Archives for 21 Jun,2007

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Yet another study has come out this month, demonstrating the value of music in general education. Click here to view a summary of the study.

The study looked at 4,739 elementary and middle school students in four U.S. regions, and found that across all areas, students scored significantly better (17-33%) in English and math if they attended schools with high-quality music programs. Schools with higher-quality music programs showed better results than schools with lower-quality music programs, and both showed better scores than schools without music. Oddly, schools with what the study called “deficient choral programs” scored worse than the others. It seemed to be the instrumental programs that lifted the student’s learning across the board.

The study was funded by NAMM, an association for companies in the music products industry, and was published the week of June 10 in the Journal for Research in Music Education.

There are, no doubt, many reasons for these findings, and all of us music teachers probably have our pet concerns about it. One unheralded reason that I think music helps performance in other subjects is that music teaches communication skills: no one can be well understood, face to face with other people, unless they have a good sense of rhythm and timing in their speech. Just try saying something forcefully and you will notice how clear your rhythms are. Kids do not learn this in academic subjects or on a computer; only in music and drama are these skills essential for success. In addition to rhythm, musicians also learn sensitivity to others, and an ability to perform in real-time situations.

Sometimes it seems that school systems are so focused on management, administration, budgeting, test scores, and legal paperwork, that the only people who really seem to care about kids anymore are the parents and teachers. Let’s hope more official studies about the benefits of music can push administrators to step up to the plate and fund and improve music programs for the sake of our kids, and our society as a whole.

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