Why Music Education?

By Karen Suedmeier

“The musician is constantly adjusting decisions on tempo, tone, style, rhythm, phrasing, and feeling — training the brain to become incredibly good at organizing and conducting numerous activities at once. Dedicated practice of this orchestration can have a great payoff for lifelong attentional skills, intelligence, and an ability for self-knowledge and expression.” –John J. Ratey, MD

Many parents know that music education is important for their children, but aren’t quite sure why. The study of music and how it affects our minds has gained interest in the last fifteen years or so, and many discoveries have been made about the benefits of music education — especially for young children. Here are some of the main reasons to make music:

  • Music training engages many areas of the brain, including ones that are normally used for other types of cognition. It helps develop areas of the brain used for language and reasoning. Music education actually physically develops the left side of the brain (which is used for language processing), and helps wire the brain’s circuits. Additionally, those who have had musical training before the age of seven tend to have a great increase in the size of the fibers joining the two halves of the brain, indicating an increased relaying of information between the hemispheres.
  • Music training is found to be far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children’s abstract reasoning skills, the skills necessary for learning math and science.
  • Music increases spatial intelligence, the ability to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. This thinking is necessary for various types of puzzles… from solving advanced mathematical problems to being able to pack a backpack with everything needed for a school day.
  • Those who study music, on average, achieve higher grades in school; are less likely to use substances; and are more successful on standardized tests such as the SAT. Kids who make music have been shown to get along better with classmates and have fewer discipline issues, and more of them get into their preferred college.
  • Musical training teaches the brain to adapt to new challenges. Those who study music can learn language more effectively. They show improved concentration and creativity, lengthened attention spans, and better memory. Playing an instrument helps train the brain to focus, improving a student’s ability to learn in a noisy classroom. This can be a key therapy for children with dyslexia and similar language-related challenges.
  • Music is a safe and constructive means of self-expression and communicating emotion. Performers learn to take risks and conquer fear. This gives confidence and builds self-esteem.
  • The study of music teaches discipline, dedication, and the rewards of hard work. Musicians invest much time and energy into their skill, and gain the satisfaction of seeing hard work pay off with awesome music!

References: Dr. Frances Rauscher, Dr. Gordon Shaw, Schlaug et al., Nina Kraus et al., Carolyn Phillips, American Music Conference, Scientific American, Montreal Gazette, National Geographic, Children’s Music Workshop, New Horizons for Learning, Wikipedia, Levine, Wright, Dennis, Newcomb.