Music education is generally underappreciated in schools. This is more so in the case of Nepal. But beyond the ABCs, we know that learning the do-re-mi matters. As the new year is upon us, let’s celebrate by reviewing 12 ways music education can benefit the schools. Now below, in no particular order:
Preparation for schooling
- Music develops brain development. To young children, music provides a unique opportunity for academic preparation. Research shows that music students on average score higher in math, critical thinking, analysis, and spatial reasoning than their non-music peers.
- Music enhances physical development. In understanding beat, rhythm, and scales to playing instruments, children develop coordination and synchronization of movements between their hands, arms, and feet, thus enhancing their fine motor skills. Their ability in pattern recognition will also strengthen.
- Music improves memory. Music education strengthens the foundational part of the brain – verbal memory – critical to recall and retention of information across all academic subjects. Musicians tend to perform better at memory and recall tasks, likely due to their long-term musical training. The US-based National Association for Music Education has stated that musically-trained children demonstrate improved memory over the course of one year, compared to children who do not receive musical training.
- Music enhances thinking skills. Studies show that children who study a musical instrument are more likely to have greater abstract reasoning abilities with improved rates than their peers and can be sustained with music training overtime.
- Music promotes early language skills. In studying music and use of rhymes and songs, the language, reading, and response skills in children can be boosted. Additionally, music students tend to have larger and more advanced reading skills than their non-music peers.
- Music advances numeracy skills. The benefits of music education to math achievement is well documented. A study by Helmrich (2010) demonstrates that complex math processes are more accessible to a ninth-grader who take music lessons than their non-music counterparts. Furthermore, children involved in high-quality music programs outperform in math assessments as compared to children enrolled in a lower-quality programs and those who are not enrolled at all.
- Music trains listening skills. Early exposure to music and songs can encourage a strong sense of music appreciation. Beyond that, listening skills can be developed in musically-trained children through refined skills in hearing and pitching than those without music training.
Capacities for lifelong success
- Music enables creative expression at its best. In particular, jazz as a highly improvisational musical form that thrives on agility, spontaneity, and adaptability enables individual expression to music. Music education helps to develop originality and flexibility in children, both of which are core competencies necessary to excel in the 21st century workplaces.
- Music builds teamwork. Group classes, band members, and choristers know the importance of being a reliable member to the group as teamwork and close collaboration are essential to success. A child who learns to make music together would appreciate the importance of cooperation, sharing, compromise, and contribution of efforts towards something larger than oneself.
- Music develops personal, social, and emotional development. By engaging in music, dance and movements, a child develops self-discipline and responsibility in the improvement of one’s skills. Furthermore, children also develop respectful listening and foster close bonds with other team members, including their teachers. As they get better in music, they may bring similar aptitude and passion in learning towards other subjects. Furthermore, a child’s leadership capabilities can be further enhanced as they learn how best to alternate between active listening to best respond to the tunes performed by other team members and knowing when to take the lead and stand out.
- Music is important to strengthen local and world cultures. It can strengthen Nepal’s expressive culture and spirit of celebration as local musicians communicate and interact with a global community of musicians, allowing for greater international peace and understanding.
- Music drives economic value. A strong music community and vibrant system of music education can fuel job creation, economic growth, tourism development, demand for teachers, creative and artistic growth.
There is no doubt that music education is beneficial to schools. It helps in children’s preparation for schooling and academic attainment, while fosters numerous skills – not limited to problem solving, cooperation, leadership, discipline, communication, and creativity – all necessary to succeed in the dynamic 21st century workplace. As Bill Clinton, the former President of the U.S. noted, “music is about communication, creativity, and cooperation, and by studying music in schools, students have the opportunity to build on these skills, enrich their lives, and experience the world from a new perspective”. Early exposure to music education is a must, not a luxury, with its transformative impact in helping to prepare young people to live, learn, and succeed.
- Arts Education Partnership. Music matters: How music education helps student learn, acehive, and succeed.
- NAMM. How children benefit from music education in schools.
 Rauscher, F.H. , & Zupan, M., “Classroom keyboard instruction improves kindergarten children’s spatial-temporal performance: A field experiment” Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15 , 215-228.2000).
 Arete Music Academy. “Statistical benefits of music in education.” Arete Music Academy
 Journal for Research in Music Education, June 2007; Dr. Christopher Johnson, Jenny Memmott