Why School Music Matters

“Music as a mainstay, early in life, encourages a young person to listen. To listen to themselves, to others, to communities and cultures beyond their every day lives. Imagine if each of us were attuned in such a way,” said Victoria Parker, a founding member of MAG who still plays an advisory role. “MAG’s focus on music in our public schools means that music is within reach of every student. Supporting MAG means supporting music in children’s lives.”

– Victoria Parker, MAG founding member and current advisor

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After performing with a world-renowned orchestra, Stanford Thompson returned to Philadelphia to start Play on, Philly!, a free, afterschool music program for young children in under-resourced neighborhoods that helps them go back into the classroom and become better learners. Thompson gives his Brief but Spectacular take on how music can create harmony and opportunity. 

The following is an excerpt from ‘The Scientific Reasons We Should Teach Music to Kids in School’, published on mic.com. Read full article here.

“The crisis in music education is real. And there’s scientific evidence that we’re depriving our kids of tremendous cognitive benefits as a result.”

“Mathematics, especially, are aided by music education because it targets a very specific set of brain activity: the development of spatial-temporal reasoning. Highly developed spatial-temporal faculties are imperative for working through solutions to the complex problems in fields such as architecture, engineering, science and, obviously, mathematics — fields that our country desperately needs more children to pursue if we’re to remain competitive in a globalized economy. Even more compellingly, UCLA’s study found that these benefits were even more pronounced in students from low-income families, proving once again that music education plays a major role in closing the achievement gap. Disadvantaged students who performed with their school band or orchestra were more than twice as likely to be performing at the highest levels of math than peers who did not receive musical training. Turns out there’s something to the “math rock” genre after all.

It isn’t all math. Music education also does major work on the language-processing parts of our brains. To learn to read, children need to have “good working memory, the ability to disambiguate speech sounds and make quick sound-to-meaning connection,” explains professor Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. “Each one of these things really seems to be strengthened with active engagement in playing a musical instrument.” And once again, musical skills are absolutely essential to low-income students for whom English may be a second language — students who might otherwise struggle to keep up with their peers.

All those benefits persist long after a child stops taking lessons. Numerous longitudinal studies show that taking music lessons as a child increases brain plasticity, and can help men and women resist the effects of aging and cognitive decline.”  Read more