Ask any band director in the US and he or she will probably tell you, “I teach the best kids in the school.” Over my career as an educator, I have been amazed at what my kids have become after graduating and pursuing their dreams. My classroom has been the youthful sanctum of educators, doctors, lawyers, architects, molecular biologists, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, computer techs, political scientists, film makers, college professors, and of course a number of professional musicians. If I sat down and thought about, I could probably name many other fields my students have entered where their daily work is beyond comprehension. I compare the success rate of my classrooms to the general population of the schools I have taught in, and it’s absolutely amazing!
But I have to be honest, I’ve often wondered – is it music that makes the kids smarter or just that the smart kids choose music?
I’ve had my hunches; however, I never personally ran any valid tests. I know in my heart of hearts that the cognitive function to be involved in an instrumental ensemble is exponentially greater than most other activities. When a student is fully engaged in a music ensemble, that student’s brains is firing on every level – kinesthetic, aural, visual, and oral – while also engaging in the spatial reasoning required of ensemble interaction.
Thank God we have researchers to help us out. I recently came across Wheaton College’s page Long Term Benefits of Music Study. The research that is coming out – not only from the field of music education but the research of independent neurological scientists – is amazing!
Here are some key points from the article:
It is now widely accepted that there are direct correlations between musical study and verbal competency, motor and auditory skills, reasoning abilities and problem solving - essential abilities that children take into adulthood.
Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital worked with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and found early musical training enhances the areas of the brain responsible for executive functioning.
A Stanford University study showed that mastering a musical instrument improves brain processing in areas associated with language development, and may have implications for improving language/reading skills (Gabrieli, John, http://news-service.stanford.edu, Nov. 2005).
A Harvard-based study found that children who receive instrument music training for three years or more outperform their control counterparts in areas such as fine motor skills and superior discrimination in melodic/tonal and rhythmic discrimination abilities. (Schlaug, G, Norton, A, Overy, K, Winner, E. 2005 Annals NY Acad of Sciences 1060).
This one is my favorite... :)
In addition to cognitive skills, study in the arts develops character traits such as discipline, perseverance, teamwork, patience, self-control, problem solving, and empathy.
Long Term Benefits of Music Study -Wheaton College