A study of more than 100,000 Canadian students has strengthened the argument for music education.
It showed a positive relationship between participation in school music programs and higher exam scores in high school English, math and science courses. Test scores indicate that those who play an instrument benefit even more than those studying vocal music.
"Learning to play a musical instrument and playing in an ensemble is very demanding," said Martin Guhn, the study's co-author. "A student has to learn to read music notation, develop eye-hand-mind coordination, develop keen listening skills, develop team skills for playing in an ensemble and develop discipline to practice. All those learning experiences, and more, play a role in enhancing the learner's cognitive capacities, executive functions, motivation to learn in school, and self-efficacy."
The connection between music education and academic success was “independent of students’ previous (Grade 7) achievement, sex, cultural background, and neighborhood socioeconomic status, and were of considerable magnitude: The group differences observed in [the] study were greater than average annual gains in academic achievement during high school,” according to the abstract on the American Psychological Association’s website.
In other words, “students highly engaged in music were, on average, academically over one year ahead of the peers not engaged in school music.”
This study and other supporting evidence suggest that “music learning in childhood may foster competencies that support academic achievement,” and that, as a result, “educators may consider the potential positive influence of school music on students’ high school achievement.”