Click to visit the Palen Music Center website

Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, March 15, 2010


The PMC Quick Note is a service provided to all area directors. It is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest. The Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues!

96% of respondents to a U.S. Gallup Poll believe participation in a school band is a good way for children to develop teamwork skills.

-- Gallup Poll, “American Attitudes Toward Music,” 2003

Does music improve student achievement, or do smart kids like to play music? by Matt Frederickson

Plato once said that music "is a more potent instrument than any other for education." And scientific research shows that instrumental musical studies can promote greater high-order thinking and enhance a child's ability to reason.

I am well aware that many of those in the arts hold that the rationale for including the arts in education should be based only on values intrinsic to the arts. In contrast, there are those who argue that if music and the other arts also promote cognitive development, such findings should also be used to justify arts education. I am among the latter group. Often, as a form of advocacy, we fall dangerously into holding up spurious correlations to support our programs. Yes, it is true that those who take instrumental music offerings tend to score well on standardized tests. But does participation in an instrumental music class during the elementary years promote higher student achievement in other academic areas?

The ongoing debate boils down to a question of correlation versus causality. Does music improve student achievement, or do smart kids like to play music? This question can be seen as a rather esoteric morsel to nibble on at our leisure, unless we are using the possibly false claim that music makes kids smarter to advocate public funding for music in the schools. This question becomes relevant and urgent, because the answer argues for the inclusion of music in the life of a child.

Learning to play a musical instrument may indeed give youngsters an intellectual edge over their peers, new studies suggest. Parents and educators alike are coming to recognize that, far from being an expendable frill, instrumental music study is an essential component to children's lives and that introducing music early on is important to the development of a well-rounded child. Before we allow administrators to consider stripping for instance, an elementary string program from our regularly scheduled day to save money, it is my hope that we consider what costs in student achievement may be associated with a decision like this.

In the following article, I will attempt to address how instrumental music instruction introduced early in a child‟s schooling can have positive effects on IQ, cognition, and student achievement in the regular classroom.

How does research show that music instruction affects IQ?
Six-year-olds who took weekly instrumental music lessons throughout the school year exhibited an average IQ increase of 7.0 points, says psychologist E. Glenn Schellenberg of the University of Toronto at Mississauga reporting in the August 2003 Psychological Science. The statistically significant IQ advantage for music students became apparent from standardized intelligence tests administered at the start and end of first grade. The apparent benefit of the musical training showed up on the test's verbal and nonverbal sections (Schellenberg, 2003).

For his study, Schellenberg tracked 132 first graders, who were randomly assigned to one of the four groups. Teachers at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music provided the free instrumental lessons. The children's scores on a standard academic achievement test further reflected a musically inspired advantage.

"Music lessons involve experiences that could have a positive effect on cognition, particularly during childhood, when brain development is . . . sensitive to environmental influence," Schellenberg says. For instance, musical training requires kids to pay attention for long periods, to read notation, to memorize extended passages, and to master fine-motor skills.

What does research say about how music instruction affects cognition and spatial abilities?
Research suggests that brains are specialized and that each of music's building blocks is processed by a different part of the brain. Our unified experience may be based on the simultaneous activation, by different stimulus, of dimensions of various functional modules in our brains, "informed" by prior learning and more-or-less automatic readout from previously stored information. Musical training affects the abstract cognitive skill of mentally rotating objects, a means of assessing spatial abilities (Frances, H. Rauscher, 1998). In this study, preschool children received keyboard lessons, and a matched control group received computer lessons. All children were tested using subtests of a standard intelligence test, one of which was a spatial task. The music group was superior to the control group on the test of spatial abilities.

What is the correlation between logic and music?
This question is difficult to answer specifically: Music instruction increases perception and critical thinking skills, and perception and critical thinking skills correspond with logical skills. Long after the formulas learned in a music theory class, for example are forgotten, a person may use the ability for logical thinking that was developed in the class to solve problems quite unrelated to music. This music student may use the discipline cultivated in a music performance class or creativity cultivated in a music composition exercise to solve problems quite unrelated to music. Additionally, this same student may retain a lasting appreciation of the aesthetic qualities manifest in music forever.

Eye-hand coordination and motor skills developed by playing a musical instrument transfer to writing skills (Mickela, 1990). Music develops and improves spatial intelligence, which transfers to high-level math and science (Rauscher et al., 1994) developing perceptual skills necessary in many academic areas (Dryden, 1992). Rhythm of music transfers to the rhythm of reading. The learning and performance of rhythm develop eye-hand coordination necessary in other academic areas. Auditory discrimination developed by instrumental study helps develop phonetic skills. Memory training, listening, recall, and concentration are all skills developed in music study that transfer to academic areas (Mickela, 1990).

In a study by Robitaille and O'Neal (1981), 5,154 fifth graders took the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) in Albuquerque, N.M., in 1979. In 1980, another 5,299 fifth graders were tested. Of these groups, nearly one-fourth of all participants were enrolled in the instrumental music program during both years. In all areas, music students scored higher on the CTBS than the total group. The research showed that the longer pupils were in the music program, the higher their achievement was in comparison to the non-music students. This study was replicated in 1986 and similar results were found. In 1992, a group of 270 fifth graders were selected from a Kansas school district to determine the effect of instrumental music instruction on academic achievement. The Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS) subtests of reading and math were used. The study indicated that time out of regular classes for instrumental music instruction does not negatively affect academic achievement (Dryden, 1992, p. 65).

Relationship between learning and reading
Music instruction develops the perceptual skills necessary in reading. Studying a musical instrument develops auditory discrimination that positively influences the development of phonetic skills. Music study also improves the development of reading readiness skills in slow learners (Dryden, 1992).

Relationship between music and math skills
Music instruction increases achievement in mathematical skills (Milley et al., 1983). Studying music enables students to learn multiplication tables and math formulas more easily (Mickela, 1990). The ability to solve problems necessary in some branches of mathematics is facilitated by experience in music study. Musical instruction techniques that have been used for teaching mathematics have met with great success (Dryden, 1992).

Significant improvements have been obtained in a rare (perhaps unique) study on the effects of a combined music and visual arts curriculum. First-graders improved in math whether they started out with below-average, average, or above-average kindergarten scores. The findings not only reveal the beneficial effects of arts education but also show that an arts curriculum has effects that generalize across all achievement levels, so the arts can be both effective in remediation and in advancing average or better students above grade level. Additionally, the effects extended to the second grade, and the math learning advantage was positively correlated with the number of years of education with the arts curriculum (Gardiner, Martin F, 1996).

Often, we have found that the inclusion of core materials within the arts classroom can improve student achievement on standardized tests. Math and reading scores improved substantially for first graders at Powderhorn (Minneapolis) Community School in a year-long study of the impact of Kodaly music instruction on student learning (Teaching Music, 1999). A control group of students received the school's usual fifty-five minutes per week of Kodaly music instruction from a music teacher without the classroom teacher present; the three test classes received an additional thirty minutes per week of Kodaly music instruction from the music teacher with their classroom teacher present. In the test classes, the classroom teacher then applied skills from the music classes to math and reading concepts, while the music teacher in turn reinforced concepts from the students' other classes.

Scores on the Metropolitan Achievement Test in math rose most significantly for those students with the extra music instruction: tested at mid-year, 25 percent of the students scored at or above the national average; when students were tested at the end of the year, the number rose to 50 percent for those students receiving extra music instruction compared to 42 percent for the control group. Reading scores showed similar results: while fewer than 15 percent of the students scored at grade level or above when tested at mid-year, at years end the number had increased to 32 percent for students with additional music training compared to only 24 percent of all students.

Until they were written into law as a core subject with Goals 2000: Educate America Act and the emphasis on 21st Century Skills and Themes, the arts in the United States have long been regarded as an extracurricular luxury. Elliot Eisner states:
If the arts are regarded as non-intellectual or as essentially emotive in character, they will be considered merely a kind of diversion from the hard subjects, having only the potential for cultivating avocational interests" (1985, p. 74).
For this reason, the arts frequently take a back seat to other programs. In Missouri, the state minimum is 50 minutes of art, music and physical education per week.

According to Eisner: “When a nation is at risk, when from virtually all sides we hear of the vast number of functional illiterates leaving our schools, when remedial courses are oversubscribed at even our most selective colleges, the thought of making the case for so seemingly marginal a subject as art and music in our schools is especially daunting. How can we recommend that the school's most precious resource, time, be directed from what is truly basic in education to the luxury of studying the arts? How can one propose that teachers divert their attention from the skills that are fundamental to economic well-being, to an area of study that "properly" comes after the basic educational needs have been met? How can one propose a broad course of study when the schools have, apparently, been failing at their more narrowly defined tasks?" (Eisner, 1985).

Instrumental music education can make a positive contribution to students' aptitude and learning success. Research has shown that music instruction enhances student achievement in areas outside music. As educators, we are scientists, and I feel that if we consult the overwhelming data, and not rely on SPURIOUS CORRELATIONS to justify our practice, will be free from the frequent attacks our programs seem to have to thwart.

Matt Frederickson, PhD
Fine Arts Coordinator
Rockwood School District

American Association for the Advancement of Science. Science for All Americans: A Project 2061 Report on Literacy Goals in Science, Mathematics and Technology. (1989) Washington, D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Eisner, Elliot W. (1985) Cognition and Curriculum: A Basis for Deciding What To Teach." In Beyond Creating: The Place for Art in America's Schools, edited by William F. Kieschnick. Los Angeles, Calif.: The Getty Center for Education in the Arts.

Frances, H. Rauscher et al., (1997) "Music Training Causes Long-Term Enhancement of Preschool Children's Spatial-Temporal Reasoning," Neurological Research 19: 2-8.

Gardner, Martin F. et al., (1996) "Learning Improved by Arts Training," Nature , 381-384.

Mickela, T. (1990) Does Music Have an Impact on the Development of Students? Paper presented at the California Music Educators State Convention, 1990.

Milley, J.; Buchen, I.; Oderlund, A.; and Mortarotti, J. (1983) The Arts: An Essential Ingredient in Education. Position paper of the California Council of Fine Arts Deans (Available from the School of Fine Arts, California State University, Long Beach.)

Rauscher, F.; Shaw, G.; Levine, L.; Ky, K.; and Wright, E. (1994) Music and Spatial Task Performance: A Causal Relationship. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Los Angeles, Calif.

Robitaille, J., and O'Neal, S. (1981) "Why Instrumental Music in Elementary Schools?" Phi Delta Kappan 3 (213)

Schellenberg, E.G. (2003). Does exposure to music have beneficial sideeffects? In I. Peretz & R.J. Zatorre (Eds.), The cognitive neuroscience of music (pp. 430–448). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Scores Improve with Increase of Music Instruction. (1999) Teaching Music, Vol. 6 Issue 4, p27, 1p

Special Report: Educational Vital Signs, (1998) American School Board Journal, December.

U.S. Department of Education. U.S. Study of Education in Japan.(1987) Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Anvari, S.H., Trainor, L.J., Woodside, J., & Levy, B.A. (2002). Relations among musical skills, phonological processing and early reading ability in preschool children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 83, 111–130.

Aristotle. The Politics, Lord ed. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1959. Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.

Chabris, C.F. (1999). Prelude or requiem for the „„Mozart Effect‟‟? Nature, 400, 826–827.

Cheek, J.M., & Smith, L.R. (1999). Music training and mathematics achievement. Adolescence, 34, 759–761.

Costa-Giomi, E. (1999). The effects of three years of piano instruction on children‟s cognitive development. Journal of Research in Music Education,
47, 198–212.

The Dialogues of Plato; The Republic III. Edited by M. J. Adler, translated by B. Jowett. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 7, 1952, p. 333.

Gardner, M.F., Fox, A., Knowles, F., & Jeffrey, D. (1996). Learning improved by arts training. Nature, 381, 284.

Gillespie, R.(1992) "The Elementary Pull-Out Crisis: Using Research Effectively." American String Teachers' Journal, Spring.

Hetland, L. (2000a). Learning to make music enhances spatial reasoning. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 34(3–4), 179–238.

Ho, Y.-C., Cheung, M.-C., & Chan, A.S. (2003). Music training improves verbal but not visual memory: Cross-sectional and longitudinal explorations in children. Neuropsychology, 17, 439–450.

Hurwitz, I.,Wolff, P.H., Bortnick, B.D., & Kokas, K. (1975). Nonmusical effects of the Koda´ly music curriculum in primary grade children. Journal of
Learning Disabilities, 8, 167–174.

Huttenlocher, P.R. (2002). Neural plasticity: The effects of environment on the development of the cerebral cortex. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lamb, S.J., & Gregory, A.H. (1993). The relationship between music and reading in beginning readers. Educational Psychology, 13, 19–27.

Nantais, K.M., & Schellenberg, E.G. (1999). The Mozart effect: An artifact of preference. Psychological Science, 10, 370–373.

Oddleifson, E. (1990) "Music Education as a Gateway to Improved Academic Performance in Reading, Math, and Science." Washington, D.C.: Center for Arts in the Basic Curriculum.

Orsmond, G.I., & Miller, L.K. (1999). Cognitive, musical and environmental correlates of early music instruction. Psychology of Music, 27, 18–37.

National Commission on Excellence in Education. (1983) A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Rauscher, F.H. (2002). Mozart and the mind: Factual and fictional effects of musical enrichment. In J. Aronson (Ed.), Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors on education. 267–278. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Rauscher, F.H., Shaw, G.L., & Ky, K.N. (1993). Music and spatial task performance. Nature, 365, 611.

Steele, K.M., Bass, K.E., & Crook, M.D. (1999). The mystery of the Mozart effect: Failure to replicate. Psychological Science, 10, 366–369.

Thompson, W.F., Schellenberg, E.G., & Husain, G. (2004). Perceiving prosody in speech: Do music lessons help? Emotion, 4, 46–64.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Phil Myers, and Paul Bowen (417) 882-7000
Columbia Robert Pitts and Jake Herzog (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp and Dick Murdock (816) 792-8301
Joplin Wayne Blades, Scott Frederickson, and Chelsea Samuel (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Mark VanVranken and Tiffany Dempsey (918) 770-6827


If you would like to submit material, make corrections, give comments, or wish to be removed from this mailing list, please contact Eric Matzat.  

Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook