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CARLSBAD, Calif. - According to a new nationwide survey conducted by the Gallup Organization, more than nine in ten Americans believe music education should be a part of every student's day. In fact, more than three-quarters of the people questioned feel that states should mandate it.

 

 

 "American Attitudes Toward Music," conducted for NAMM &emdash; International Music Products Association, also found that active music making takes place in half the homes in America. Music participation and support for school music education are both significantly stronger than in an identical poll conducted in 1997. Another significant finding is the sharp increase in the number of people who believe music education helps students succeed in other academic areas. "The results of this national survey leave no doubt that Americans feel strongly about music," says NAMM President and CEO Larry Linkin. "It's especially dramatic to see the growing clamor for music education in our schools.

Attitudes

Among more than 1,500 people surveyed, 95 percent stated that they feel music is part of a wellrounded education (up from 90 percent in 1997), 93 percent feel schools should offer musical instruction as part of the regular curriculum (up from 88 percent), and 78 percent (up from 70 percent) feel states should mandate music education for all students.

Among respondents who said they currently play a musical instrument, 92 percent feel that music is a very important part of their lives, 92 percent said that music brings the family together and 92 percent said learning to play an instrument was something they were always glad they'd learned. Even among non-players, only 31 percent said they feel they're too old to start learning.

Recent scientific findings about the broad benefits of music education have had an effect on people's attitudes. Eighty-one percent of respondents said they feel participating in school music corresponds with better grades and test scores, up sharply from 69 percent in 1997. Seventy five percent said they believe learning a musical instrument helps students do better in other subjects such as math and science, and 73 percent said they believe teens who play an instrument are less likely to have discipline problems.

The 1997 study took place just as the new wave of music research was beginning to build. Since then, scientists in a variety of disciplines have published findings that reinforce the value of music education &emdash; not only for its own sake, but as a key to intellectual development, physical wellness, and improved academic grades across the curriculum.

For example, researchers at Michigan State University, led by Dr. Frederick Tims, have found that making music improves the health of the elderly. At a Miami Veterans Administration hospital, Tims also found that group music therapy raised the levels of important neural hormones in Alzheimer's disease patients. A study from the University of California at Irvine led by Dr. Gordon Shaw found that elementary school students at the 95th Street School in Los Angeles who took piano lessons boosted their math performance. In fact, the same researchers who conducted the 95th Street study have also found that the neural firing patterns at the most basic level of brain activity seem to resemble the patterns in music.

Participation

The survey found that 50 percent of households have one person age five or older who currently plays a musical instrument, up from 38 percent in 1997. Forty percent of households have two or more persons who play a musical instrument, up from 34 percent in 1997. In all, 53 percent of households own a musical instrument, up from 43 percent.

Participation in various musical activities is up as well from three years ago: private lessons (from 18 to 21 percent of households that report at least one person participating), school instrumental programs (from 23 to 29 percent) and other types of instrumental music programs (from 7 to 11 percent) are all more popular than before.

Survey methodology

The survey consisted of 1504 telephone interviews with participants aged 12 or older from February 5 through 28, 2000. By gender, respondents were 57 percent female and 43 percent male; 21 percent were students; 62 percent were over age 35, with 29 percent aged 18-34 and 9 percent aged 12-17. College graduates made up 64 percent of the people surveyed. Fifty-five percent of respondents reported a household income of less than $45,000.

"Across this country, families, voters and school boards are facing tough choices," says Linkin. "For some time, researchers have made the case that music has a place in every person's life. Now, we know the people of America feel the same way. We'll work hard to translate these sentiments into concrete change."

From the American Music Conference

 



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