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  • 1. Karenna Wery17 November 2011AP LiteratureMrs. Corbett Benefits of Music Education Music is an undoubtably powerful force in the universe, and the benefits ofreceiving an education in music are endless. Music improves the functioning of the brainas a whole. It allows the musician to augment his skills in communication, language, andmathematics. It even has the power to cure disease through music therapy. An educationin music aids in the learning of languages, reading comprehension, math skills, andoverall brain function. Even a basic music education ameliorates the ability of learning language andhearing ability. According to numerous studies, an education in music can aid in theability to depict sound as well as the learning of language. A musician has to trainhimself to be able to hear his own instrument amongst various other instruments involvedin one piece of music. According to Kraus, Hugh Knowles Chair in CommunicationSciences, "The experience of extracting meaningful sounds from a complex soundscape-- and of remembering sound sequences -- enhances the development of auditory skills"(Northwestern University). Because of this, musicians can apply this ability to othersituations that involve skills in hearing, multi-tasking, and even memory. Musicians canfocus on one particular sound, which can increase attention span for activities such as
  • 2. carrying a long conversation without becoming distracted. "Studies have shown thatassiduous instrument training from an early age can help the brain to process soundsbetter, making it easier to stay focused when absorbing other subjects, from literature totensor calculus. Discerning subtleties in pitch and timing can also help children or adultsin learning a new language. ....These skills may also help the learning disabled improvespeech comprehension" ("Hearing the Music, Honing the Mind"). The musically talented also have the advantage of picking up languagesparticularly well. This is due to the formulaic, even mathematical structure of music. The"rules" of music, so to speak, are organized in a manner quite similar to that of grammarrules. There are certain ways of putting words together to form a sentence that soundparticularly pleasing to the ear, just as there is a way to put music together that soundspleasing. The pronunciation and tone inflections in words are also similar to the toneplayed by an instrumentalist or sung by a vocalist. "The brain’s multi-sensoryengagement during music practice and performance enhances the same communicationskills needed for speaking and reading. Musicians sharpen a specialized neural system forprocessing sight and sound, music and speech, which means that early musical trainingcan help children develop literacy skills and reduce literacy disorders" (Desaulniers). Thesimilarity between these two skills allows for musicians to easily grasp a new language. The total ability to communicate is ameliorated through the study of music in thesense that it improves emotional intelligence. According to Northwestern University,"The latest research shows that music training sharpens an individuals ability torecognize emotion in sound, an ability that goes a long way in terms of developingsensitivity to emotional cues and intuitive understanding of social contexts, two skills
  • 3. critical to emotional intelligence" (Desaulniers). This research demonstrates how musictruly does improve all aspects of intelligence. Music education can also enhance reading comprehension as well as math skills.Several studies have reported "positive associations between music education andincreased abilities in non-musical (eg, linguistic, mathematical, and spatial) domains inchildren" ("Music Education Can Help Children Improve Reading Skills"). Clearly this isbecause music compositions are arranged in a strikingly mathematical manner. Forexample, a piece of music has a certain number of beats adding up to create eachmeasure. Understanding musical rhythms can potentially aid in the process of learningsimple math, such as fractions. "When the Princeton, NJ--based College EntranceExamination Board looked at the SAT scores of college-bound high school seniors, theydiscovered that musicians scored 57 points higher on the tests verbal section and 41points higher in math" ("From A-Sharp to A-Plus"). Music education augments theability to learn from an early age, as demonstrated by research. A study in the journalSocial Science Quarterly states "music participation, defined as music lessons taken in orout of school and parents attending concerts with their children, has a positive effect onreading and mathematic achievement in early childhood and adolescence" (Wiley-Blackwell). There is also a great deal of specific vocabulary that is used to describe theprogression of a piece. Each type of chord involved in a song has a specific function anda name to fit that function. In addition to this, there are various ways to define therelationship of one note to another and one chord to another. Vocabulary skills arecertainly sharpened by music education. A test conducted on one group of children who
  • 4. received a music education and another that did not showed that "the music-learninggroup had significantly better vocabulary and verbal sequencing scores than did the non-music-learning control group. This finding, conclude the authors, provides evidence tosupport the increasingly common practice of “educators incorporating a variety ofapproaches, including music, in their teaching practice in continuing efforts to improvereading achievement in children” (Music Education Can Help Children Improve ReadingSkills"). The elaborate terms used to describe different aspects of music are practically aseparate language. Music greatly sharpens the overall functioning of the brain. New studies depictthat "converging research from the scientific literature linking musical training tolearning that spills over to skills including language, speech, memory, attention and evenvocal emotion" (Northwestern University). These benefits of learning music are clearlydemonstrated by the field of music therapy. Music therapy involves rehabilitatingdamaged areas of a patients brain through the use of learning music. Music therapy canby defined as "the treatment of disease (as mental illness) by means of music" ("MusicTherapy"). Music is, in fact, such a powerful influence on the brains functioning that itcan go as far as to cure illnesses. According to research, "because music relies on pitch and rhythm in addition tospeech, it is interpreted in different parts of the brain, not solely the music or languageareas. When rehabilitating injured patients like Giffords, rather than trying to redevelopthe language area directly, this new therapy retrains the connections in the brain andcreates a new language area in the music region of the brain" (Desaulniers). Thishighlights how music affects all areas of the brain and refines its general functioning. In a
  • 5. study involving 70 healthy adults age 60 to 83 who were divided into groups based ontheir levels of musical experience, "the high-level musicians had statistically significanthigher scores than the non-musicians on cognitive tests relating to visuospatial memory,naming objects and cognitive flexibility, or the brains ability to adapt to newinformation" (American Psychological Association). Music improves the ability to learn other subjects as well. A perfect example ofthis is how children are taught their alphabet in the form of a song. Evidence capturesmusics ability to develop general learning capabilities. Overall, music is an extremelycomplex subject, and a thorough understanding of music theory can strengthen all areasof the brain. Music improves every aspect of life, including functioning of the brain. Aneducation in music in highly beneficial to people of any age because of the effects it hason the brain. Studies have shown that music education improves reading comprehension,communication and language skills, mathematical abilities, and overall functioning of thebrain. The study of music should be part of every public school program in America dueto the numerous positive effects it has on learning.