Success in society, of course, is predicated on success in school. Any music teacher or parent of a music student can call to mind anecdotes about effectiveness of music study in helping children become better students. Skills learned through the discipline of music, these stories commonly point out, transfer to study skills, communication skills, and cognitive skills useful in every part of the curriculum. Another common variety of story emphasizes the way that the discipline of music study – particularly through participation in ensembles – helps students learn to work effectively in the school environment without resorting to violent or inappropriate behavior. And there are a number of hard facts that we can report about the ways that music study is correlated with success in school:
- A study of 237 second grade children 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, Amy, Matthew Peterson, and Gordon Shaw, “Enhanced learning of proportional math through music training and spatial-temporal training.” Neurological Research 21 (March 1999).
- In an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data on more than 25,000 secondary school students (NELS:88, National Education Longitudinal Survey), researchers found that students who report consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years show significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12. This observation holds regardless of students socio-economic status, and differences in those who are involved with instrumental music vs. those who are not is more significant over time. – Catterall, James S., Richard Chapleau, and John Iwanaga. Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts. Los Angeles, CA: The Imagination Project at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, 1999.
- 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. – College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001.
- According to statistics compiled by the National Data Resource Center, students who can be classified as disruptive (based on factors such as frequent skipping of classes, times in trouble, in-school suspensions, disciplinary reasons given, arrests, and drop-outs) total 12.14 percent of the total school population. In contrast, only 8.08 percent of students involved in music classes meet the same criteria as disruptive. – Based on data from the NELS:88 (National Education Longitudinal Study), second follow-up, 1992.
- Data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 showed that music participants received more academic honors and awards than non-music students, and that the percentage of music participants receiving As, As/Bs, and Bs was higher than the percentage of non- participants receiving those grades. – NELS:88 First Follow-up, 1990, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington DC.
- Physician and biologist Lewis Thomas studied the undergraduate majors of medical school applicants. He found that 66% of music majors who applied to medical school were admitted, the highest percentage of any group. 44% of biochemistry majors were admitted. – As reported in “The Case for Music in the Schools,” Phi Delta Kappan, February 1994.
- A study of 811 high school students indicated that the proportion of minority students with a music teacher role-model was significantly larger than for any other discipline. 36% of these students identified music teachers as their role models, as opposed to 28% English teachers, 11% elementary teachers, 7% physical education/sports teachers, 1% principals. – D.L. Hamann and L.M. Walker, “Music teachers as role models for African-American students,” Journal of Research in Music Education, 41, 1993.
- Students who participated in arts programs in selected elementary and middle schools in New York City showed significant increases in self-esteem and thinking skills. – National Arts Education Research Center, New York University, 1990.