicians need to hear tempos, dynamics, tuning, and harmonies. This helps auditory development in the brain.

5. Math skills. Reading music includes learning quarter, half, and whole notes, which are essentially fractions. As Getting Smart explains, “When a music pupil has spent time learning about rhythm, he has learned to count. He is not counting numbers, per se, but he is most certainly using logic to count out the rhythms and bars, and working his way methodically through the piece. Many musical concepts have mathematical counterparts.”

6. Making the brain work harder. Research shows that the brain of a musician works differently than a non-musician, according to PBS. ‘There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University. “When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain.”

7. Relieving stress. We all know that listening to a favorite artist or song can lift a mood and relax us. The same goes for creating music. It gives kids a great release, allowing them to immerse themselves in something that’s fulfilling and calming. I know that no matter how stressed I was in school, I would always come out happy and relaxed after choir practice.

8. Creativity. Music certainly nurtures kids’ creative side. This can have an impact on their futures. The Arts Education Partnership states, “Employers identify creativity as one of the top five skills important for success in the workforce (Lichtenberg, Woock, & Wright, 2008).” The partnership also suggests originality and flexibility are benefits of music education because they are key components of the creativity and innovation music requires. Finally, graduates from music programs report that creativity, teamwork, communication, and critical thinking are skills and competencies necessary in their work, regardless of whether they are working in music or in other fields.

9. Helping special needs children. Music can have a powerful impact on kids with special needs. It helps them find a way to communicate and open up, which they may struggle with otherwise. For this reason, and despite cuts to music programs, schools are increasingly implementing music therapy after-school programs to benefit students with disabilities.

10. Higher graduation rates. Schools with music programs have higher graduation rates. DoSomething.org reports, “Schools with music programs have an estimated 90.2 percent graduation rate and 93.9 percent attendance rate compared to schools without music education who average 72.9 percent graduation and 84.9 percent attendance.”

Many families can instill the benefits of music education in children despite cuts to school programs. Some pursue music on their own or find supplemental learning programs that incorporate music in the midst of dwindling school programs. Private music teachers or music ensembles within communities and churches offer good options for kids to reap the academic benefits of music education. Some might find artistic success as well: K12 student Stephanie Grace, who at age 16 has already released twelve country music songs, and K12 student Kalona Pence, who is a rising Christian music artist. Parents of younger students might consider supplemental learning programs, such as EmbarK12, that incorporate music and other arts that offer important benefits for kids. Feel free to share more ideas about how to incorporate music in children’s lives outside of school by posting a comment below.

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