Significance of Music Education

| May 10, 2011

According to the Florida Music Educators Association, “Music and the Fine Arts have been a significant portion of every culture’s educational system for more than 3,000 years. The human brain has been shown to be “hard-wired” for music; there is a biological basis for music being an important part of human experience. Music and the Arts surround daily life in our present day culture. Most present day artists, architects, and musicians acquired their interests during public school Fine Arts classes… Education without the Fine Arts is fundamentally impoverished and subsequently leads to an impoverished society.” [9]

William Earhart, former president of the Music Educators National Conference, “Music enhances knowledge in the areas of mathematics, science, geography, history, foreign language, physical education, and vocational training.”[10] Music not only inspires creativity and performance, but academic performance over all is seriously impacted. A research study produced by the Harris Poll has shown that 9 out of 10 individuals with post graduate degrees participated in music education. The National Report of SAT test takers study indicated students with music performance experience scored higher on the SAT: 57 points higher on verbal and 41 points higher on math.[11] Schools that have high academic performance in the US are spending 20 to 30% of their budget in the arts with emphasis on music education.[12]

Music education also increases one’s success in society. The Texas Commission on Drugs and Alcohol Abuse Report noted that students who participated in band or orchestra reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances.[13]

An education in music also increases overall brain activity. Research done at the University of Wisconsin has indicated that students with piano or keyboard experience performed 34% higher on tests that measure spatial-temporal lobe activity, which is the part of the brain that is used when doing mathematics, science, and engineering.[14]

Music also improves learning. Specifically, music aids in text recall. Wallace (1994) studied setting text to a melody. One experiment created a three verse song with a non-repetitive melody; each verse had different music. A second experiment created a three verse song with a repetitive melody; each verse had exactly the same music. Another experiment studied text recall without music. The repetitive music produced the highest amount of text recall; therefore, music serves as a mnemonic device.[15] Smith (1985) studied background music with word lists. One experiment involved memorizing a word list with background music; participants recalled the words 48 hours later. Another experiment involved memorizing a word list with no background music; participants also recalled the words 48 hours later. Participants who memorized word lists with background music recalled more words demonstrating music provides contextual cues.[16]

It is important to note that “While studies show positive influences in other academic areas, music and the Fine Arts are an academic discipline that are, as the other academics, an independent way of learning and knowing.” [9] Unfortunately, music in our schools are being cut at a drastic rate due to budget cuts being forced upon the schools. The Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction with Chesapeake Public Schools in Chesapeake, Virginia, Dr. Patricia Powers states, “It is not unusual to see program cuts in the area of music and arts when economic issues surface. It is indeed unfortunate to lose support in this area especially since music and the art programs contribute to society in many positive ways.” What some school boards do not know is that cutting music might cause test scores to fall due to the positive effect on everything from academics to citizenship and even personal hygiene.