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Spicknall: Music education makes better students and readies kids for life | COMMENTARY

Dr. Joan Spicknall is a Columbia resident and director of the Suzuki Music School of Maryland Inc. She can be reached at 410-964-1983 or director@suzukimusicschool.com.
Dr. Joan Spicknall is a Columbia resident and director of the Suzuki Music School of Maryland Inc. She can be reached at 410-964-1983 or director@suzukimusicschool.com.

Amid the current worldwide coronavirus pandemic, where wildly fluctuating numbers in stock markets here in the United States and abroad are constantly changing according to global politics, environments and economies, it is reassuring to know that investments in our children’s learning capabilities and education, specifically music education, are solid and sure bets.

Let’s examine some of the reasons for this as we list some basic premises excerpted from the position statement on early childhood education released by the National Association for Music Education. This is the largest, most comprehensive musical voice of this nation and abroad, and the statement was adopted as part of its Future Directions initiative back in 1991 yet is just as relevant now: “All children have musical potential; children bring their own unique interests and abilities to the music learning environment; very young children are capable of developing critical thinking skills through musical ideas; children come to early childhood music experiences from diverse backgrounds; children should experience exemplary musical sounds, activities and materials; children’s play is their work; children learn best in pleasant physical and social environments; diverse learning environments are needed to serve the developmental needs of many individual children; children need effective adult models.”

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The American Music Conference is another organization committed to dispersing information about research, which has been done on a variety of topics relating to music education as viewed from many different perspectives. A few samples from their website include the following:

  • “Students who were exposed to a music-based math program which taught fractions through basic music rhythm notation, scored a full 100% higher on fractions tests than those who learned in the conventional manner.” (Neurological Research, March 15, 1999)
  • “Students who were given piano instruction over a three-year period showed significant improvement in pattern recognition and mental representation, self-esteem and overall musical skills.” (Dr. Eugenia Costa-Giomi, The McGill Piano Project: “Effects of three years of piano instruction on children’s cognitive abilities, academic achievement, and self-esteem,” MENC Conference, April 1998)
  • “Instrumental music students in middle and high school programs from schools in Georgia and Texas scored significantly higher than their non-band peers in standardized tests. The data collected also revealed that the longer these students participated in their music classes, the higher their test scores reported in math, science and language arts.” (University of Sarasota study, Jeffrey Kluball/East Texas State University study, Daryl Erick Trent)
  • “The nation’s top business executives agree that arts education programs can help repair weaknesses in American education and better prepare workers for the 21st century.” (The Changing Workplace is Changing Our View of Education, Business Week, 1996)

Additional interesting material includes the following:

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  • “In a 2000 survey, 73% of respondents agree that teens who play an instrument are less likely to have discipline problems.” (“Americans Love Making Music — and Value Music Education More Highly Than Ever,” AMC, 2000)
  • “The YouTube Effect: How YouTube Has Provided New Ways to Consume, Create and Share Music.” (Christopher Cayari, John Hill Magnet School, as reported in the International Journal of Education & the Arts, Vol. 12, No. 6, 2011)
  • “Music teachers can adapt lessons for various disabilities: physical, behavioral and cognitive …” (David Knapp, National Association for Music Education legislative memo entitled “Multicultural Music and Students and Students with Disabilities,” Oct. 28, 2011)

It is also helpful here to list some of the benefits of music education, especially if it is begun at an early age: coordination, dexterity, flexibility, listening skills, self-discipline, self-esteem, motivational development, creative thinking, abstract reasoning, aesthetic development, social skills, management of emotions and cooperative behavior.

Finally, to solidify and sum up reasons why we should choose this sure bet investment in our children’s music education as much as any other investment the stock markets can provide us, one of the most current and popular musical celebrities today, Josh Groban, has spoken out on the topic of music education.

He said his own life changed when he attended a school that viewed the arts as an important part of the curriculum: “The arts can become [the children’s] form of communication and it can become their outlet. It affects the way they live their lives. Encouraging them to take part in the arts gives children a sense of pride, a sense of self and can shape the future. It also gives them their first taste in self-expression and it can put them on a life path on how to live their lives.” (“I Have Seen Firsthand How It Can Change Lives,” Celeb Parents, Music, New in Pop Culture, Celeb News and Interviews, Moviefone, Sept. 28, 2010.)

Dr. Joan Spicknall is a Columbia resident and director of the Suzuki Music School of Maryland Inc. She can be reached at 410-964-1983 or director@suzukimusicschool.com.

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