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Open the Door to Better Opportunities

Jessica Fraser

John F. Hodge High School

Spring 2017


President Gerald Ford once said, Music education opens doors that help children pass from

school into the world around them a world of work, culture, intellectual activity, and human

involvement (as cited in Wise old sayings, n.d., para. 2). Now, many schools threaten to close

such doors in favor those very doors in favor of more core subject oriented programs. Many use

the cost of maintaining it as a primary reason to cut funding to a music program. While buying

and maintaining musical instruments can prove to be costly, the long term benefits for the

students may be viewed as outweighing the downfalls once schools look further into the skills

gained through music classes. Most research was found with the keywords benefits of music

education, music education statistics, negatives of music education, schools cutting

music, and life skills learned from music.


Open the Door to better Opportunities

Chapter One


President Gerald Ford once said, Music education opens doors that help children pass

from school into the world around them a world of work, culture, intellectual activity, and human

involvement (as cited in Wise old sayings, n.d., para. 2). Now, many schools threaten to close

such doors in favor those very doors in favor of more core subject oriented programs. Many use

the cost of maintaining it as a primary reason to cut funding to a music program. While buying

and maintaining musical instruments can prove to be costly, the long term benefits for the

students may be viewed as outweighing the downfalls once schools look further into the skills

gained through music classes. Chapter one consists of need for study, statement of problem,

purpose of study, definition of terms, and limitations of study.

Need for study

There is little evidence proving that music causes academic success. Music does however

help build an understanding towards the history of different cultures. Music has assisted in the

building and shaping of many cultures including that of America. Learning to understand music

and how it was developed can lead to a better understanding of humanity as a whole.

Statement of the Problem

Over thirty states have made cuts to music programs at every level (Ill fly away, n.d.,

para. 10). For most schools, those cuts were to make room for expansions in core subject classes;

classes that stress the individual performance while only occasionally glancing at group


Purpose of Study

Music programs can help to instill vital skills into students. Schools are depriving

students of the opportunity to understand the importance of such skills by cutting these

programs. Core classes are important, but it seems insolent to favor core classes over a class that

is just as important.

Definition of Terms

Academic success- Ability to achieve good grades

Tuition- Teaching or instruction. (Tuition)

Core classes- a series or selection of courses that all students are required to complete

before they can move on to the next level in their education. (Great Schools Partnership,


Limitations of Study

The primary limitation of research was only finding pieces of articles. The title may look

promising, but the linked article was not the completed document and did not have the

information that I was looking for. Another problem that arose was that the linked article

required a payment to view. Once in awhile there would be a link to an article that no longer

exists. Although this problem was more rare, it did create problems when tracing back citations

of another author.

Summary of Chapter One

Chapter one consisted of an introduction, need for study, statement of problem, purpose

of study, definition of terms, and limitations of study. Chapter two will consist of an

introduction, scope of study, opposition, support, rational solution, and a summary of chapter


Chapter Two


Chapter two will consist of an introduction, scope of study, opposition, support, rational

solution, and a summary of chapter two.

Scope of Study

The main focus of this paper will be the different acquired skills that many schools do not

usually associate with music education.


One major factor that falls against music programs is that of expense. As stated by John

McDaniel (n.d.),

Music programs not only cost a lot of money because of the required instruments, playing

space and various concerts, but they also require schools to hire extra music faculty and

instructors. These costs quickly add up, which is why cutting school music programs is

often one of the first solutions to school budget cuts. In addition to costing schools a lot

of money, music programs may cost students' parents a great deal of money, because they

must buy their students instruments, other supplies or lessons. (para. 2)

A smaller margin of people believe that music detracts from the rest of the students

classes. Mr. McDaniel (n.d.) went on to state that music students hold the potential to spend so

much time on rehearsals, trips, and performances that they will not have time left to do

homework and/or study.


While there might be a selection of students who do use their music based events as a

tool of procrastination, the argument still stands that there is a positive correlation between music

students and higher test scores.

Although most would focus on these two reasons as to why schools cut their music

programs, few simply say that music advocates are using the wrong evidence in defence of the



Most schools are more worried about test scores because that is what helps them earn

more money from the state, so most defending arguments are tailored to reflect the usually above

average test scores of music students. Peter Greene (2015) believes that test scores and other

similar factors belong at the bottom of the list of musical pros (para. 7). Fox News author

Jennifer Cerbasi (2012) stated that music education supporters advocate the importance of

exposing young children to a variety of instruments, choral arrangements, and styles of music to

enhance their educational experience and foster their academic, social, and emotional growth

(para. 3).

Higher Test Scores

The most obvious benefit that has been proven time and time again is that of test scores.

Several studies have taken interest with the positive correlation between music students and

higher test scores. The National Association for Music Education (2014) found that music

students scored up to 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in

music appreciation courses (para. 11).


The figure above demonstrates the score gap between music students and non music students.


A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and

music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that students in elementary schools

with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and

20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with

low-quality music programs. (Brown, n.d., para. 14)

Although, as stated by Dr. Jocelyn Prendergast of Truman State University,

We have to be very careful not to confuse correlation and causation. We CANNOT say

that participation in music makes us smarter or helps us earn better grades. We can say

that there are some positive relationships. For example, a recent study published in the

Journal of Neuroscience indicates a relationship (correlation) between ability to keep a

beat (what they call ability to process beat-based temporal regularities) and literacy

skills. (personal communication, 22 March 2017)


In conclusion, while there is a clear correlation between music students and having

greater academic success, it would be difficult if not impossible to prove that music alone caused

that academic success.

Mental Capabilities

When playing an instrument, a person exercises different mental capabilities. One of the

first abilities developed is that of cause/effect and reasoning. Extension (2015) elaborated, stating


[Children] can see that pressing a key makes a sound. Additionally, they learn to pay

attention to changes in sound, noting for example that certain keys sound deeper than

others. Exploring musical instruments also helps children learn how different instruments

work and the sounds they create. (para. 2)

The reasoning developed through the exploring of instruments, especially during the early years

of life, can also be used and built upon in other aspects of life. Sage Publications (2009) cites a

study found in the journal Psychology of Music, stating that children exposed to a multi-year

programme of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and

practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their

non-musically trained peers (para. 1).

Furthermore, music helps young children develop their imaginative thinking skills. As

explained by Katrina Pfitzner (2013), when children are learning a new piece of music, they will

imagine in their heads how the music will most likely sound. They create in their head ideas and

concepts for how they should perform, and the exposure to new sounds increases a flow of

imagination (para. 5). The use of imaginative skills developed through imagining how a piece

will sound often branches into other aspects of life, such as the predicting of an outcome.

Language Capabilities

In a study conducted by Manon Grube, Freya Cooper, and Timothy Griffiths of

Newcastle University (2013), it was confirmed that there is a link between musical rhythms and

rhythms associated with speech patterns. The study states that The data show a significant

relationship between phonological language and literacy skill and both the auditory cognitive

ability to analyze temporal, beat-based regularity and metrical patterns in young adults (p. 229).

It then went on to explain, The strongest correlation was observed between the metrical beat

and the poem, a special instance of the feeling of the (musical) beat leading us to synchronize

our movements with it (p. 229). The beat-based rhythm is also commonly associated with

sounding out a word or the syllables within a word. One syllable is commonly associated with

one beat.

On a more basic level, children can practice language skills through music, as explained

by the authors at Extension (2015).

Singing songs is a powerful way for young children to practice language. When children

sing, they practice pronouncing words and putting together sentences. Learning the lyrics

to songs is also an effective way to remember information. How many people first

learned the alphabet by singing the ABC song? Our brains remember language better

when it is set to music. (para. 3)

Setting information to a familiar beat or rhythm is a technique used by teachers of all age

groups. As young children students are taught the ABC song. In high school, students are taught

the quadratic formula to the rhythm of Pop goes the Weasel. Both serve as tools to assist in

remembering what may otherwise become monotonous and difficult to remember.

Motor Skills

A huge part of playing an instrument is hand-eye coordination and the ability of

associating a note on a page with a particular hand or finger position. Michael Matthews briefly

talks about this association in his article about benefits of playing a musical instrument.

Matthews (2011) says, The art of playing an instrument requires a lot of hand-eye

coordination. By reading musical notes on a page, your brain subconsciously must convert that

not into specific motor patterns while also adding breathing and rhythm to the mix (para. 7).

Extension (2015) also touched on the subject stating:

Songs with motions help children practice fine-motor coordination. Doing the finger

motions of a song like "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" or a finger play like "Five Little Monkeys

Jumping on the Bed" helps children practice their hand and finger control -- a skill

necessary for writing and handling small objects. Dancing to music also helps children

perfect their control of their arms and legs. Music and dance are fun and help children be

playful with each other and with their child care providers. (para. 4)

The fine motor skills developed through playing an instrument can also be used to help

the fine details of other skills. Throwing a baseball for instance, someone with the supplement of

motor refinement through musical means will have better control over their finger or hand

position on the ball when compared to that of an untrained counterpart. In addition, this skill can

also be spread into more practical skills, such as typing/writing, cooking, etc.


A majority of music programs revolve mostly around ensembles. Ensembles require a

degree of teamwork and collaborative productivity. One individual trumpet player can be the

best trumpet player in the country, but without the rest of the section, will not sound nearly as

well as they could with the other parts also being played. This would be an example of needing

to work well with others in order to make music (Matthews, 2011). Playing with the same

concept, if one part is not being played to the level that the other parts are being played, the

entire ensemble is inhibited. In order for the ensemble to function at its highest possible level of

performance, all parts must be played to the best of the players abilities. Part of the process is

listening for other parts and adjusting accordingly to produce the best sound possible. This

teaches children that their performance affects the entire group (Pfitzner, 2013).

The development of this skill in a musical setting will normally spill over into other

settings as well. Group projects in other classes or team oriented jobs such as fast food jobs are

the most obvious examples although there are many more.


Responsible, punctual, and respect among others are all traits commonly associated with

music students. The author(s) behind Ill Fly Away (n.d.) certainly think so stating that despite

being their own worst critics, music students tend to have elevated attitudes and exhibit better

behavior (para. 6). To contribute to the trend of better behavior, Ill Fly Away went on to state

that students who participate in school band or orchestra have the lowest levels of current and

lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs among any group in our society (para. 11).

As far as respect is concerned, students must look to their instrumental roles as a primary

source. It is important for a group of musicians to understand who has the melody,

countermelody, background, and time keeping pieces and be capable of adjusting their volumes

accordingly so that all of the parts are heard at the appropriate levels. Some may call this

respecting the individual parts.

Responsibility is taught through similar means to that of collaboration. When one part is

not being played to par with the rest of the band, that one part makes the entire band sound bad.

It is the individuals job to not be that one person that makes the band sound bad. In order to

accomplish that, individuals must practice and master their personal parts so that when brought

together in full rehearsal, the band can work on more tedious issues such as group tempo and

dynamics rather than individuals not being able to perform their parts.

Punctuality is also required of musicians. Like most people must go to work on time,

musicians must be at rehearsal on time in order for the rehearsal to be successful. If individuals

are late to rehearsal, they more than likely missed information or issues that were talked about

early in the rehearsal and forces the issue to be retaught.


If schools would focus more on the mental and real world benefits rather than purely the

academic, music programs may be more likely to be better kept and funded. Academics may

help students reach further in their schoolings, but that is only one aspect of the many to be

benefited from in the long run. There are also language benefits, refined motor skills, boosted

imaginative and other thought processes, well-developed collaborative abilities, as well as better

general behavior. All of which help not only in school settings, but in work related settings as

well. If it were these benefits that were focused on more, it may be more likely that music

programs could be better funded. Dr. Jocelyn Prendergast explains:

Music was first argued for inclusion in public education in the late 1800s based on the

argument that it provided an education for the mind, body, and soul. A more updated

version of the same argument contends that music is a unique subject because it has the

ability to address the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains simultaneously.

Most disciplines cannot make that same claim We should include music because it is in

every corner of the globe and is a uniquely human endeavor. It is clearly an important

part of what we do as human beings. That is why we should keep it in schools (personal

communication, 22 March 2017).


Chapter two contained an introduction, scope of study, opposition, support, rational

solution, and a summary of chapter two. Chapter three will contain a reflection.

Chapter Three


The journey that this paper has taken me on was a long one. That much is definite. I

learned that I was attempting to highlight all of the wrong things. I was looking at grades and

basic advantages when I should have been looking deeper to the cultural and historical

developments made through music. Those are the true benefits of music education. The

movements founded and/or fueled by music, and the genres developed as a result of a changing

society are the true benefits of music education. Music is an opportunity to see history through

someone elses eyes, an opportunity many students may miss if not provided the opportunity to

be a part of a music program.



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