When the Spirit of Harmony Foundation uses the term “moral imperative,” we are doing so in response to the massive amount of empirical evidence that makes a strong case for Music Education being so good for children, it is necessary for no child to be denied the opportunity to learn music. Music Education levels the playing field for children, so their particular life circumstances and challenges can be mitigated by the benefits derived from learning music.
One of the most compelling sources of evidence for our “moral imperative of music education” concept comes from Dr. Nina Kraus, director of the Northwestern University Auditory Neuroscience Lab, who has recently published research indicating that, with as few as two years of sustained music education, students were able to maintain standardized reading assessment scores, in contrast to their peers who showed marked losses in demonstrated reading ability over the same span of time. While research has long showed the benefits of music education programs on the reading comprehension and vocabulary acquisition abilities of students in general, this is the first longitudinal study to find a significant relationship between music education and academic growth on these metrics for students from impoverished backgrounds. In simple terms, comprehensive music education literally changes the way the human brain processes and retains information.
Whether an orchestra, marching band, small ensemble, or garage rock band, young people involved in music programs develop the skills required to work with others, embracing teamwork and fostering socialization. Engagement in positive activities such as music increases kids’ resilience to the negative influences they encounter in life, and increases the likelihood they will make positive life choices. Music programs give young people an opportunity to interact closely and consistently with teachers and other musicians, who become mentors and role models over time. While students typically have an academic teacher for one year or one term at a time, a music teacher might well be interacting with a student for 4-8 or more years.
Music education motivates kids to stay in school. High school principals strongly believe that music education promotes the academic success of their students, according to a study released by NAMM and NAFME (The National Association for Music Education). A key finding of the study, conducted by Harris Interactive, shows that the vast majority of school administrators interviewed believe that music education has a powerful and lasting impact upon their students, making music education an essential element of every child’s education. In fact, 96 percent of public school principals interviewed believe that participating in music education encourages and motivates students to stay in school longer, and 89 percent agree that music education contributes to higher graduation rates.
Music education helps young people acquire the life skills, traits, and attributes necessary to broaden the horizon of career opportunities in any field of endeavor, not only for careers in music performance or the music industry. The positive effects of music (higher graduation rates, better grades, more positive choices, and relationships with mentors) increases the overall lifetime economic prospects for individuals who have had music education in their lives.
Based on the results of the Spirit of Harmony Foundation’s informal survey on the perspectives of Americans regarding music education programs, our hypothesis is that there is significant benefit for students who have been exposed to music education programming in terms of college admission and career viability. We are currently in the process of designing a study, in concert with existing university partnerships, in order to examine these relationships. If discovered, a significant relationship between these variables would undoubtedly change the way that key stakeholders view the importance of robust music education programs in public schools.