By: Konner Scott
It’s a sad reality that when schools hard underfunded and need to make cutbacks, arts programs- music in particular- are often first on the chopping block. In a vacuum, this might make sense. One could make the case that math and science classes, for example, have a broader real-world application than arts classes. Keeping skyscrapers standing and bridges from crumbling takes precedence over a Saturday night concert. However, music education doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and that view has too narrow a scope on a practical level.
The benefits of music education extend far beyond the music itself. In the words of Kenneth Guilmartin, the cofounder of the ‘Music Together’ program: “Music learning supports all learning… it’s a very integrating, stimulating activity”. Research demonstrates these benefits clearly: exposure to music education in early childhood can help supplement verbal and written language skills, as well as innate understanding of mathematical concepts. Music education is correlated with higher IQ, an increased ability to focus for long periods of time, and improved spatial intelligence. Children who receive music education and exposure in their early years are also more likely to be socially competent and less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression as they age into their teen years.
Then, there’s also the case to be made that a strong connection with music can be a unifying activity that provides a productive and positive social outlet. I’ll go anecdotal with this one: in my early teen years, my two best friends and I started a band. Our go-to activity when we got together on weekends was writing and arranging songs, studying other bands, and practicing our set list. The tools we had been granted in music programs- piano lessons, concert band, jazz band, etc- allowed us to explore our musicality together, and forge tighter social bonds with each other as a result. I’ll leave it to the imagination what activities we may have been engaging in instead had that outlet not been available to us.
As a music teacher, there’s clear bias here, but the more I learn about the benefits of music education, the more gratitude I have for my profession. The stats- as well as the spark in my students’ eyes when they’re engaged in their curriculum- back up and support my choice to pursue this career path. If you’re still on the fence about whether to enroll your child in music lessons, feel free to do a little research on your own and the results will speak for themselves!