Research on Music Education


"78% of Americans feel learning a musical instrument helps students perform better in other subjects."

-Gallup Poll, "American Attitudes Toward Music," 2003

"A Columbia University study revealed that students in the arts are found to be more cooperative with teachers and peers, more self-confident and better able to express their ideas. These benefits exist across socioeconomic levels.

-The Arts Education Partnership, 1999

"The schools that produced the highest academic achievement in the United States today are spending 20% to 30% of the day on the arts, with special emphasis on music.

-International Assoc for the Eval of Educational Achievement (IAEEA) Test, 1988

"88% of Americans believe participation in music helps teach children discipline Gallup Poll, "American Attitudes Toward Music," 2003 Music majors are the most likely group of college grads to be admitted to medical school.

-Lewis Thomas, Case for Music in the Schools, Phi Delta Kappa, 1994

"Middle school and high school students who participated in instrumental music performances scored significantly higher than their non-band peers in standardized tests.

-Univ of Sarasota Study, Jeffrey Kluball; E Tex State Univ Study, Daryl Erick Trent

"The College Entrance Examination Board found that students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math than students with no arts participation.

-College-Bound Seniors National Report. "Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ." The College Entrance
Examination Board, 2001

"Music training helps under-achievers. Students lagging behind in scholastic performance caught up to their fellow students in reading and surpassed their classmates in math by 22% when given music instruction over seven months.

-Nature, May 23, 1996

"Students who were exposed to music-based lessons scored a full 100% higher on fractions tests than those who learned in the conventional manner.

-Neurological Research, March 15, 1999

"High school music students have been shown to hold higher grade point averages (GPA) than non-musicians in the
same school.

-National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988

"A study of 7,500 university students revealed that music majors scored the highest reading scores among all majors
including English, biology, chemistry and math.

-The Case for Music in the Schools, Phi Delta Kappa, 1994

"During moments of musical euphoria, blood travels through the brain to areas where other stimuli can produce feelings of contentment and joy-and travels away from brain cell areas associated with depression and fear.

-Dr. Frederick Tims, reported in AMC Music News, June 2, 1999

"Students of lower socioeconomic status who took music lessons in grades 8-12 increased their math scores significantly as compared to non-music students. But just as important, reading, history, geography and even social skills soared by 40%.

-Gardiner, Fox, Jeffrey and Knowles, Nature, May 23, 1996

"College-age musicians are emotionally healthier than their non-musician counterparts for performance anxiety, emotional concerns and alcohol-related problems.

-Houston Chronicle, January 11, 1998

"U.S. Department of Education data show that students who report consistently high levels of involvement in instrumental music during the middle- and high-school years show "significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade

-James Catterall, Richard Chapleau, John lwanaga, "Involvement in the Arts and Human Development, " 1999

"The nation's top business executives agree that arts education programs can help repair weaknesses in American education and better prepare workers for the 21st century.

-The Changing Workplace is Changing Our View of Education, BusinessWeek, October 1996

"Music integrated into seventh- and eighth-grade social studies results in better subject performance and better social behaviors and attitudes.

National Educational Longitudinal Study, 1988

"When a child learns by experience that music forges direct links between self and world, self-expression becomes more
fluent; the music helps interpret "who I am."

-Growing up Complete, the report of the National Commission on Music Educ, 1990

"96% of respondents to a U.S. Gallup Poll believe participation in a school band is a good way for children to develop teamwork skills.

-Gallup Poll, "American Attitudes Toward Music", 2003



Thesis by Jeane Akin, California State University, Sacramento, California

Chapter 4 The Data, 1987


"In order to bring about statewide use of music in the general curriculum, legislators and other school policy makers must be convinced of its value. Arts education advocates are convinced that music education helps children learn in school. As writers and public speakers they announce their belief in the efficacy of arts curriculum. This conviction has arisen from their personal observations that music students are usually successful in academic achievement. Additionally, classroom teachers observe that when music is added to a lesson, students retain more of the lesson than when no music was used. These observations have been made by the author as well during 20 years of teaching students in grades K-8. Such observations have led to the development of education research into the question of whether or not what is being observed can be measured and reported. At present there is no definitive answer, but there is a growing body of work that affirms what has been observed. Arts education advocates now must bring the information developed from this work to the attention of legislators and others school policy makers to convince them of the value of music in the curriculum.

The following conclusions of education research give support to the phenomenon that teachers observe -- music education provides opportunity to learn academic skills. The data is organized by topics on the following pages:

* Arts Education and Academic Achievement
* Music Education and Academic Achievement
* Music and Pre-Learning.
* Music in Reading Instruction
* Music and Math Achievement

When definitive conclusions are needed, more evidence will be studied in this area by future researchers who can build upon the work outlined here.

Arts Education and Academic Achievement

Arts education leads to academic achievement. (Music is an integral part of all arts education.) An educational research firm, CEMREL, Inc., has issued a report in 1980 which concluded that in 67 specific studies made in California, student achievement in reading, writing and math improved when the arts were included in curriculum (Milley, Buchen, Okerlund & Mortarotti, 1983). In an arts enriched instruction, music accompaniment to reading a foreign language produces accelerated learning and increased retention, according to studies developed by Dr. Georgi Lozanov (Ostrander & Schroder, 1979). Interest in academic learning is increased in an arts enriched curriculum. ninety percent of the graduates of New York City's School of Performing Arts, Division of Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and Arts go on to college (Kaufman, 1976).

Music Education and Academic Achievement

Music education has a positive effect on providing opportunities for academic achievement. High school music students have been shown to hold higher grade point averages (GPA) than non-musicians in the same school in a 1981-82 study at Mission Viejo High School in California (Horne, 1983). It should be noted that in order to successfully audition for membership in high school performance classes, skills must be developed in previous years. Ideally, these developmental skills are acquired in the elementary grades.

The study of music produces the development of academic achievement skills. A 1981 survey revealed that 40% of the Westinghouse Science Talent Search winners were accomplished musicians (California State Department of Education, 1986).

Dr. Frank R. Wilson, assistant clinical professor of neurology at the University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco, reports that learning to play a musical instrument helps students to develop faster physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. He states that research shows instrument practice to enhance coordination, concentration, memory, improvement of eyesight, and hearing acuity is possible. He concludes that learning to play an instrument progressively refines the development of the brain and the entire neuromuscular system (Mueller, 1984). He has organized the International Conferences of Biology of Music Making, which bring together professionals in music, the biologic and health sciences for a sharing of current thought and findings in science and music. The topic of the 1987 conference was "Music and Child Development." Music advocates are encourage by the work of the conferences, which support continuing research into the connection between music education and brain development.

Dr. Georgi Lozonov, founder of accelerated learning at the Institute of Suggestology, has found that music in a special program of instruction produces accelerated learning. In Bulgaria, his program allows students to complete two years of curricula in four months. First graders learn to read and write within a few weeks and third graders study intermediate level algebra. His work is being duplicated presently in the United States (Delehanty, 1983). At California's Paradise Elementary school, the School Experiment in Accelerated Learning Program of 1981-82 and 1982-83 resulted in an improvement in achievement for students in reading and math, as well as in writing and composition (Paradise Unified School District, 1984).

There is a relationship between high self-perception, high cognitive competence scores, general self-esteem, and interest in school music. In a study by the Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities, a connection was found between students having musical competence and high motivation to achieve success in school. Students with interest and competence in school music were found to have positive correlation with cognitive competence scores (Lillemyr, 1983).

Studies have shown that achievement in school music builds student self-image which is a motivation for academic learning among urban Black middle school students (Marshall, 1978). Music lessons can lead to interest in academics. Under-achieving, disadvantaged youth were given music lessons and developed improvement in their academic attitude and aspirations; they were motivated to learn academic subjects (Olanoff & Kirschner, 1969). An ESAE Title I program to improve academic achievement found that students who had participated in keyboard lessons scored higher on mathematics and history than students who had not, although their IQ scores were not higher than that of the other students (ESEA, Title I Evaluation Report, 1969).

Music education improves student listening skills. This is reported in many studies, and specifically in a study of the Passaic, New Jersey Public Schools Summer Program for grades 2-6 students in which music was used in the teaching of English to Spanish speakers and reading in English to English speaking children. The program included vocal and instrumental instruction. All students achieved (Kohanski, 1975).

Music games can teach fundamental concepts. Dr. Lassar Golkin found that some children who are unable to learn concepts in a school setting are able to easily learn the same concepts through street play games. He developed the Interdependent Learning Model (ILM) which brings music games into schools for the purpose of teaching academic skills and content (Hillery, 1979).

Relaxation through music is seen to be a factor in achievement for children. The American Psychological Association carried out a meta-analyses research project of relaxation in which the conclusions of 20 studies revealed the positive effect on cognitive academic variables among elementary school children through progressive relaxation with music (Moon, Render & Pendley, 1985).

Music education allows handicapped students to achieve significantly. A three year Arts in Education project in five elementary schools in the Clover Park School District, Tacoma, Washington demonstrated that when basic academic skills were learned through music, a consistent gain of achievement score points was made. Music was found to be highly useful in teaching perceptual skills, and brought a greater interest in language development (Appel & Goldberg, 1979). Achievement in music performance allows mentally handicapped students to achieve in other areas was well. Music education, performance, and therapy used to treat the handicapped helps them to develop self-confidence. This confidence leads to other achievements (Reingold, 1987).

Singing plays a large part in the curriculum of primary grade students because singing a lesson helps young students to learn. In a study of Dolch Sight Words, instruction for kindergarten children, the teacher sung the words to Group A students, but not to Group B. With the exception of the singing, the lessons were exactly alike. Group A learned more words than Group B (Blackburn, 1986).

Music and Pre-learning

Music is found to have a positive effect in pre-learning activities. Premature babies who listen to music have enhanced cognitive ability which may be lasting. Recordings of classical music were included in a program of special care for premature babies in a study by the University of Florida College of Medicine. The study concluded that the babies receiving the special care program had significantly higher mental and physical development than infants which had not received the care (Music for Tiny Infants, 1987). In 1981-82, the California Arts Council contracted with the Educational Testing Service to run comprehensive tests on the impact of arts on pre-learning skills. For each of the five years since 1976, basic skills have been shown to increase when the arts are added to the curriculum (Municucci, 1981).

Music in Reading Instruction

In addition to creating opportunities for achievement as noted above, music education serves as a tool in leading students to achieve in specific academic subjects. Reading curriculum which includes music can bring an increase in student scores of reading achievement tests. A Title I reading program at Public School No. 1 in Brooklyn, New York included music and the arts in the curriculum. The results were a dramatic rise in student reading achievement test scores (New York City Board of Education, 1980).

Low achieving readers learn to read when music and related arts are in the reading curriculum. In a study involving over 13,000 children in 43 schools, the ESEA Title I Evaluation Report for the Wichita Program for Educationally Deprived Children found gains were made in the corrective reading program when music and related arts were used in the reading curriculum (ESEA, 1969).

In the Learning to Read Through the Arts program (LTRTA), a Title I Program for elementary students in New York for 677 regular students and 907 special education students, children who received music and other arts curricula in instruction to emphasize listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in the teaching of reading surpassed program objectives of achievement. All grades surpassed the program objective of five normal curve equivalents on the California Achievement Test scores. Bi-lingual and special education students also surpassed program goals as measured by the Wisconsin Design Skill Development test. Teachers noted that participation in the program led to improved student behaviors, greater motivation to read, and awakening of student interest and emotional growth in some sixth graders (Walker, 1982).

The PALS Project (Art as a Learning Strategy) followed the success of LTRTA. The project involved a well planned curriculum which included music and a longitudinal study with carefully drawn conclusions. Students in this program out-achieved those not in the program, when all were tested in reading proficiency (Milley et al., 1983).

An evaluation of the achievement in reading and math of elementary school students revealed that in reading for meaning, fifth grade instrumental music students achieved at a higher level than their non-music student peers (Friedman, 1959). Educators agree that music education is beneficial to reading achievement. Music has been shown to be such an effective component of reading instruction that teachers of reading are now being urged to become competent instructors of music in their reading classes (Tucker, 1981). Music is found to be also beneficial in the teaching of social studies and history, as noted earlier. Evidence is now found that music instruction can lead to achievement in math as well.

Music and Math Achievement

Art Harrell, director of music for public schools in Wichita, Kansas reported on a project in which 13,000 children in 42 schools entered an ESEA Title I program of additional art, music P.E., and industrial arts classes with enrichment and counseling. He found that children who have received school keyboard music lessons score higher in mathematics than students not in the program, although their IQ scores are no higher than the other students' scores.

The California Arts Council's Alternatives in Education program (AIE) has been in selected schools since 1976. Arts have been found to make a cognitive impact. When music periods have been increased, children have made an average gain of one and one half times the normal rate in math (.75 years in 6 months) (Maltester, 1986).

IQ scores and achievement test scores are often used to measure student potential and competency. A study of an arts enriched language arts program found a positive effect on the attitude and IQ of second grade students (Mathison, 1977). A study of children in the Albuquerque, New Mexico public schools demonstrated that in all areas of comparison of scores on the California Test of Basic Skills, fifth graders who were enrolled in instrumental music classes scored higher than their peers who were not enrolled. The longer pupils were enrolled, the better they achieved. In 1979, students with two or more years in band scored 10% higher in language than the others. Those students in music programs for two or more years scored consistently higher than those who participated only one year (Robitaille & O'Neal, 1981).

The Need for More Research

Interest in developing more research in the area of the cognitive connection between music education and achievement grows as the need to demonstrate music education's value becomes increasing necessary. The data, though sparse, provides evidence that music education has a positive effect on cognition and achievement, including the development of academic learning skills in K-8 students.


Research provides evidence that music curriculum aids students in developing the skills necessary for academic achievement. Studies into arts education; music curriculum; and pre-learning activities in music, reading and math curriculum give specific evidence of the positive connection between music education and academic achievement. The present evidence, however, needs to be joined by future research which may allow educators to draw definitive conclusions."
April 12th, 2010