When school districts fall on tough financial times, they are often faced with the decision of eliminating extracurricular activities and anything else deemed non-essential. Music has been shown to help students excel academically, improve their social skills, and even benefit those with special needs. However, these benefits are sometimes overlooked for financial reasons. In many cases, music is more than just an elective, and several organizations are actively involved in ensuring that music remains in schools across the country.
The Positive Impact of Music in Educational Settings
Many researchers have studied the importance of music programs in educational settings, and this research has often proven to be a catalyst for parental and school district support. Going beyond the notion that music makes children smarter, more recent research has expanded on this by arguing that music education is just as important as any other subject, including math and reading.
A body of research led by music professor Christopher Johnson of the University of Kansas focuses on how music improves cognitive skills. His research found that the discipline necessary to learn and perform a musical selection is similar to the cognitive ability needed to pass a standardized test. The research reinforces previous studies stating that music education is likely to help children succeed in other school subjects.
Aside from helping children to succeed in various academic subjects, music has been shown to help them develop emotional intelligence and foster coping skills. The American Academy of Teachers of Singing found that the ability to express themselves through music can help children to deal with personal issues and to deal more effectively with their peers, creating a special bonding experience.
As far as social skills are concerned, music has a way of transcending race, gender, disability, and socioeconomic status. Music—particularly in groups such as band and choir—brings children of different backgrounds into the same setting, all with a common goal. Music programs help children to become acclimated in working with people who are different from themselves, and these skills can be useful for a lifetime in a variety of situations.
What Happens When Music is Removed from the Curriculum?
Despite all the research indicating how valuable music programs are in schools, these programs are still often at risk of being eliminated. Mounting research examines just how school districts are impacted when music is removed from the curriculum, and certain students will feel the impact more than others.
Research has shown that children from families with low incomes are more adversely affected when music is removed from schools. This is due in part to the fact that these students often are unable to afford private music lessons, and their exposure to music in school may be their only opportunity to participate. The removal of music from schools is particularly disappointing to students who have developed a passion for it, as well as those who are frequently exposed to violence in their communities and credit music with saving their lives.
Save the Music Initiatives
Several organizations recognize the importance of keeping music in schools and regularly raise funding and awareness to prevent music education from being eliminated. These initiatives promote the concept that music is critical to students’ success.
VH1 Save the Music is one such program that collaborates with school districts across the United States to preserve music education. The program gives tens of thousands of dollars in funding to music programs in elementary and middle schools, helping to provide musical instruments and fund music curricula.
Music in the Schools Foundation (MIS) focuses on improving literacy and overall academic success through music programs. Founded in 1995, the foundation has since helped nearly 1,500 California students pursue music at no cost. The programs, instituted by the Music in the Schools Foundation, allow students to learn music fundamentals such as signing, playing instruments, and dancing during the school day. Additionally, MIS offers an after-school curriculum that includes more intensive instruction and the opportunity to collaborate with high school-aged mentors.
It’s important for parents and school administrators to understand just how important music in school really is. If music education is eliminated, children will miss out on a variety of opportunities—both personal and academic—and will not have the opportunity to learn music appreciation, how music relates to history, and a variety of other benefits.
Without music programs in schools, children will miss out on learning what it takes to make music, as well as the opportunity to appreciate different genres. Parents can take an active stance by advocating for music education in parent-teacher organization meetings and at public school board meetings. The more that the benefits of music are promoted, the better the chances will be that it will remain in schools on a long-term basis.
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Photo used under Creative Commons from Marina K Caprara