Music Education Facts

Music Education Facts and Figures

Source: MENC – The National Association for Music Education

  • “Every student in the nation should have an education in the arts…” This is the opening statement of “The Value and Quality of Arts Education: A Statement of Principles“, a document from the nation’s ten most important educational organizations, including the American Association of School Administrators, the National Education Association, the National Parent Teacher Association, and the National School Boards Association.
  • The benefits of music education can be grouped in four categories:
    1. Success in society
    2. Success in school
    3. Success in developing intelligence
    4. Success in life

Benefit ONE: Success in Society

Music is a part of the fabric of our society. The value of music is recognized in the many cultures that make up life every human culture uses music to carry forward its ideas and ideals. The tangible value of music can be seen below:

  1. Secondary students who participated in band or orchestra reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances (alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs). — Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report. Reported in Houston Chronicle, January 1998
  2. “Music is a magical gift we must nourish and cultivate in our children, especially now as scientific evidence proves that an education in the arts makes better math and science students and enhances spatial intelligence in newborns”— Michael Greene, Recording Academy President and CEO at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards, February 2000.
  3. The U.S. Department of Education lists the arts as subjects that college-bound middle and junior high school students should take, stating “It is well known and widely recognized that the arts contribute significantly to children’s intellectual development.”
  4. The College Board identifies the arts as one of the six basic academic subject areas students should study in order to succeed in college.
  5. The arts create jobs, increase the local tax base, boost tourism, spur growth in related businesses (hotels, restaurants, printing, etc.) and improve the overall quality of life for our cities and towns.

Benefit TWO: Success in School

Skills learned through the discipline of music transfer to study skills, communication skills, and cognitive skills useful in every part of the curriculum:

  1. “The term ‘core academic subjects’ means English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography.” — No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, Title IX, Part A, Sec. 9101 (11)
  2. A study of 237 second grade children used piano keyboard training and newly designed math software to demonstrate improvement in math skills. The group scored 27% higher on proportional math and fractions tests than children that used only the math software.
  3. In an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data on more than 25,000 secondary school students, researchers found that students who report consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years show “significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12.”
  4. US students with coursework/experience in music performance and music appreciation scored consistently higher on the SAT.
  5. Music participants received more academic honors and awards than non-music students, and that the percentage of music participants receiving As, As/Bs, and Bs was higher than the percentage of non- participants receiving those grades.
  6. Students who participated in an arts programs in selected elementary and middle schools in New York City showed significant increases in self-esteem and thinking skills.

Benefit THREE: Success in Developing Intelligence

Measures of a child’s intelligence are indeed increased with music instruction. A combination of tightly-controlled behavioral studies and groundbreaking neurological research show how music study can actively contribute to brain development:

  1. In a study, the brains of pianists were shown to be more efficient at making skilled movements. And musical training was shown to enhance brain function
  2. “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.”
  3. Music training is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children’s abstract reasoning skills, the skills necessary for learning math and science.
  4. Students in two Rhode Island elementary schools who were given a skill-building music program showed marked improvement in reading and math skills.
  5. Sight-reading musical scores and playing music both activate regions in all four of the cortex’s lobes; and that parts of the cerebellum are also activated during those tasks.
  6. After only eight months of keyboard lessons, preschoolers show a 46% boost in their spatial reasoning IQ.
  7. Researchers found that children given piano lessons significantly improved in their spatial- temporal IQ scores compared to children who received computer lessons, casual singing, or no lessons.
  8. A McGill University study found that pattern recognition and mental representation scores improved significantly for students given piano instruction over a three-year period.
  9. Researchers found that lessons on songbells (a standard classroom instrument) led to significant improvement of spatial-temporal scores for three- and four-year-olds.
  10. In the Kindergarten classes of the Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin, children who were given music instruction scored 48 percent higher on spatial-temporal skill tests than those who did not receive music training.
  11. A study found significant increases in overall self-concept of at-risk children participating in an arts program that included music, movement, dramatics and art, as measured by the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale.

Benefit FOUR: Success in Life

Participation in music brings countless benefits to each individual throughout life. The benefits may be psychological or spiritual, and they may be physical as well:

  1. Studying music encourages self-discipline and diligence, traits that carry over into intellectual pursuits and that lead to effective study and work habits. An association of music and math has, in fact, long been noted. Creating and performing music promotes self-expression and provides self-gratification while giving pleasure to others.
  2. “Music is one way for young people to connect with themselves, but it is also a bridge for connecting with others. Through music, we can introduce children to the richness and diversity of the human family and to the myriad rhythms of life.” — Daniel A. Carp, Eastman Kodak Company Chairman and CEO.
  3. “Studying music and the arts elevates children’s education, expands students’ horizons, and teaches them to appreciate the wonder of life.” — U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, July 1999.
  4. The nation’s top business executives agree that arts education programs can help repair weaknesses in American education and better prepare workers for the 21st century.
  5. “Music education opens doors that help children pass from school into the world around them — a world of work, culture, intellectual activity, and human involvement. The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music.” — Gerald Ford, former President, United States of America
  6. “Music is about communication, creativity, and cooperation, and, by studying music in school, students have the opportunity to build on these skills, enrich their lives, and experience the world from a new perspective.” — Bill Clinton, former President, United States of America
Facts compiled by MENC Staff, Spring 2002.