Justify Your Music Program
by Randy Royer
A Study of Evidence that Music Education is a Positive Factor in K-8 Student Academic Achievement, Fall 1987, California State University. Copied with permission from Wyoming MEA Journal (1991). Wyoming MEA web-site is http://www.uwyo.edu/a&s/musc/wmea.htm
Research–whoa, don’t turn the page–is important in music education. It is not the dusty, dry study of facts and statistics. Research decides what we teach, when we teach it, and how we teach. It can also help you justify your music education program when faced with budget cuts and program elimination. Research in music education is reported in numerous journals throughout the United States. Some of the more prominent journals include the Music Educators Journal, Journal of Research in Music Education, Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, and Update: Applications of Research in Music Education. Other regional journals are gaining a reputation like the Southeastern Journal of Music Education published by the University of Georgia. More limited publications are also being pursued by smaller universities and local organizations. An example is the development of a one-time publication by the Utah Music Education Association to report research done in music education in the state of Utah.
An excellent article on applying research findings is “Putting Research to Work in the Music Classroom” in the May 1991 Music Educators Journal by H. Eugene Karjala. The article describes the process of reporting research through publication, linking the research to the classroom through workshops and applying the findings to actual classroom situations. The author also lists several important sources of research reports.
If you or your music education program is faced with cuts because of declining revenues (a possibility even in Evanston!), an excellent article to help build your defense was recently published in the August 1991 Instrumentalist. Although the author defends program cuts on a purely economical basis, many school administrators propose cuts in music programs for exactly those reasons. “Defending Music Programs with Economic Analysis” by John Benham basically states that music teachers are cost efficient. They teach more students than classroom teachers, so if a school eliminates three music teachers, they must be replaced by a least four classroom teachers. In an effort to save money by dropping the music program, school administrators will actually spend more to replace it.
Research in music education also shows many correlations of the value of music education with learning other subject matter. A master’s thesis by Jeanne Akin, Music Makes a Difference, documents numerous studies that show the value of music education to learning the “core” curriculum. Highlights from a summary of Ms. Akin’s findings are as follows:
1. Arts education leads to cognitive and basic skills development (Medeja 1978) (Milley 1984).
2. Arts education increases interest in academic learning (Kaufman 1976).
3. High school music students have been shown to hold higher grade point averages (GPA) than non-musicians in the same school (Horne 1983).
4. The study of music produces the development of academic achievement skills (State of California 1986).
5. Learning to play a musical instrument helps students to develop faster physically, mentally, emotionally and socially (Mueller 1984).
6. There is a high relationship between high self-perception, high cognitive competence scores, general self-esteem and interest in school music (Lillemyre 1983).
7. Music lessons can lead to interest in academics (Olanoff & Kirschner 1969).
8. Music education improves student listening skills (Kohanski 1970).
9. Kindergarten basic skills achievement increases when music and other arts are added to the curriculum (Minicucci 1981).
10. Music and arts enriched curriculum can be a factor in raising IQ scores for second graders (Mathison 1977).
11. In reading for meaning, music students can out-achieve non-music students (Friedman 1959). 12. Children who have received school keyboard music lessons score higher in mathematics and history than students not in the program, although their IQ scores are no higher than the other students’ (ESEA 1969).
13. Receiving increased music instruction can lead to increased learning in mathematics (Malester 1986).
14. Brain research shows that music and arts activities develop the intellect (Sinatra 1986).
15. Research indicates that music instruction promotes academic achievement (Horne 1983).
16. There are many research studies that show a connection between music education and reinforcement for academic tasks (Madsen 1981).
17. Eye-hand coordination needed to learn to write can be developed by learning to play an instrument (Wishey 1980).
18. Disciplinary problems are reduced in school systems which have arts programs (Arts, Education and Americans 1980).
19. Personal expression is encouraged through performance in the arts (Oklahoma State Department of Education 1980).
20. Research indicates that reading music can improve reading language abilities in slow young learners (Tucker 1981).
Finally, a few more interesting tidbits of the value of music education as evidenced by research findings. Edward P. Asmus of the University of Utah, as quoted in MENC’s Soundpost and other sources, has documented a direct correlation between the number of music teachers per 100 students and SAT and ACT scores. The greater the music teacher/pupil ratio directly corresponds to higher scores on nationally standardized academic achievement tests. This relationship is even stronger the overall teacher/pupil ratio. This suggests that music education plays a powerful role in the overall educational process.
An article in the July 1990 Instrumentalist states that music majors have the highest rate of admittance to medical school, higher than any other subject area including biochemistry, chemistry and physics. The article quotes facts and figures from a Rockefeller Foundation study and concludes by suggesting that students eager to be admitted to medical school should be music majors. (We knew this all along, right?)