10 Compelling Studies Favoring Greater Support for K-12 Music Education

I would like to ask you something.

Would you rather have the ability to protect against dementia, boost your brain power, do better on test scores, develop excellent social skills, and express yourself with unbelievable artistic capability…

Or would you rather see funding for music cut from school programs?

If you take a look at the volume of scientific studies demonstrating the beneficial effects of music education for children and adolescents, you would be utterly astounded.

When it comes to making health claims about anything, I am always dubious (like anyone should be) in the absence of proper scientific study.

However, when it comes to music education, the scientific community shows an overwhelming preponderance of evidence suggesting favorable benefits of teaching music to students in the K-12 system.

I frequently get asked in emails from families if going into music education is a good career choice for an aspiring music major; with an exceptionally excellent employment outlook for this degree, I would certainly say yes.

But when looking at the scientific studies showing all of us how truly significant music education is to the intellectual and artistic development of a young person, I would have to give an even more resoundingly firm yes to this question; the value a music educator provides to a developing brain is much higher than most people understand.

Despite the breadth of scientifically supported benefits music teachers are able to impart to their students, schools are cutting our arts programs, cheating our students out of an important part of primary and secondary educations.

This is a huge problem that shouldn’t exist, as the scientific studies suggest that music is incredibly important to the developing brain.

Although the benefits of music education, both tangibly studied and intangibly felt, are numerous, this article only speaks to recent scientific evidence that favors the support of K-12 music education.

Here are ten exceptionally compelling studies and their outcomes demonstrating how seriously we must take music education, in no particular order of importance.


10. Significant Predictor of Higher IQ In Early Adulthood

IQ photo
Photo by ajeofj3

Study summary published in American Psychological Association (June 2006, Vol. 37, No. 6, Page 13) as well as Journal of Educational Psychology (Vol. 98, No. 2)

In a previous groundbreaking study about the correlation between learning music and intelligent quotient, a researcher had found that six year-olds who had one year of instrumental music study had significantly higher IQs than those who didn’t have music lessons.

Deciding to explore his findings further, this researcher, E. Glenn Schellenberg, PhD, hypothesized that many years of music study could perhaps compound this effect.

Schellenberg subsequently surveyed college students about their music education backgrounds, and discovered that those who had at least six years of music training (extending back to their K-12 music educations) had IQs greater than those of people who didn’t have music backgrounds.

Although the effect of greater IQ seems to have been more profound in his previous studies with six year-olds, the evidence in this study was very clear – playing music is a significant predictor of higher IQ in adulthood.

Maybe if more school districts knew about studies like this one, they would be far more hesitant to cut music from K-12 curricula.


9. Protective Against Dementia

Study summary published in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, December 2014 – Study Abstract on PubMed

In one of the most intriguing studies on music education ever conducted, researchers hypothesized that performing a musical instrument could be protective of this horribly degenerative brain disease.

The hypothesis was based in previous science, as there has been exceptionally compelling evidence (which I will later show) that music improves cognitive ability.

This study is interesting in that it analyzes only twins – twins have exceptionally similar genetic qualities (sometimes considered 100% matches), so the researchers were able to factor out the possibility of favorable genetics as an indication for dementia prevention.

In each set of twins, one had already developed dementia. The scientists surveyed the musical habits of every single person in the study, concluding that those who had played a musical instrument into adulthood were 36% less likely to develop dementia.

These results are nothing short of groundbreaking.

While dementia is not a common problem for elementary, middle, and high school musicians, the protective effects playing music has against brain disease cannot be lightly ignored.


8. Improves Emotional Outlook

National Institutes of Health Magnetic Resonance (MRI) Study of Normal Brain Development, January 2015 – Study analysis published on News Everyday

In a meta-analysis of 232 brain scans of children and adolescents ranging in age from 6 to 18, scientists discovered compelling evidence favoring the support of learning music at a young age.

According to University of Vermont psychiatry professor James Hudziak, the brain scans revealed that the more a child was trained on a specific instrument, the better the child’s emotional outlook, anxiety control, and attention to detail. One key factor noted was “cortical thickening” on certain areas of the brain’s of musicians.

James Hudziak’s previous research, according to the article, demonstrated corollaries between cortical thickening and positive effects in the brain with depression, attention, and more. His reasoning behind the results of his research are simple – similar to a weightlifter who gains muscle with resistance training, playing a musical instrument similarly “trains” the brain, ultimately making critical areas of the brain affecting emotional outlook, anxiety control, and more thicker.

8 Comments

  1. Beth Cody January 22, 2015
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    • Dedicated1 January 31, 2015
    • suegonzalez February 1, 2015
      • Jenzi March 2, 2015
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