Music and the Mind

Obviously, with a name like “Science Cheerleader” I spend a lot of time advocating (good) science, in addition to technology, engineering and math (but “STEM Cheerleader” just doesn’t sound as cool).

I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize the importance of other life-enriching subjects including, but limited to, music, art, dance, writing, religion, philosophy, history…

In this spirit, I present you with a wonderful article written by my very talented sister-in-law, Debbie Cavalier, a Dean at Berklee College of Music. To her thousands of adoring little fans, she’s just Debbie from the musical group Debbie and Friends. Not surprisingly, this article focuses on the importance of music.

DO WE REALLY NEED A REASON? by Debbie Cavalier

John J. Mahlmann, executive director of the National Association for Music Education, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying he is tired of having to defend the importance of music education. He often finds it necessary to rattle off statistics about how music improves the lives of people who study it. The sheer joy of playing and understanding music isn’t enough, he said.
So he has an unorthodox response to educators: “Why is math so high on the priority list?”

His answer: “Because we can test for it.”

The thing people forget, he said, is that musicians are assessed every time they play an instrument. “If you went to a concert and they only played 80 percent of the notes correctly, you wouldn’t like it,” he said. “Musicians strive for perfection. Lots of people don’t mind 80 percent on a math quiz.”

Here are some more “reasons” why music education matters, as collected and presented by Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post.

1. Schools with music programs have graduation rates of 90.2 percent, as compared with a 72.9 percent rate for schools without music education, according to a 2006 Harris Interactive poll of high school principals funded by the National Association for Music Education and International Music Products Association (NAMM). The poll also found that schools with music programs have attendance rates of 93.3 percent, compared with 84.9 percent for those that don’t.

2. In 2006, SAT takers with course work or experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the college entrance exam and 43 points higher on the math portion than did students with no such experience in the arts. Scores of those with course work in music appreciation were 62 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math, according to the College Board’s 2006 Profile of College-Bound Seniors National Report.

3. A November 2007 Harris poll found that 86 percent of college graduates had some music education when they were in school, compared with 65 percent for those who had not completed or completed only high school. Eighty-three percent of people earning $150,000 or more had a music education, the poll found.

Dr. Elliot W. Eisner of Stanford University reports the arts have cognitive effects, aiding in the preparation for entry into the workforce of the 21st century. Specifically, he cites the following key competencies as being developed through arts education: perception of relationships, skills in finding multiple solutions to problems; attention to nuance; adaptability; decision making skills; and visualization of goals and outcomes.For more “reasons,” there are many helpful resources such as musicforall.org, amc-music.com/ and schoolmusicmatters.com.

To me, the sheer joy of music making, for people from 0 to 100+, is reason enough!

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  • Einar Coutin

    Here’s an idea. Go to PBS.com and research the Documentary with Bobby McFerrin about music. That will help you support this idea even better.

  • Einar Coutin

    Here’s an idea. Go to PBS.com and research the Documentary with Bobby McFerrin about music. That will help you support this idea even better.