An Essay by NJWA College Student Kai Chiang
From the beginning of education, schools give students the opportunity to learn music. In elementary and middle school, students generally participate these classes once a week, but once we reach high school, they typically become electives. Learning music is extremely advantageous, yet many students choose to drop it and lose an extremely important aspect of their education. Music classes should be a required course up until at least college, as music education comes with the benefits of superior school statistics, higher neural growth and activity, and greater self-esteem.
Music education has been proven to improve students’ academic capabilities and test scores. A PBS report from 2012 found that, “students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs”1. Moreover, music programs in schools result in higher graduation rates. Graduation rates from schools with music programs have about a 90.2 percent graduation rate and a 93.9 percent attendance rate, while schools without them typically have a 72.9 percent graduation rate and an 84.9 percent attendance rate.1
Learning music helps the brain to better interpret human language and can make it easier to learn a second language. Recent studies have discovered that studying music helps to rewire the brain’s circuits and helps to develop the brain’s left side that processes language.1
In addition, the study of music will also help to teach students logic behind fractions, without them even thinking about it from a mathematical sense, as fractions are intertwined with musical performance. Modern music is typically written in 4/4 timing. This means that there is four beats in a measure and quarter beat is worth one note. Teaching students how to count out rhythm and play along to it will teach them how to divide bars into beats. This can be extremely helpful because it gives a students a practical and fun way to use what they are learning in the classroom for something more enjoyable.
The brain of a musician and a non-musician work differently. Dr Eric Rasmussen states that, “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain.”2 Every student should have the opportunity to help their brains thrive and grow.
Furthermore, music can be extremely helpful for students outside of academics. It can also help with self-esteem, stress relief, and creativity. Music helps to develop confidence. It is a skill that must be worked on, and eventually can be used with others who are at a similar skill level. After being able to play with other musicians, students should be encouraged to play for an audience in a school band or other group. Music in general is a good way to release stress. Playing it is especially helpful. It gives students a constructive way to vent, that may result in something great. Music can help students to articulate emotions in ways that they may not be able to otherwise.
Many people argue against music education, calling it a distraction, and saying that it is unaffordable. Calling it a distraction is wrong. Saying that music distracts a student from another class would be like saying that English homework distracts students from the Math homework. Many times, schools say that it is too expensive to keep music programs, while still supporting sports programs. There will always be things cut due to a budget, but cutting music should not be an option. Music education is essential.
If music were added to a core curriculum, graduation and attendance rates would rise and students would graduation with higher brain function. The implications music education could have on our society is immense. Music programs continue to be cut across the country, when instead, they should be added. It is imperative that our nation begins to emphasize music in our schools.