Background on Music Education


Countless studies have touted the benefits of music education. Hands-on learning of a musical instrument has been found to:

  • Foster teamwork
  • Build self-esteem
  • Motivate students to come to school
  • Enhance creativity and problem solving skills
  • Engage parents
  • Improve test scores

The benefits fostered by music education can be grouped in four categories:

  • Success in society
  • Success in school
  • Success in developing intelligence
  • Success in life

Success in society

  • Students involved in the arts demonstrate increased academic performance, reduced absenteeism, and better skill-building.
  • Among at-risk youth, the segment of society most likely to suffer from limited lifetime productivity, the arts contribute to lower rates of relapse into criminal behavior and increased self-esteem.
  • Arts assist in the development of much needed creative thinking, problem solving and communication skills.

Success in school

  • The College Board identifies the arts as one of the six basic academic subject areas students should study in order to succeed in college.
  • Schools with music programs have significantly higher graduation and attendance rates than do those without programs.
  • Music training is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children's abstract reasoning skills, the skills necessary for learning math and science. In fact, nearly 100% of past winners in the prestigious Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology (for high school students) play one or more musical instruments.

Success in developing intelligence

  • Children with music training have significantly better verbal memory than those without such training, and the longer the training, the better the verbal memory.
  • Musically trained children perform better in memory tests that are correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, mathematics and IQ.
  • Playing a musical instrument significantly enhances the brainstem’s sensitivity to speech sounds.

Success in life

  • Studying music encourages self-discipline and diligence, and helps students learn to become sustained, self-directed learners.
  • Creating and performing music promotes self-expression and provides self-gratification while giving pleasure to others.
  • Music helps young people connect to themselves and others, thus it is an effective way to introduce children to diversity.

The reality

Building upon the maxim that great people make great organizations, Microsoft, without a doubt one of the great success stories of the technology center, created a “Competency Wheel” that defines 37 workplace skills that the corporation values. Interestingly, only three of these competencies are related to technology, illustrating in dramatic fashion that math and science skills alone are not enough to thrive in such powerhouses as Microsoft.

Students must also learn teamwork, time management, group problem solving, organization and leadership. Experts have long said that a great way to build this competency is participation in collaborative fine arts such as band, drama, chorus, and orchestra.

In fact, despite the endless research that’s proven the connection between music and intelligence, and shown that music helps young people do better in school and life, music is often seen as an added bonus, not a necessity. Art has become an expendable luxury, and millions of students and our society are paying the price. Far too often a child’s access to arts education is largely a function of his or her parents’ income.

Part of the reason for this is the mistaken belief that the sole purpose of music education is to produce more artists. In reality, the purpose of arts education is to create whole human beings capable of leading productive lives in American society. The fact that 30% of American kids do not graduate from high school is proof enough that we have to rethink our education system, and that includes rethinking the role of music education.

A Florida Dept of Education study of at-risk students found that 75% said their participation in the arts influenced their decision to graduate from high school. This is just one of numerous studies that have noted that the arts reach students not ordinarily reached, in ways not normally used, thus keeping tardiness, truancies and, eventually, dropouts down.

As we look to develop the world’s leading education system, it’s time we start listening to experts who say that to compete successfully, this country needs continued creativity, ingenuity and innovation. Investing in our young people is the sure way to get there.


VH1 Save the Music
The National Association for Music Education
National Association of Music Merchants
AMC Music
American For the Arts