Why Study Music?


Benefit One: Success in Society


     Secondary students who participated in band or orchestra reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances (alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs). Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report. 1998

The very best engineers and technical designers in the Silicon Valley industry are, nearly without exception, practicing musicians. Grant Venerable, "The Paradox of the Silicon Savior," as reported in "The Case for Sequential Music Education in the Core Curriculum of the Public Schools," The Center for the Arts in the Basic Curriculum, New York, 1989

     A 2010 survey of 1,500 chief executives from IBM’s Institute for Business Value showed that CEO’s value one leadership competency above all others. They  identified creativity as the most important valuable asset for the successful enterprise of the future.

Benefit Two: Success in School


     “The Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) Project: A Ten Year Evaluation” comparing ABC schools and non-arts schools in South Carolina. The ABC schools had higher attendance, fewer discipline referrals, more parent involvement and school approval and high teacher morale. The arts changed the entire school ecology.

     Complex math processes are more accessible to students who have studied music because the same parts of the brain used in processing math are strengthened through practice in music. For example, students who take music in middle school score significantly higher on algebra assessments in ninth grade than their non-music counterparts, as their brains are already accustomed to performing the processes used in complex math (Helmrich, 2010).

     “Music is an extremely rich kind of experience in the sense that it requires cognition, it requires emotion, it requires aesthetics, it develops performance skills, individual capabilities. These things have to be developed and all have to be synchronized and integrated so that, as a person learns music, they stretch themselves mentally in a variety of ways. What we are finding is that the kind of mental stretching that takes place can be of value more generally, that is, to help children in learning other things. And these other things, in turn, can help them in the learning of music, so that there is a dialogue between the different kinds of learning.” – from the Music in Education National Consortium, Journal for Learning through Music, Second Issue, Summer 2003, “What Makes Music Work for Public Education?”

     Dr. James Catterall of UCLA has analyzed the school records of 25,000 students as they moved from grade 8 to grade 10. He found that students who studied music and the arts had higher grades, scored better on standardized tests, had better attendance records and were more active in community affairs than other students. He also found that students from poorer families who studied the arts improved overall school performance more rapidly than all other students. From Catterall, UCLA, Fall 1997

     Studies of the effects of arts instruction on learning have found that children who study the arts are:  • four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement; • elected to class office within their schools three times as often; • four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair; • three times more likely to win an award for school attendance; and •four times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem. "Living the Arts Through Language + Learning: A Report on Community-Based Youth Organizations," Shirley Brice Heath. Americans for the Arts, November 1998

     Researchers found that students who report consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years show "significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12.” (Catteral, Chapleau and Iwanaga, 1999)

     Students of music continue to outperform their non-arts peers on the SAT, according to reports by the College Entrance Examination Board. In 2006, SAT takers with coursework/experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 43 points higher on her 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— The College Board, Profile of College-Bound Seniors National Report for 2006

     Students in high quality school music programs across the country scored 22% better in English and 20% better in math than students in deficient music programs. Students in lower quality instrument programs scored higher in English and Math than student s with no music education at all. Christopher M. Johnson and Jerry E. Memmott, Journal of Research in Music Education, 2006.

     Data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 showed that music participants received more academic honors and awards than non-music students, and that the percentage of music participants receiving As, As/Bs, and Bs was higher than the percentage of non- participants receiving those grades.NELS:88 First Follow-up, 1990, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington DC



Benefit three: Success in Developing Intelligence


     Adults who receive formal music instruction as children have more robust brainstem responses to sound than peers who never participate in music lessons and that the magnitude of the response correlates with how recently training ceased. These results suggest that neural changes accompanying musical training during childhood are retained in adulthood.— Skoe, E. & Kraus, N. (2012). A Little Goes a Long Way: How the Adult Brain Is Shaped by Musical Training in Childhood, Journal of Neuroscience, 32 (34) 11510. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1949-12.2012 

     Dr. Kraus’ research has demonstrated that musicians tend to have superior fine-motor skills, increased language skills such as vocabulary, literacy, sound processing and retention (memory), and reasoning. These benefits appear to persist well into adulthood, in some cases long after the actual training or musicianship has ended.– Kraus, Dr. Nina. “Facing the Music: Musicianship’s effect on the brain.” Canadian Hearing Report, Official Publication of the Canadian Academy of Audiology, Vol. 8 No.2 (2013).

     Musicians are found to have superior working memory compared to non-musicians. Musicians are better able to sustain mental control during memory and recall tasks, most likely as a result of their long- term musical training (Berti et al., 2006; Pallesen et al., 2010).

     Agnes S. Chan, Yim-Chi Ho & Mei-Chun Cheung, 1998, found that adults who began their music training prior to the age of 12 demonstrated enhanced memory for spoken words relative to matched adults who did not, and thus suggested that early music training may have long-term facilitatory effects on verbal memory.

Musically trained children perform better in a memory test that is correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing mathematics and IQ. Dr. Laurel Trainor, Prof. of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behavior at McMaster University, 2006.

     A 2004 Stanford University study showed that mastering a musical instrument improves the way the human brain processes parts of the spoken language. Using functional MRI, they discovered that the musically trained brain works more efficiently in distinguishing split second differences that are essential for processing language. Prof. John Gabrieli, associate director of MIT’s Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging.

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

A research team exploring the link between music and intelligence reported that music training is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children's abstract reasoning skills, the skills necessary for learning math and science. Shaw, Rauscher, Levine, Wright, Dennis and Newcomb, "Music training causes long-term enhancement of preschool children's spatial-temporal reasoning," Neurological Research, Vol. 19, February 1997

Benefit four: Success in Life


     Nearly 100% of past winners in the prestigious Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology (for high school students) play one or musical instruments. The Midland Chemist (American Chemical Society) Vol. 42, No1, Feb. 2005

     The “creative workforce” – which includes traditional artist categories (dancers, musicians, painters, actors, photographers, authors), as well as individuals employed in advertising, architecture, fashion design, film, video, music, publishing and software development – is growing at a rate more than double that for the rest of the nation’s workforces. Suzanne Weiss, in the “Progress of Education Reform 2004: The Arts in Education”; vol. 5, no. 1, January 2004,

     The report, Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning reviews research conducted by scholars from Columbia University’s Teachers College, Harvard University, Harvard’s Project Zero, Stanford University, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the University of Connecticut. 4 The researchers found that arts education can enhance academic achievement, reach students on the margins of the educational system, create an effective learning environment, and connect learners’ experiences to the world outside of school.

     Physician and biologist Lewis Thomas studied the undergraduate majors of medical school applicants. He found that 66% of music majors who applied to medical school were admitted, the highest percentage of any group. 44% of biochemistry majors were admitted. As reported in "The Case for Music in the Schools," Phi Delta Kappan, February 1994

"Studying music encourages self-discipline and diligence, traits that carry over into intellectual pursuits and that lead to effective study and work habits. An association of music and math has, in fact, long been noted. Creating and performing music promotes self-expression and provides self-gratification while giving pleasure to others. In medicine, increasing published reports demonstrate that music has a healing effect on patients. For all these reasons, it deserves strong support in our educational system, along with the other arts, the sciences, and athletics." Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Leading Heart Surgeon, Baylor College of Music.

     Beyond the pure pleasure the music brings, some executives say, there can be chances to advance a career. Creating a performance can help executives develop basic management skills. “If you are in an improv jazz ensemble or a small chamber group, you learn to think fast on your feet and how to be flexible and to collaborate and compromise, and that may yield a creative outcome.” (J. Richard Hackman, a professor of organizational psychology at Harvard University who has studied symphony orchestras). Amy Zipkin, “Learning Teamwork by Making Music”, for the New York Times, 11/16/03.