Articles on Music Education

Demonstrating the Benefits of A Musical Education

Facts and Insights on the Benefits of Music Study

From MENC-The National Association for Music Education, Why Music Education? 2007.

Higher Rates of Graduation

Schools that have music programs have significantly higher graduation rates than do those without programs (90.2% as compared to 72.9%). In addition, those that rate their programs as “excellent” or “very good” have an even higher graduation rate (90.9%). Schools that have music programs have significantly higher attendance rates than do those without programs (93.3% as compared to 84.9%).

Harris Interactive poll of high school principals conducted Spring 2006; funded by MENC and NAMM.

Higher Standardized Test Scores

Students in high-quality school music programs score higher on standardized tests compared to students in schools with deficient music education programs, regardless of the socioeconomic level of the school or school district. Students in top-quality music programs scored 22% better in English and 20% better in math than students in deficient music programs. . . . Students at schools with excellent music programs had higher English and math test scores across the country than students in schools with low-quality music programs. Students in all regions with lower-quality instrumental programs scored higher in English and math than students who had no music at all.

MENC Journal of Research in Music Education, Winter 2006, vol. 54, No. 4, pgs. 293- 307; “Examination of Relationship between Participation in School Music Programs of Differing Quality and Standardized Test Results” Christopher M. Johnson and Jenny E. Memmott, University of Kansas

Higher SAT Scores

Students of the arts 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 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.

The Student Descriptive Questionnaire, a self-reported component of the SAT that gathers information about students’ academic preparation, gathered data for these reports. Source: The College Board, Profile of College-Bound Seniors National Report for 2006;

Enhanced Learning Skills

“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.”

From the Music in Education National Consortium, Journal for Learning through Music, Second Issue, Summer 2003, “What Makes Music Work for Public Education?” – pg. 87 Dr. Martin F. Gardiner, Brown University;

Enhanced Achievement in Math and Reading

Harvard Project Zero researcher Larry Scripp investigated how intensive music study could serve as the basis for academic excellence. . . . Among his findings: notational skills in music, not musical performance, correlate positively with achievement in math and reading. According to Scripp, “The ability to process musical symbols and representations, a skill relegated to the training of the talented few in the past, is a leading predictor of music’s association with learning in other subject areas”. He also found that musical pitch is more predictive of mathematical ability while rhythm is more predictive of reading ability.

EXCERPTED from Terry Teitelbaum, Stephanie F. Gillis, “Arts Education: A Review of the Literature”, Blueprint Research and Design, Inc.; prepared for the Performing Arts Program of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, 11/03, updated 2/04)

Increased IQ

Results of an IQ test given to groups of children (total: 144) who were provided with lessons in keyboard, voice, drama or no lessons at all, showed that the IQ of students in the keyboard or voice classes increased from their pre-lesson IQ score, more than the IQ of those students taking drama or no lessons.

Summary by MENC; Original source: August 2004, Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society;; Dr. E. Glenn Schellenberg (University of Toronto)

Improved Verbal Memory

Children with music training had significantly better verbal memory than those without such training, and the longer the training, the better the verbal memory. In a follow-up one year later, students who continued training and beginners who had just started learning to play both showed improvement in verbal learning and retention.

Summary by MENC. Original source: Ho, Y. C., Cheung, M. C., & Chan, A. Music training improves verbal but not visual memory: cross-sectional and longitudinal explorations in children (2003) Neuropsychology, 12, 439-450.

Advanced Language Skills

A 2004 Stanford University study showed that mastering a musical instrument improves the way the human brain processes parts of spoken language. In two studies, researchers demonstrated that people with musical experience found it easier than non-musicians to detect small differences in word syllables. They also discovered that musical training helps the brain work more efficiently in distinguishing split-second differences between rapidly changing sounds that are essential to processing language.

Prof. John Gabrieli, former Stanford psychology professor, now associate director of MIT’s Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging. (, Nov. 2005)

Improved Memory

Young children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year, compared to children who do not receive musical training. The brains of musically trained children respond to music in a different way than those of untrained children, and that the musical training improves their memory. . . .

Dr. Laurel Trainor, Prof. of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour at McMaster University, Director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind; Canada; published 9/20/06;

Cognitive Growth, Social and Emotional Development

“The arts are not just affective and expressive. They are also deeply cognitive. They develop the tools of thinking itself: careful observation of the world, mental representation of what is observed or imagined, abstraction from complexity, pattern recognition and development, symbolic and metaphoric representation, and qualitative judgment. We use these same thinking tools in science, philosophy, math and history. The advantage of the arts is that they link cognitive growth to social and emotional development. Students care more deeply about what they study, they see the links between subjects and their lives, their thinking capacities grow, they work more diligently, and they learn from each other.”

Nick Rabkin, Executive Director of the Center for Arts Policy, Columbia College Chicago; Robin Redmond, associate director of CAP. “The Art of Education Success”, Washington Post, January 8, 2005, pg. A19

Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration

An education rich in the arts and humanities develops skills that are increasingly crucial to the productivity and competitiveness of the nation’s workforce: the ability to think creatively, communicate effectively and work collaboratively, and to deal with ambiguity and complexity. . . .

Summary of paper by Prof. Ann M. Galligan, Northeastern University, in her paper “Creativity, Culture, Education and the Workforce”, Center for Arts and Culture, December 2001,; summary provided/written by Suzanne Weiss, in the “Progress of Education Reform 2004: The Arts in Education”; vol. 5, no. 1, January 2004, Education Commission of the States;