When you think of music education, you may picture a choir or a group of kids with recorders. Music classes may seem like fun with the little substantial benefit. But actually, there are several benefits to music programs, which can take many forms.
In-School Music Programs
The specifics of in-school music programs can vary, but there are a number of options. The New York City Department of Education, for example, partnered with the Berklee College of Music and Little Kids Rock to expand the Modern Band program.
The Modern Band program allows students to work with music they know and like, including hip hop, hard rock, and punk. The New York City district and other districts also offer marching band, jazz band, orchestra, or chorus as options.
Some schools even have a dedicated music curriculum that teaches about the different kinds of music. Music classes are true interdisciplinary classes. They include social studies by having students learn about other cultures. Science appears when students do experiments about vibration and similar concepts. Fractions and numbers appear when students write and read measures of music. These courses touch on all subjects and provide practical application for the concepts students might be learning in other classes.
Benefits of Music Programs
The interdisciplinary nature of music programs is just one benefit of music education. Playing an instrument requires the use of ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles. For young children, this could be ideal to improve motor skills.
Music also helps with language development by improving the language processing part of the brain. Singing, specifically, can help children become more verbally competent which allows them to be socially competent.
Some research out of Johns Hopkins Medical School suggests that the brains of music players work differently than those of non-music players. Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of Early Childhood Music Department at Johns Hopkins University explains:
“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.”
Music study also increases spatial intelligence, which can help students do well on math tests.
With the increase in language development and improved math skills, it’s no shock that music program scan improve test scores. A study out of the University of Kansas found that schools with rigorous music programs had higher test scores overall.
Lastly, music programs can allow students to have a source of pride in school and feel part of the larger community of musicians.
How You Can Help
Contrary to the claims in several news articles, music programs nationwide are not on the decline. A study out of the Journal of Research in Music Education found that enrollment rates in music programs at public high schools have stayed flat for three decades, but these statistics may not represent the situation at your school.
If your school’s music program has declined or is on the chopping block, you can appeal to your school district through the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or another parent group. You can also hire a private instructor to help your child learn an instrument. Community centers may have band opportunities for children. Furthermore, your local church may have a children’s choir. If your school is not offering adequate music programs, you can turn to your community for other options.
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Silberman, S. (2013, December 9). No Room for the Extras - Cut Music?, Education Week, from Education Week
Heitan, L. (2014, May 20). Arts Program Shows Promise in Special Ed Classes. Education Week, 33(32). From Education Week
Brown, L.L. The Benefits of Music Education, from PBS.org
Unknown. 11 Facts About Music Education. Do Something. From Do Something
McCammon, S. (2014, February 18). Music Education for Creativity, Not a Tool for Test Scores. From NPR.org