Taking music classes can boost performance in other school subjects

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A study reveals why cutting the music department budget may be a mistake

While musical talent may not come easily for all consumers, taking music classes in high school can actually benefit students in other subject areas. 

Researchers from the University of British Columbia explained that a music budget is typically the first to get cut, but after seeing improvements in scores in English, math, and science, school officials might want to think twice before getting rid of music classes. 

“Often, resources for music education -- including the hiring of trained, specialized music educators, and band and stringed instruments -- are cut or not available in elementary and secondary schools so that they could focus on math, science, and English,” said researcher Peter Gouzouasis. 

 “The irony is that music education -- multiple years of high-quality instrumental learning and playing in a band or orchestra or singing in a choir at an advanced level -- can be the very thing that improves all-around academic achievement and an ideal way to have students learn more holistically in schools.” 

Music matters

The researchers analyzed test scores from over 112,000 students graduating high school in British Columbia between 2012 and 2015. 

To qualify for the study, students were required to take a music class that either had them playing instruments, like orchestra or jazz band, or singing, like choir or vocal. 

The researchers found that when students took classes that enhanced their instrument-playing, their academic performance improved; however, the academic outcomes weren’t as strong when students focused on singing. The researchers explained that playing an instrument requires a very unique skill set that is oftentimes just as demanding -- if not more so -- than a typical academic class. 

“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,” said researcher Martin Guhn. “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.” 

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