You wouldn’t know it from seeing budget cuts in music programs, but as musicians and music teachers, we know how important music is to life and society, and we see weekly the effects it has on students. The National Association for Music Education (MENC) keeps on top of scientific studies, as well as comments by leaders in society, about the important effects of music on children and adults alike. Below are a few samples from the MENC page summarizing these studies and comments; in a few cases, I’ve gone into more detail than MENC does.
“When I hear people asking how do we fix the education system, I tell them we need to do the opposite of what is happening, cutting budgets by cutting music programs….Ask a CEO what they are looking for in an employee and they say they need people who understand teamwork, people who are disciplined, people who understand the big picture. You know what they need? They need musicians.” Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, 6/07
A few years ago, a Canadian study of 6 year olds demonstrated that music lessons improves kids’ IQs. Many people assumed that higher IQs among music students relates to better family situations, including the idea that it takes more affluent parents to buy music lessons for their kids. In this study, they tested that idea. Families answered an ad offering free arts lessons, and 144 six-year-olds were taken into the study and divided into two music groups (keyboard and Kodaly voice lessons) and two control groups (drama classes and no lessons at all). After a year, the kids from the two music groups had higher IQs, regardless of family income. The increase in IQ over the year was: 6.1 for keyboard students, 7.6 for the Kodaly students, 5.1 for drama students, and 3.9 for the kids not having any lessons.
The College Board, which administers the SAT exams, gathered information from students who took the exams: In 2006, students who took the SATs and had studied music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 43 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework or experience in the arts. Scores for those with coursework in music appreciation were 62 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math portion.
Nearly 100% of past winners in the prestigious Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology (for high school students) play one or more musical instruments. This led the Siemens Foundation to host a recital at Carnegie Hall in 2004, featuring some of these young people, after which a panel of experts debated the nature of the apparent science/music link. – The Midland Chemist (American Chemical Society) Vol. 42, No.1, Feb. 2005
For a study at Stanford University, about 40 adults, divided into groups of musicians and non-musician, matched by age, sex, general language ability and intelligence, were tested. Functional magnetic resonance imaging showed the musicians had more focused, efficient brain activity.
“The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of the nation, is close to the center of a nation’s purpose – and is a test to the quality of a nation’s civilization.” – John F. Kennedy