Back in high school, if there was one thing I could rely on every year, it was the annual threat that the music program would be cut. Usually, by the time the budget passed in April, these threats became meaningless and the program was saved. However, it was frustrating to hear that every year, the schools would prioritize everything else above music education.
Music education is often not prioritized in the way it should be. However, it has numerous benefits — in terms of other academics as well as from a neurological standpoint — and schools everywhere should take this into account before looking to cut certain programs.
Music can be extremely beneficial to students’ performance for certain academic subjects. A 2013 study titled, “Music and academic performance” found that adolescent students who took music courses have better grades overall in all subjects. Similarly, the College Board reported in 1996 that students with experience in musical performance scored higher on the verbal and math sections of the SAT when compared to the national average. Another report in 2001 found that students with experience in music performance and music appreciation scored higher on the SAT compared to students who had no experience in the arts.
With studies like this, that suggest the immense benefits music education has on other academic subjects, shouldn’t schools want to encourage music education?
It was just last summer that the Board of Education in my hometown wanted to eliminate the music program for band, orchestra and chorus entirely for a younger grade. This is especially harmful because in addition to the benefits music education has on academic performance, studies also show that music education has profound effects on neurological development, especially for younger children.
A five-year long study from the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California found neuronal benefits of music education on a group of 6-7 year old children. The children in the study all received musical instruction, and after two years, their auditory systems had matured faster than children who were part of an athletic extracurricular activity and children who were not in any extracurricular activities.
Music education is clearly an important part of school curriculum, and no schools should even think about cutting these programs. Students clearly benefit from music classes, and cutting them would be detrimental.
Not only should schools not cut music programs, but they should encourage them more. Many students may be turned away from music programs because of the lack of recognition schools give to music programs. This is something else schools should change — students should be encouraged to take these classes and stick with them for as long as possible. All of these studies clearly show that in the moment, students benefit immensely from music education.
There are many long-term effects associated with music education as well. In 2003, a Harvard neurologist found that after 15 months of musical training, there were changes in the structure and neuronal connections of the brain. This is extremely important because these numerous connections can help compensate for cognitive decline and neuronal atrophy later in life.
Through all of these studies, there is one major similarity — the plethora of benefits music education has on children, adolescents and even adults in the long term. Schools should ensure that music programs are not cut and encourage these programs so students can not only develop their own talents and find an activity they enjoy and want to pursue further, but also for the other added academic and neurological benefits. Music education is more important than many seem to think, and it is high time schools around the world recognize this fact.