Studies show music and music education can have a profound impact on mental and physical health for students of all ages, from helping kids learn to read to keeping teens off drugs to preventing hearing loss in adults, and much more. Explore articles and study summaries below and learn what you can do to start experiencing these benefits in your life.
For Kids, Parents Should Know:
For Kids, What Parents Can Do:
For Adults, What You Should Know:
Source: National Association for Music Teaching STEM vs STEAM: A Look At Half-Brain Teaching
Musicians: Better at Math and Science
Second-grade and third-grade students were taught fractions in an untraditional manner — by teaching them basic music rhythm notation. The group was taught about the relationships between eighth, quarter, half and whole notes. Their peers received traditional fraction instruction. When tested, the students who were exposed to the music-based lessons scored a full 100 percent higher on fractions tests than those who learned in the conventional manner. One of the researchers, Dr. Frances Rauscher, said, “It has been clearly documented that young students have difficulty understanding the concepts of proportion (heavily based in math and science) and that no successful program has been developed to teach these concepts in the school system.”
Reference: Neurological Research, March 15, 1999
A study of 7,500 university students revealed that music majors scored the highest reading scores among all majors including English, biology, chemistry and math. Physician and biologist Lewis Thomas studied the undergraduate majors of medical school applicants. He found that 66 percent of music majors who applied to med school were admitted, the highest percentage of any group. Forty-four percent of biochemistry majors were admitted.
References: “The Comparative Academic Abilities of Students in Education and in Other Areas of a Multi-focus University,” Peter H. Wood, ERIC Document No. ED327480 “The Case for Music in the Schools,” Phi Delta Kappan, February, 1994
Better at Language Arts
In a 2000 University of Sarasota Study, Jeffrey Lynn Kluball explored the relationship of instrumental music instruction and academic achievement for the senior class in Lee County High School, Leesburg, Georgia. Significant correlations were found between the number of years of band instruction and academic achievement as measured by the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT) Mathematics and GHSGT Science tests. An East Texas State University study by Daryl Erick Trent revealed that high school seniors who participated in instrumental music in grades 6-12 score significantly higher in language arts and math on standardized tests than do students involved in non-music extra-curricular activities or students not involved in any school related extracurricular activity.
U of S study by Jeffrey Lynn Kluball, 2000; ETSU study by Daryl Erick Trent
Better on SATs
The College Entrance Examination Board reports, “Students of the arts continue to outperform their non-arts peers on the SAT®. In 2001, SAT takers with coursework/experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 41 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework/experience in the arts.” Longer arts study proved to parlay into even higher test scores. The 1996 report observed, “Those who studied the arts four or more years scored 59 points higher and 41 points higher on the verbal and math portions respectively than students with no coursework or experience in the arts.”
Reference: Profile of SAT and Achievement Test Takers, The College Board, compiled by Music Educators National Conference, 2001, 1996.
Preschoolers were divided into three groups: one group received private piano lessons and singing lessons. A second group received private computer lessons. The third group received no training. Those children who received piano/keyboard training performed 34% higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability than the others — even those who received computer training. “Spatial-temporal” is basically proportional reasoning — ratios, fractions, proportions and thinking in space and time. This concept has long been considered a major obstacle in the teaching of elementary math and science.
Reference: Neurological Research February 28, 1997
How do early sensory and motor development influence later cognitive, perception and language skills? That was the question asked by Debby Mitchell at the University of Central Florida in her study, “The Relationship between Rhythmic Competency and Academic Performance in First Grade Children.” The study explored the cognitive-motor link, and how sensory and motor development may influence later cognitive, perception and language skills. Findings showed that there was a significant difference in the academic achievement levels of students classified according to rhythmic competency. Students who were achieving at academic expectation scored high on all rhythmic tasks, while many of those who scored lower on the rhythmic test achieved below academic expectation. The study concludes that the large percentage of children who are achieving below academic expectation are lacking in foundation skills that should have been developed prior to entering school.
The U.S. Department of Education lists the arts as subjects that college-bound middle and junior high school students should take, stating, "Many colleges view participation in the arts and music as a valuable experience that broadens students’ understanding and appreciation of the world around them. It is also well known and widely recognized that the arts contribute significantly to children’s intellectual development." In addition, one year of Visual and Performing Arts is recommended for college-bound high school students.
Getting Ready for College Early: A Handbook for Parents of Students in the Middle and Junior High School Years, U.S. Department of Education, 1997
The College Board identifies the arts as one of the six basic academic subject areas students should study in order to succeed in college.
Academic Preparation for College: What Students Need to Know and Be Able to Do, 1983 [still in use], The College Board, New York
According to a study conducted at the University of Texas, college-aged music students have fewer problems with alcohol, are emotionally healthier, and concentrate better than their non-musical counterparts. “This study is interesting on many levels,” commented Dr. Kris Chesky, one of the study’s researchers. “First of all, it flies in the face of all the stereotypes out there about musicians. It also seems to support the assertion that studying music helps people learn to concentrate.” The study looked at 362 students who were in their first semester of college. They were given three tests, measuring performance anxiety, emotional concerns and alcohol-related problems. In addition to having fewer battles with the bottle, researchers also noted that the musicians seemed to have surer footing when facing tests.
Reference: Houston Chronicle, January 11, 1998
Far too often adults don’t take up music because they are under the mistaken belief that they are “too old to learn to play an instrument.” Writing in MuSICA, Research Notes, Dr. Norman M. Weinberger, Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, University of California at Irvine, is quick to point out that it is “never too late” for music. He goes on to say, “It is an established fact that the adult brain is perfectly capable of learning and remembering music throughout life span.” The capacity to learn music remains viable throughout life and often remains strong through the seventh, eighth and ninth decades.
Scientists are now saying that creativity, such as music making, may play an important role in healthy aging.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 10, 2004, 1G.
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