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Music in General Education

By: Kiersten Jackson

English/101 Essay Writing

Music in General Education

There has been a large amount of debate about music in a general education setting. Many people think it is a waste of time and resources, while others state children benefit greatly from music. More often as of late, we are losing out on the virtues that music education teaches. There have been many studies that state there are links between music education and math (Graziano, Peterson & Shaw, 1999), music and standardized testing (CBSNR, 2001), as well as music and special education (MENC, 2002).However, research has determined that music is important in the lives of children, has many benefits and plays a larger role in general education. Music education has been noticed for quite some time as a form of expression and a universal language of sorts, thus expressing the importance of music in the lives of children. In recent history, music’s importance in cognitive development and impact on education in other courses has emphasized the need to continue music as part of a general education curriculum. Music helps with listening and language skills. Through music, children learn to hear different sounds, beats and melodies. The many different tones and beats help with speech and hearing development. If you have a beat to sing words to, it makes reading poems and rhymes much easier for some students. Music encourages movement and activity. Most children, even many adults, when they hear a good beat or song, they start tapping their feet, shaking their leg, clapping their hands or want to get up and dance. At risk children can also become positively affected when music education is implemented in their lessons. It can help these children transition from one activity to another by singing songs like “Time to go to Lunch” and “Cleanup”. By singing, it takes the stress off of the children who have problems transitioning from one activity to another. More time singing and dancing leaves less time for lesser detached activities.

There are many benefits of music in an educational setting. Music has been proven to have an impact on cognitive development of students. Researchers demonstrated that brain scans of musicians have shown a larger plenum temporal (the region of the brain related to reading skills) and a thicker corpus callosum (bundle of nerves connecting the two halves of the brain) in musicians than in non-musicians, particularly in individuals who had music instruction before the age of seven. Sight reading music and playing music scores have been both proven to simultaneously activate all four regions of brain activity. (Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Ky & Wright, 1994) There have also been studies that link a connection between math and music. For example, “A study of 237 second grade children over a three year period 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.” (Graziano, Peterson & Shaw, 1999) This study concluded that use of music and musical instruments can increase a student’s cognitive developments and recognition of patterns, as well as fractions and geometry. “In an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data of more than 25,000 secondary school students, researchers found that students who continue with much involvement in instrumental music over middle and high school years show “significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12.” This study shows that regardless of students’ socio-economic status and difference in those students involved with instrumental music as compared to those who are not involved is quite significant over time. (NELS:88 1990). Also researchers have found that students that have participated in a successful music program have performed better on standardized tests. In 2001, a report on college bound seniors (CBSNR, 2001) linked music education to enhanced performance levels on SATs: “Students with coursework/experience in music performance and music appreciation scored higher on the SAT:

students in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math, and students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on the math, than did students with no arts participation�. Music also improves the memory in children and it teaches discipline. First, music students have to practice, practice, practice, if they want to learn to play their instruments well. By practicing their instruments on a regular basis even just ten minutes a day, the children not only learn to play their instruments well but also learn that with discipline and motivation you can keep improving. For example, NAMC quotes Dr. John J. Ratey, M.D. as saying "Dedicated [music] practice... can have a great payoff for lifelong attention skills, and an ability for self knowledge and expression. (Petress, K. 2005). Also students have to do well in core classes if they want to continue to play their instruments, so this helps keeps the children motivated to do well in classes such as math and reading. Many music teachers and parents of music students can call to mind examples and anecdotes about effectiveness of music study in helping children become better students. Skills learned through the discipline of music, as these stories indicate, transfer to study skills, communication skills, and cognitive skills useful in every part of the education curriculum There is a large role that music plays in education. Special education teachers use it to help teach hand-eye coordination, and it also helps with cognitive and fine motor development. There is a multi-sensory quality of music. Not only can children hear the music, but also music involves visual stimuli, moving, dancing and feeling. These senses are very important as special education children have varied capacities in using and perceiving senses. Many special needs children find traditional education to be boring, music can help keep the children involved and active in participation. By including all children in activities and lessons, music helps remove the labels that children in special education endure. Music also breaks the barriers on social skills; it

is a wonderful method of communication between students, their peers and instructors. For example, if you have a group of children, they are all singing, dancing and having fun, they don’t care who the child is next to them. They are to have fun, it doesn’t matter what they look like, what color they are, how they smell or if they have special needs. "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). It has been said that music also encourages a positive self-esteem and confidence. We go back to practicing your instruments, whether it is instrumental or their voice, when the children practice and get better at playing their instruments; it boosts their confidence and self-esteem. Playing in front of people, whether it is peers, family or even your pet can improve your confidence immensely. "Studying music encourages self-discipline and diligence, traits that carry over into intellectual pursuits and that leads 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. In medicine, increasing published reports demonstrate that music has a healing effect on patients. For all these reasons, it deserves strong support in our educational system, along with the other arts, the sciences, and athletics."(Michael E.DeBakey, M.D., Leading Heart Surgeon, Baylor College of Music). As you can see, music has many benefits and does play an important role in general education. Research has also proven that students that have music as a part of their curriculum perform better in math and standardized testing. Music also plays an important part in the special education setting. Jim Henson, a famous television producer and puppeteer once said, “Music is an essential part of everything we do. Like puppetry, music has an abstract quality which speaks

to a worldwide audience in a wonderful way that nourishes the soul.� With music being such a universal connection amongst peers, and in educational values, one can reasonably deter that music is a superior piece of general education for our children.


Caron, Sarah W. (March 23, 2010). Ten Ways Music Benefits Children.Retrieved from Carp, Daniel A., Eastman Kodak Company Chairman and CE.Retrieved from College-Bound Seniors National Report (2001): Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board. Retrieved from DeBakey, Michael E. M.D.,Leading Heart Surgeon, Baylor College of Music. Retrieved from Graziano, Amy, Matthew Peterson, and Gordon Shaw (March 1999). Enhanced Learning of Proportional Math Through Music Training and Spatial-Temporal Training.Neurological Research 21.Retrieved from Levy, Debra (May 1, 2010). The Importance of Music in Schools. The Denver Post. Retrieved from, Para 5-7, 10. MENC; National Association for Music Education (Spring 2002). Benefits of Music in Education. Retrieved from National Educational Longitudinal Survey (1988). Retrieved from Petress, K. (2005). THE IMPORTANCE OF MUSIC EDUCATION. Education, 126(1), 112-115. Retrieved from

Rauscher, F.H., Shaw,G.L. Levine,L.J., Ky, K.N & Wright, E.L. (August 13, 1994). Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, Los Angeles, CA. Retrieved from .

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