Music Education: Why Kids Should Learn Music

Music is in fact universal

Music is a universal language. A study from Harvard University revealed that music has a set of unique codes and patterns that can be universally understood. The study examined ethnographic data and observed music in every society sampled and found that songs share common forms and functions across cultures.

The study, titled Universality and diversity in human song, concluded that “Music is in fact universal: It exists in every society (both with and without words), varies more within than between societies, regularly supports certain types of behaviour, and has acoustic features that are systematically related to the goals and responses of singers and listeners.” 

If you’re on the fence about enrolling your kid into a music class, this article might be perfect for you. 

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout – Anita Collins, award-winning educator, researcher and writer in the field of brain development and music learning

What does research have to say about it

Enhances children’s spatial-temporal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and phonemic awareness

study published in 2011 found that music instruction can enhance children’s spatial-temporal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and phonemic awareness. This longitudinal study uses middle-income and economically disadvantaged preschoolers as their subjects and reveals that children who receive music instruction before age 7 show improved performance on spatial-temporal and numerical reasoning tasks. 

Children in the music groups exhibited greater increases in full-scale IQ

study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, reveals that there’s, in fact, a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons. To test his hypothesis, Schellenberg provided nine months of piano and voice lessons to a dozen six-year-olds, and drama lessons to the second group of six-year-olds, and no lessons to a third group. The children who were given music lessons scored three IQ points higher than the other groups. 

A link between music programs and academic achievement

This study by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that students at schools with superior music education programs scored higher in English and math than students at schools with low-quality music programs. He also found that students who participated in lower quality band programs scored higher than those who did not participate in a music program at all. 

Music education helps improve children’s ability to learn

The list of skills and abilities that music learning develops is still very long, but it has started to be sorted under three main areas: language development, executive skills and social skills development,” says Anita Collins, educator, researcher and writer in the field of brain development and music learning. Do watch her video on TED Talks. 

Making music actively engages the brain’s synapses

Scholastic cites Dr Susan Barry, a neurobiologist at Mt. Holyoke, who says, “Making music actively engages the brain’s synapses. As young children participate in music-based activities, their muscles, senses, and intellect are engaged simultaneously; they are exercising their brains in ways they rarely do. Long-term musical training actually re-organizes the brain ...”

Benefits of learning a musical instrument as a child

When children are exposed to music from the earliest ages, the impact is quite profound. Music education can help young children in the following areas, among others;

Executive Functioning

Since executive functioning is a strong predictor of academic achievement, even more than IQ, we think our findings have strong educational implications,” says study senior investigator Nadine Gaab, PhD, of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s. “While many schools are cutting music programs and spending more and more time on test preparation, our findings suggest that musical training may actually help to set up children for a better academic future.” 

Memory

Blake Madden, in his book, Why Music Education Actually Matters, says, “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. It is very interesting that the children taking music lessons improved more over the year on general memory skills that are correlated with non-musical abilities such as literacy, verbal memory, visuospatial processing, mathematics, and IQ than did the children not taking lessons.”

Social-Emotional Development

This study investigated the effects of three years of piano instruction on children’s self-esteem. Children in the study were divided into two groups: piano instruction weekly for three years, and no music instruction. Both groups had similar levels of self-esteem at the beginning of the study. The researcher found that the children who completed three years of piano instruction had a significant increase in self-esteem while the children who did not participate in piano instruction or dropped out of piano instruction did not.

Language Development

Science X has published an article advocating early music education. The article, written by Anita Collins And Misty Adoniou, says that “Neuroscience has found a clear relationship between music and language acquisition. Put simply, learning music in the early years of schooling can help children learn to read.” This study, on the other hand, revealed that children with musical training have enhanced speech-in-noise, attention and auditory working memory abilities.

Conclusion

The importance of early music education goes way beyond academic achievements. Research continues to show the developmental benefits of early music education. If you’re one of those parents who are lucky enough to know how to play a musical instrument, you can surely understand why music education, early or otherwise, is important. In the words of José Antonio Abreu, the founder of a youth orchestra system that has transformed thousands of kids’ lives in Venezuela through music;

… the most miserable and tragic thing about poverty is not the lack of bread or roof, but the feeling of being no-one — the feeling of not being anyone, the lack of identification, the lack of public esteem. That’s why the child’s development in the orchestra and the choir provides him with a noble identity and makes him a role model for his family and community. It makes him a better student at school because it inspires in him a sense of responsibility, perseverance and punctuality that will greatly help him at school. 


References

Mehr, S. A., Singh, M., Knox, D., Ketter, D. M., Pickens-Jones, D., Atwood, S., … & Howard, R. M. (2019). Universality and diversity in human song. Science366(6468).

Rauscher, F. H., & Hinton, S. C. (2011). Music instruction and its diverse extra-musical benefits. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal29(2), 215-226.

Schellenberg, E. G. (2004). Music lessons enhance IQ. Psychological science15(8), 511-514.

Johnson, C. M., & Memmott, J. E. (2006). Examination of relationships between participation in school music programs of differing quality and standardized test results. Journal of Research in Music Education54(4), 293-307.

Collins, A. (n.d.). The benefits of music education. Retrieved March 24, 2020, from https://www.ted.com/talks/anita_collins_the_benefits_of_music_education?language=en

Why Music Matters in the Early Childhood Classroom. (2016, December 05). Retrieved March 24, 2020, from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/blog-posts/elaine-winter/2017/Why-Music-Matters-in-the-Early-Childhood-Classroom/

Boston Children’s Hospital. (2014, June 17). Brain imaging shows enhanced executive brain function in people with musical training. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 23, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140617211020.htm

Costa-Giomi, E. (2004). Effects of Three Years of Piano Instruction on Children’s Academic Achievement, School Performance and Self-Esteem. Psychology of Music, 32(2), 139–152. https://doi.org/10.1177/0305735604041491

Collins, A. (2018, November 08). Learning music early can make your child a better reader. Retrieved March 24, 2020, from https://phys.org/news/2018-11-music-early-child-reader.html

Strait, D. L., Parbery-Clark, A., Hittner, E., & Kraus, N. (2012). Musical training during early childhood enhances the neural encoding of speech in noise. Brain and language123(3), 191-201.

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