By Carolyn Phillips
1. Early musical training helps develop brain areas involved in language and
reasoning. It is thought that brain development continues for many years
after birth. Recent studies have clearly indicated that music lessons
physically develop the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved
with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific
ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint
information on young minds.
2. There is also a causal link between music and spatial intelligence (the ability
to perceive the world accurately and to form mental pictures of things). This
kind of intelligence, by which one can visualize various elements that should
go together, is critical to the sort of thinking necessary for everything from
solving advanced mathematics problems to being able to pack a book-bag
with everything that will be needed for the day.
3. Students of the arts learn to think creatively and to solve problems by
imagining various solutions, rejecting outdated rules and assumptions.
Questions about the arts do not have only one right answer.
4. Recent studies show that students who study the arts are more successful on
standardized tests such as the SAT. They also achieve higher grades in high
5. A study of the arts provides children with an internal glimpse of other
cultures and teaches them to be empathetic towards the people of these
cultures. This development of compassion and empathy, as opposed to
development of greed and a “me first” attitude, provides a bridge across
cultural chasms that leads to respect of other races at an early age.
6. Students of music learn craftsmanship as they study how details are put
together painstakingly and what constitutes good, as opposed to mediocre,
work. These standards, when applied to a student’s own work, demand a new
level of excellence and require students to stretch their inner resources.
7. In music lessons, a mistake is a mistake; the instrument is in tune or not, the notes
are well played or not, the entrance is made or not. It is only by much hard
work that a successful performance is possible. Through music study, students
learn the value of sustained effort to achieve excellence and the concrete
rewards of hard work.
8. Music lessons enhance teamwork skills and discipline. In order for an
orchestra to sound good, all players must work together harmoniously
towards a single goal, the performance, and must commit to learning music,
attending rehearsals, and practicing.
9. Music provides children with a means of self-expression. Now that there is
relative security in the basics of existence, the challenge is to make life
meaningful and to reach for a higher stage of development. Everyone needs to
be in touch at some time in his life with his core, with what he is and what he
feels. Self-esteem is a by-product of this self-expression.
10. Music lessons develop skills that are necessary in the workplace. It focuses
on “doing,” as opposed to observing, and teaches students how to perform,
literally, anywhere in the world. Employers are looking for multi-dimensional
workers with the sort of flexible and supple intellects that music education
helps to create as described above. In the music classroom, students can also
learn to better communicate and cooperate with one another.
11. Music performance teaches young people to conquer fear and to take
risks. A little anxiety is a good thing, and something that will occur often in
life. Dealing with it early and often makes it less of a problem later. Risktaking is essential if a child is to fully develop his or her potential. Music
contributes to mental health and can help prevent risky behavior such as
teenage drug abuse.
12. An arts education exposes children to the incomparable.
Carolyn Phillips is the author of the Twelve Benefits of Music Education. She
is the Former Executive Director of the Norwalk Youth Symphony, CT.