We’ve all read the articles about how music “makes kids smarter” and “why we need to save the jobs of music educators.” We’ve been smacked upside the head and down the street by facts upon figures about why music education is important. At the end of the day, all of these statistics, while a major motivation for lawmakers and school boards, don’t get to the heart of the matter. Kids love music. Music makes kids happy. Music gives kids a sense of accomplishment and kids who study music are setup for a lifetime of opportunity. These are truths which don’t need to be tested by a series of double-blind studies where Group A is given a strict regimen of white noise and standardized tests while Group B embraces math while listening to Mozart. These truths are self-evident in the shining eyes of a 6-year old who just memorized her first recital piece or the teenager who worked out the frustration from his first break-up in marching band practice or the child who, silenced at home, finds a voice in the school musical.
However, facts and figures are important to the argument for music education in schools as well as private music education. They are particularly important in a society which, steamrolling towards technical efficiency and robotic automation, places less importance on the antiquated acoustic fascinations of yesteryear. Sifting through PowerPoints and Excel Spreadsheet Data from the Department of Education is at the best of times difficult and exhausting. It’s often hard to glean a clear summary, but this study of 12th graders from the Florida Department of Education conducted between 2007-2008 found that students enrolled in music courses for eight semesters or more graduated with a mean GPA of 3.1; whilst students who were not enrolled in music courses graduated with a mean GPA of 2.7. Numerous writings exist about the ways in which music engages multiple parts of the brain. Children receiving music education are stimulating both sides of the brain regularly, which leads to excellence in other subjects which isolate one or the other side of the brain. Music: It’s better than Lumosity and fills the house with something far more enjoyable than the beeps and boops of an iPhone game!
The 2007-2008 study goes on to say that for the general population, the more music and arts classes taken, the higher the student achievement in all measures:
- For students on “free and reduced lunch,” an indicator of socioeconomic levels, the more music and fine arts classes in a child’s academic career, the higher the students’ achievement in all measures.
- For students divided by ethnicity, an increase in music and art classes yields a marked improvement in students’ achievement in all measures.
- The more arts classes taken, the less likely a student is to dropout of the cohort group.
The last point is especially poignant when considering that in 2007-2008, more than 25% of the 12th grade cohort not enrolled in music classes failed to graduate. In comparison, less than 5% of those students taking 4 or more credits in music failed to graduate.
In a letter to Dr. Eric J. Smith, Florida Department of Education Commissioner, from Senators Stephen R. Wise and Nancy C. Detert, after reading the data findings of the study, wrote that
“Given these measures (graduation rate, SAT, FCAT Reading, Writing, and Math) are the primary means established by the Department of Education and the Legislature for evaluating student achievement, and given that the arts have a significant, positive impact, we must conclude that the arts are an important element of the curriculum…The more arts classes taken, the less likely a student is to dropout of the cohort group”
What does all of this mean? Simply put… music assists students from diverse backgrounds in academic excellence which gives them the tools for a lifetime of success.