February 18, 2018

Is Music Education Just an Expensive Playtime?

As our community cultures shift and change across this broad landscape of America, different attitudes will surface and submerge regarding the education of our youth.  Prejudices within each community will influence the delivery of education in such ways as funding, scheduling, teacher proficiency, building usage and so on.  Sadly, these issues of education are often hotly rather than civilly debated.
Unfortunately, many schools have shot themselves and their constituents in the proverbial foot by not considering the importance of musical studies as a neurological necessity.  Too often music study is offered as an elective for those who are interested or “naturally talented” and not a requirement, so it is frequently the first subject to be dropped during funding dilemmas.  Thankfully, music at Corbett is still a strong part of the curriculum and hopefully it will stay that way for many more years.
Research in music studies, especially at the early childhood levels have proven again and again that the brain benefits in ways that no other type of learning can accomplish.  One must purposely ignore the mountains of research and studies that point to the incredible benefits of music education.  So what will you do with your child?  Do you want them to be able to process thoughts better, understand complex concepts more clearly, and have reasoning skills that surpass perhaps even yours?  What parent wouldn’t want their child to be better equipped for life?

Please consider these annotations carefully:

  • Students taking courses in music performance and music appreciation scored higher in the SAT than students with no arts participation. Music performance students scored 53 points higher on the verbal and 39 points higher on the math. Music appreciation students scored 61 points higher on the verbal and 42 points higher on the math. (Source: The 1999 College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers, produced by The College Entrance Examination Board, Princeton, New Jersey)
  • According to the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, music students received more academic honors and awards than non-music students. A higher percentage of music participants received “A”s, and “B”s than non-music participants.  (Source: NELS: 88 First Follow-up, 1990, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington D.C.)
  • Lewis Thomas, physician and biologist, found that music majors comprise the highest percentage of accepted medical students at 66%.  (Source: As reported in “The Case for Music in the Schools,” Phi Delta Kappan, February 1994.)
  •  Research made between music and intelligence concluded that music training is far greater than computer instruction in improving children’s abstract reasoning skills.  (Source: 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 )
  • The University of Montreal researched brain-imaging techniques to study brain activity during musical tasks.  Researches concluded that sight-reading musical scores and playing music “activate regions in all four of the cortex’s lobes” and “parts of the cerebellum are also activated during those tasks.”  (Source: J. Sergent, E. Zuck, S. Tenial, and B. MacDonnall (1992). Distributed neural network underlying musical sight reading and keyboard performance. Science, 257, 106-109.)  This is a good thing!
  • Researchers in Leipzig discovered through the use of brain scans that musicians had larger a planum temporale, the region of the brain associated with reading skills. Also, musicians had a thicker corpus callosum, the nerve fibers that connect the two halves of the brain.  (Source: G. Schlaug, L. Jancke, Y. Huang, and H. Steinmetz (1994).  “In vivo morphometry of interhemispheric asymmetry and connectivity in musicians.”  In I. Deliege (Ed.), Proceedings of the 3rd international conference for music perception and cognition (pp. 417-418), Liege, Belgium.)
  • “The arts enrich communities and employees, and also stimulate the kind of intellectual curiosity our company needs to stay competitive.”  (Source: Norma R. Augustine, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Martin Marietta Corporation.)
  • “A grounding in the arts will help our children to see; to bring a uniquely human perspective to science and technology.  In short, it will help them as they grow smarter to also grow wiser.  (Source: Robert E. Allen, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, AT&T Corporation, in “America’s Culture Begins with Education”)
  • Music training, specifically piano instruction, is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children’s abstract reasoning skills necessary for learning math and science. Learning music at an early age causes long-term enhancement of spatial-temporal reasoning.  (Source: Frances Rauscher, Ph.D., Gordon Shaw, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine,)
  • Arts Education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate; the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence.  (Source: Joseph M. Calahan, Director of Corporate Communications, Xerox Corporation.)
  • Music Enhances Linguistic Skills. Music — specifically song — is one of the best training grounds for babies learning to recognize the tones that add up to spoken language.  (Source Sandra Trehubn, University of Toronto, 1997)
  • Student involvement in extracurricular or co-curricular activities makes students resilient to current substance use among their peers, according to a recent statewide survey of Texas Schools. Secondary students who participated in band, orchestra or choir reported the lowest lifetime use and abuse of all substances.  (Source: 1994 Texas School Survey of Substance Abuse Among Students: Grades 7-12)

This final one looks at not the student, but those who teach your student:

  • Teacher Expertise in Music is a Critical Factor in Student Learning.  Research indicates that teachers of all subjects — including music — who are more experienced and educated are more effective in the classroom. Consequently, students learn more from them.  (Source: Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters, by Ronald Ferguson, 1991)

Your Response:
Ultimately – your response will be based on what you want to believe, yet I hope these quotes will at least get you to  reconsider your role and that of music study in your child’s education.

Tim Killgore About Tim Killgore

Mr. Tim Killgore and his wife Patti, have lived and raised their four children in Corbett for the last 30 years. He has taught Music at Corbett schools for the last 19 years.