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Music Education In Schools: Why We Need It

Updated on August 21, 2015
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School budgets are an embattled subject, with hard academics often winning out against the arts. The basics are important and often cut to the bone in embattled budgets. So why, in this difficult economy should we pump scarce dollars into the performing arts in our schools. As it turns out, music education is vital to learning and academic success.

If you want children to attain academic excellence, or to thrive socially and psychologically, or if you want children to learn to enjoy beauty, you will provide them with a musical education. Music is linked to success in all of these areas.

For those concerned with the necessity of justifying the expense within the academic arena, statistics clearly show that a musical education results in higher math and reading scores on standardized tests at the elementary school level. Of note, a 2003 study examining the relationship between higher test scores and general academic achievement, found that inner city schools whose populace could not afford to pay for music lessons benefited academically by the inclusion of formal musical training in the school curriculum. [1] Those that can least afford it may actually benefit the most.

Other studies cited in this treatise reiterated the importance of musical education to academic achievement. High school seniors who had participated in instrumental music programs from sixth through 12th grades scored significantly higher on standardized tests of language arts and math than their counterparts who had participated in non-music extra-curricular activities or who had not participated in extra-curricular activities.

In particular, the relationship between reading and music can be profound at the elementary school level. A recent study showed that first grade students who received one or two years of Kodaly musical training had higher reading scores than students in control groups who did not. The positive correlation between reading and music continued in a study focusing on students between ages six and eight categorized as slow learners who received music instruction and who had significantly higher reading readiness scores than students who received no music instruction.[2]

Reading and writing are fundamental skills. Words are full of rhythmic integrity in their structural use of phonemes, and in their cadences. They provide the rich canvas of meaning from which we seek to better understand ourselves and the world around us. Music provides a framework from which to understand the rhythm and richness of the languages which surround us.

The activity of integrating pitch and rhythm seems to encompass utilization of both brain hemispheres. In general the left hemisphere tends to be more sensitive to pitch and melody processing and the right, to temporal or rhythmic processing.[3] This utilization of both hemispheres appears to be critical in the developing brains of children. In a separate study children who were given musical instruction scored higher on all four indices of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, a standard tool for measuring IQ levels in children, than did children who were given no musical instruction.

Of great interest is a study by Ruggeri in 2003, who sought to describe the experience of adult amateur musicians as they pursued their passion of playing chamber music. These musicians reported the ability to express their identity in a type of non-verbal conversation, producing pleasurable sound and engaging their faculties in a state of deep concentration, resulting in an aesthetic response. This conscious experience of enjoyment was accompanied by a less conscious learning process involving perceptual, emotional, intuitive and kinesthetic development and pattern comprehension as well as a sense of deep fulfillment derived from sustained attention.[4] Are these not qualities that we would like to see made present in children’s education? They are if we are preparing children who will have the ability to think deeply, solve problems readily and work together toward common goals as adults.

Moving beyond the standardized test to the education of the whole child; providing our children with the tools to survive and thrive in their adult lives; instilling a sense of community and working together toward common goals – music is the common denominator, in addition to providing enhanced academic skills.

Finally, music is a universal language which transcends the limitations of words. It is a vehicle to deep emotional wealth. For example, when we hear musical pieces in a “major” key, we perceive those pieces to be filled with happiness and joy. Conversely, those pieces in “minor” keys are perceived as sad or contemplative. Music and vocal nuance: tone, pitch and rhythm, all give emotional meaning to words. Music is integrally linked to emotion and emotional intelligence is linked to success in life.

[1] Donald A Hodges, Debra S. O’Connell, University of North Carolina, The Impact of Music Education On Academic Achievement. http://www.uncg.edu/mus/SoundsOfLearning/AcdemicAchi evement.pdf

[2] Id.

[3] David J. Teachout, University of North Carolina, The Impact of Music Education On A Child’s Growth and Development.http://www.uncg.edu/mus/SoundsOfLearning/GrowthDevel opment.pdf

[4 Id.



copyright/all rights reserved Audrey Howitt 2015

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 22 months ago from USA

      I love the recognition that there are pattern similarities among language arts, math, and music skills. I tend to think mathematically about nearly everything (music and nature included) and love discovering the brilliant patterns that emerge. Music was an important part of my school experience (I played flute), and I'm glad that you cite some of the research that supports its importance. Well done!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 22 months ago from California

      I think music is very important--it is my profession now, but in another lifetime, I was an attorney and I think all the discipline in music helped me study for an pass the bar the first time out

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 22 months ago from south Florida

      To me, there is no question that music plays a very important part in the education of our children. The difficulty that I have seen is obtaining qualified teachers (and administrators) who appreciate the value of music and are skilled in imparting that value to their students.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 22 months ago from United States

      Many schools have excluded the arts in their programs in order to save money. It is depriving many children of some of the greatest and inspirational times to be had in life. It is a sorry statement about our state governments and their priorities. Nice work my friend. whonu

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 22 months ago from Dubai

      As you have so well said "Music is an universal language", it must be taught in school for children to have a well rounded educational experience. Nothing like music as a companion throughout our lives, it helps us to get through the ups and downs in life. Great hub.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton

      Audrey a very informative must read hub... any educational hub should be priorty reading bless you

    • lyoness913 profile image

      Wendi Pembridge Skilling 22 months ago from Overland Park, KS

      Schools cutting out music programs is truly a travesty. Music is such a huge part of a person's life and many don't get the opportunity to study from home because their parents aren't into music or maybe their parents can't afford instruments and lessons. My son's high school has a fantastic music program and they win State Competitions every year for their choir and their musicals- we are very lucky!

      -Wendi

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 22 months ago from Queensland Australia

      My children were always part of a choir or played a musical instrument in a band at school even though I can't hold a note or play an instrument myself. I do feel music is an important part of learning and compliments other activities and subjects. Besides, where will our future musicians come from if it isn't taught in school? Good hub.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I couldn't agree with you more, Audrey! There needs to be more funding of the Arts in general in schools. The entire school system needs to be revamped, and soon.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 22 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      What a great plea. You just have to look out the window and see that the less we teach our children the less the can contribute to our communities. I think there is one good reason at the top of the list to reinstate or continue teaching music - 'Just look what they have done to our music.'

      The arts are a strong peg in the upholding of a strong community.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 22 months ago from Orlando, FL

      Music is such an important part of life, I cannot imagine it not being part of the education system in schools. For example...music helps us to heal, express our emotions and it provides a good workout too. There are so many positive aspects to music. I sure hope no child has to go without music education in their schools.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 22 months ago from london

      Very interesting Hub, and an excellent look at music and its relation to the art of learning in different ways. Makes logical and esoteric sense.

      I am very musical, but cannot play anything (sob, sob). Perhaps I came with intuition and creativity; perhaps I was musical in my last life. I know that I most certainly write both prose and poetry with music sometimes, as I have been told so.

      Great and educationally useful Hub. Much Peace.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 22 months ago from The Caribbean

      Plus, appreciation for good music may very well influence them to reject some of the confusing sounds they hear which is also called music. "Music provides a framework from which to understand the rhythm and richness of the languages which surround us." The children need it.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 22 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a great look at the educational value of music, Audrey. It's such a shame that music education is considered to be unimportant in some schools.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 22 months ago from New York

      What would a world be like withouth music and where better to truly introduce children than in school!

      Those who advocate to cut music have never seen a child bring home an instrument and play it for their parents for the first time, they've never heard a child sing or a school band or orchestra play! We need to keep fighting to keep music in schools.

      Great research Audrey.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 22 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for shedding light on this issue, Audrey. I've been a teacher and a parent and I always got nervous when music and art instruction was threatened due to budget cuts. They are so important.

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 21 months ago

      music is life to most of us

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 21 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      our school isn't practicing much on music, more on academic

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 20 months ago from North Texas

      I absolutely agree that music should be included in public school curriculum. (Art is important too.) Music was a daily class in my school beginning in second grade. It was 3 times a week in 1st grade. That was just our regular classwork. I also started private lessons in 4th grade and joined the school band as well as the school chorus.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 20 months ago from California

      Thank you for reading this one John! I agree!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 20 months ago from California

      Thank you Bill!! So glad you enjoyed this!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 19 months ago from sunny Florida

      Thank you, Audrey, for writing this. Music is good for the soul as well as our brains. Many children who found no success in the academics found and still find success in the musical arena.

      That is why I still champion this cause ...keeping music alive and well in schools...even though I am retired.

      Awesome job

      shared g+ tweeted pinned

      Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 18 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I agree completely. We need the arts as part of the formation of the whole person.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 18 months ago from California

      Thank you pstraubie48 and aestai! I am biased I suppose, but I too really believe that music helps us all in many ways!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 16 months ago from California

      There is a current shortage of music teachers in California--Prop 13 did its dirty work

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 15 months ago from California

      Thank you whonu! We now have a shortage of music teachers here in California

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 13 months ago from California

      Thank you Manatita--I am biased toward music--and your work is quite musical really

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 13 months ago from California

      Thank you MsDora!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 12 months ago from California

      I agree Mike--thank you!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 12 months ago from California

      Thank you Linda!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 11 months ago from California

      That it too bad peachpurple--they can and probably should go hand in hand

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 11 months ago from California

      Thank you Frank!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 10 months ago from California

      Thank you Mary!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 10 months ago from California

      Me too Rebecca! Me too!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 10 months ago from North Texas

      Back to reemphasize how important I think it is to include music in the regular curriculum of elementary and secondary school. I think brains exposed to, and instructed in music, just naturally function better!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 10 months ago from California

      Thank you Au fait! I also think that music is fundamental to education. Our brains do work better because when we play or sing music, both sides of the brain are used--

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 10 months ago from California

      Thank you Linda!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 9 months ago from California

      Thank you Sujaya!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 9 months ago from California

      Thank you Vellur!

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