What will it be -- music or more software? In some communities, it all comes down to that question. New research, special programs, and dedicated teachers and community members are helping to make a solid case for putting music "Bach" into our schools!
Once considered dispensable, music education is back on the agenda at school board meetings in many communities. Community and board members are taking a stand, fighting to reinstate music programs cut from school budgets over the last decade.
But why the sudden about-face?
The highly publicized results of several recent studies are one factor in the push to reinstate music education:
Music training conditions the brain to do tasks similar to those it has to do when working on math problems, Gardiner told Teacher magazine last May. "In the case of singing on pitch, pitch has a pitch line of its own," he explained. "'Do' is less than 're.' And 're' is less than 'mi.'" Developing skills such as those can help students understand mathematical concepts such as number lines.
Additional studies with adults highlight the benefits to music instruction. For example, researchers using magnetic brain imaging technology at the University of Munster in Germany found that the auditory cortex of the brain (the area where sound is processed) can be as much as 25 percent larger in musicians than in those who have no musical training.
At a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Dr. Lawrence Parsons (University of Texas-San Antonio) shared results of his research which employed magnetic imaging technology to examine the brains of expert musicians. The research showed more clearly than ever that significantly more of the brain is used during music making than previously thought.
"Music is represented in mechanisms widely distributed throughout the brain rather than localized in a single region as are other kinds of information, such as visual or movement information," Parsons reported.
After years of cutbacks, music is making a comeback in many schools.
Gary Wolfman, director of the Appleton (Wisconsin) High School-North's orchestra, promotes the benefits of music to his school community in any way he can. Buried in the back of the program for a recent concert, Wolfman summarized some of the recent brain research related to music.
The National Association for Music Education offers support to music educators and concerned community members on its Web page, including the organization's Advocacy Information page. Among the tools offered are articles about the latest research and a practical guide and form letters for building support for music education. "Even if your music program is in great shape, you must build and maintain a base of support," MENC advises. "Do this by offering your students the broadest and best music education possible, and by letting the public, parents, and administration know about it."
If you're looking for additional ammunition for stating your case, the Music Education Online Web site offers The Value of Music Education (scroll down the page for text). Among the reasons you'll find there are
A fair amount of recent research supports the value of music as part of a well-rounded education. But the studies are admittedly few. Much remains to be learned about the connection between music and learning.
But will music education survive, and thrive? The answer to that question rests with the members of each and every community. The signs are good -- if the results of a Gallup Poll of American attitudes toward music (published on the American Music Conference Web site) are any indication. In that poll
It's "opening night" in a great new debate. Will music education get the standing ovation it deserves?
A public service of the Music Education Coalition, this page offers tips to help parents make a case for music -- no matter what argument a local district board might be using to force cutbacks.
Music Makes You Smarter
Research findings, articles, and Web links to information about the value of music education.
School Music in Crisis
The American Music Conference offers these resources "to ensure that every child has access to music education."
Articles on the Importance of Music Education
A compilation of recent press reports relating to the value of music education.
Article by Gary Hopkins
Copyright © 2010 Education World
Originally published 03/01/2003
Last updated 02/22/2010