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why Music Makes You Smarter: the Bottom Line.

Easy to Understand Bottom Line Summary

Body of research:

In a study released in 2000, second graders from a low income school in Los Angeles were given eight months of piano keyboard training, as well as time playing with newly designed music software. The result? These students, taking the Stanford 9 Math Test, went from scoring in the 30th to the 65th percentile. These second graders were performing sixth grade math. An interesting finding given the TIMMS results of 1998.
(Neurological Research, March 15, 1999; Gordon Shaw, Ph.D, University Of California, Irvine)

A related study by University of Wisconsin Professor, Dr. Frances Rauscher published in 1997 in the Scientific Journal Neurological Research showed that children involved with keyboard instruction at an early age showed significantly enhanced abstract reasoning abilities, critical to success in science and complex math.

After learning about this research, the Wisconsin School District of Kettle Moraine wanted to see how this concept would work in the real world. They implemented a program that replicated the Rauscher study, using kindergarten students and group piano keyboard instruction. At the end of the school year, students in classes that had received piano keyboard instruction outscored those who received no keyboard instruction by 46 percent! The program has since expanded to K through 6 students across the entire district.

The critical point here is the students were not taught math using music they were taught music. It was the process of learning music that helped improve their math skills.
(Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 2000)

One of the issues for at-risk youth is drug and alcohol abuse. A 1999 report released by the Texas Commission on Drugs and Alcohol Abuse found that students involved in band or orchestra (when compared against other student activities) reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances (alcohol, tobacco, or drugs).
(1999 Texas Commission On Drug And Alcohol Abuse)

According to the College Board, students involved with music, score an average of 100 points higher on SAT tests than students who do not. The longer a student has been involved with music instruction, the greater the difference.
(College Board Survey Of Sat Test Takers, 2000)

In another study, Dr. James Catterall of UCLA analyzed the school records of 25,000 students from the NELLS88 Database as they moved through school. He found that students who studied music had higher grades, scored better on standardized tests and had better attendance records. When he factored in economic status he also found that students from poorer families who studied music improved their overall school performance at the same rate or faster than all others.
(Dr. James Catterall, UCLA, 1997)

Two very important researchers are Drs. Frances Rauscher, psychologist at University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, and Gordon Shaw, physicist at University of California at Irvine. They have been involved with two of the most important research studies in music education, "Musical and Spatial Task Performance" (Rauscher, Robinson, & Ky 1993) and "Music Training Causes Long-term Enhancement of Preschool Children's Spatial Temporal Reasoning" (Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Wright, Dennis, & Newcomb 1997). In the first study (1993), the researchers discovered the "Mozart Effect." In the study, a group of college students were tested to see if Mozart music had any sort of effect on their spatial intelligence. "Spatial-temporal operations are responsible for combining separate elements of an object into a single whole, or by arranging objects in a specific spatial order" (Rauscher 1996). The students listened to Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos for ten minutes. Then they participated in a test designed to measure their spatial IQ. It was found that students scored approximately nine points higher on the test after listening to the music than compared to when they listened to relaxation sounds or silence. The improved spatial ability, however, only lasted for about fifteen minutes. This study was repeated in 1994. Then it was discovered that if students listened to the sonata every day over a period of time, their scores increased daily (Rauscher 1996). A connection between listening to music and improved intelligence was found.

Simply listening to music can improve a student's abilities. However, playing instruments can have an even stronger impact. According to Rauscher (1996), "…actively making music has greater benefits for spatial temporal intelligence than merely listening to music." In the 1997 study, the researchers investigated how piano and singing lessons affected preschool-aged children's spatial temporal knowledge. The children were divided into three separate groups; one received thirty minute group singing lessons and ten to fifteen minute individual keyboard lessons once a week, another received computer instruction, and the final received no treatment. Results showed that the children in the group that received musical instruction scored up to 34% higher on tests used to assess spatial and temporal ability than the other two groups in the study (American Music Conference [AMC] 1997). This study shows how "music making nurtures intellect" and "enhances higher brain functions" (AMC 1997). After leading both studies, Rauscher concluded that "… the strongest effects will be found from music instruction" (Costa-Giomi, Price, Rauscher, Schmidt, Shackford, Sims, &Wilcox 1999). Listening to music is not enough to drastically improve children's spatial IQ; they must be taught how to play the music themselves.

Gordon L. Shaw, Ph.D. [See: ]
Author Comments: Keeping Mozart in Mind by Gordon L. Shaw, Ph.D. M.I.N.D. Institute/University of California, Irvine from Academic Press, San Diego 2000


How do the arts contribute to the skills that employers need in their future employees?

In Australia, ministers of education and various committees met in 1989 to determine what their students should learn in school. In addition to requirements in each subject area, the concept of "Key Competencies" emerged.

Key Competencies are skills that are learned not just in one class, but through the overall educational experience. They are also skills that the business community believes school graduates must possess.

The Key Competencies in the Australian education system are:

1) Collecting, analyzing, and organizing information
2) Communicating ideas and information
3) Planning and organizing activities
4) Working with others and in teams
5) Using mathematical ideas and techniques
6) Solving problems
7) Using technology

In 1996, the National Affiliation of Arts Educators (of Australia) and the Australian Council for Educational Research worked together to apply the Key Competencies to arts education and to help educators understand the connections between the Key Competencies and the teaching activities of arts educators. Their study concluded "THE ARTS CONTRIBUTE NATURALLY AND SIGNIFICANTLY TO ALL OF THE KEY COMPETENCIES."

Here are the applications of music education to the Australian Key Competencies:

interpreting andcreating artworks [compositions], exercising aesthetic judgement, managing sensory and emotional information

making artworks [composing],communicating ideas and information nonpropositionally[without speaking or writing], interpreting artworks through talking and writing

rehearsing and presenting a performance or concert

experiencing ensemble discipline for corps, orchestra, etc. practicing group skills in rehearsal, production, and exhibition; negotiating in multi-arts contexts

learning about basic musical structure, rhythm, balance, and acoustic science

improvising, researching, creating artwork [composing], interpreting, preparing presentations

using samplers and synthesizers, using multimedia in presentations, concerts, and performances; using sound and lighting principles and technology

Source: "Exploring the Role of the Arts in the Curriculum: Some Australian Initiatives" by Joan Livermore and Gary E. McPherson.
Published in "Arts Education Policy Review" Vol. 99 No. 3, Jan/Feb
1998. pp. 10-14.