Why should Music be a necessary part of a School

Written by Shankar Mahadevan Academy on 05 June 2014

“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. The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music.” — Gerald Ford, former President, United States of America

The necessity to include music education as a compulsory part of a school’s curriculum has long been a fiercely debated subject. While most school administrators are open to the idea of music being taught as an extra-curricular activity, there are very few who think of music as a necessary curricular subject. This is basically because school education has always been perceived as the study of the three R’s-Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, along with History and Science. But recent research in this area has proved that schools which include weekly music instrument lessons, choir rehearsals, voice training, or general music classes help their students reap a wide range benefits in different areas, from improving learning to building self-esteem. 
Read on to find out about the various reasons as to why schools should start implementing music education as a necessary part of their educational curriculum. 

Music improves learning :

It has long been noticed that children who study music do better at academics as well. A recent study from the University of California found that music helps develop brain function. Second graders who were given music lessons scored 27% higher on proportional math and fractions tests than those children who did not receive any musical instruction. Also, a 1998 study which was published in the science journal "Nature Neuroscience" reported that musical training enlarges the brain. In fact, the area of the brain related to analyzing pitches was 25 percent larger in musicians than non-musicians.
Susan Hallam, from the Institute of Education at the University of London, feels that music should be given equal importance to subjects like English or Mathematics. This is what she says on the importance of making music a part of school curriculum. "Music exerts a powerful impact on our lives and is as important for a well-rounded education as reading, writing and maths. Learning to play an instrument has demonstrable effects on intelligence and, when children play music together, it teaches them about cooperation and working together.”

Music encourages creativity and team work:

Including music activities on a regular basis during school time can also help encourage creativity and team work. Speaking to The National Commission on Music Education Los Angeles’ forum, parent Pat Abicare reported seeing “first-hand”, the immense ability of music to foster creativity in the lives of children. This is what she says: “Music and the other arts enable our students to build self-confidence through their ability to develop creativity and to find their freedom of expression.” Another parent Jackie Richmond, belonging to the Chicago Forum, says, “When my children were learning music in school, they had to learn other things; to sit still, to listen, to pay attention, to concentrate. With music you don’t learn just music; you learn many things.”
Music education also provides students with a wide variety of personal skills as critical thinking, problem-solving, and learning how to work cooperatively toward shared goals. Regular music classes bring about frequent requirements where children learn to subordinate individual performance to group goals, and this encourages them to imbibe the skills of cooperation and team work.

Music education adds to self-worth:

Researchers studying the benefits of music feel that music education can impart feelings of self-esteem and self-confidence, and provide a sense of achievement. Surveys by the Gemeinhardt Company, as communicated by the Children's Music Workshop, report that students who participate in music programs have improved levels of confidence than those who don’t. 
The report of The National Commission on Music Education (March 1991), stated how music education changed the lives of numerous students by improving their self-esteem. The example given was of the Sutro School in San Francisco, an inner-city school, which has a large percentage of students with disadvantaged backgrounds causing problems like absenteeism, a high drop-out rate, and lack of parental cooperation. The school decided to host an opera -”Paddington Bear”- with the music and the libretto both to be created and performed by the children. Julie Reinhoth, Principal, explains the changes brought about by the musical program. “I can hardly begin to tell you. The youngster playing Paddington Bear was typical of our student body. Many of them have low self-esteem, many are shy, many are belligerent. Out of this program, many things have turned around. Students who could not work together have developed admirable patterns of cooperative behavior, better study habits, and higher achievement, both in and out of the classroom. Their self-esteem has grown by leaps and bounds. Parents have reached out to the school in a very helpful way. I could go on and on.”

Music enriches a person for life:

Lastly, music enriches a person for life. By bringing music to the classrooms, schools are doing an important job by encouraging children to sing or play an instrument, thereby giving them a gift which will last for a lifetime. Students of music are better suited to face the world once they leave school. Here is what Jo Ann Hood, Music Teacher, Nashville Forum, has to say about the impact of music on children. “I have found, during my 18 years of teaching, that music students tend to score better on tests, have better communication skills, and are better disciplined students. They tend to be more prepared for the work force and are more readily hired by businesses. I have also seen several instances where music kept a student in school who would have otherwise dropped out.”
Learning music at a young age can also equip people with skills that will benefit them when they grow old. John Ratey, MD, in his book titled "The User's Guide to the Brain,” talks about how music benefits elders by helping the brain organize information and allow for self-expression. Even Albert Einstein, the renowned physicist who learnt to play the violin and piano in his childhood, continued to play and enjoy music till his very last days, commenting that he got most of his joy in life out of music.

Bringing music from the periphery to the center- in schools and in our lives:

With the importance of music and music education being firmly established, it is up to us to see that our children are exposed to learning music as part of their everyday curriculum. If your child’s school does not offer music lessons, a good option would be to try to incorporate a weekly music or singing lesson by a private tutor.
The Shankar Mahadevan Academy, based in Bangalore, India, provides quality Indian Classical lessons to children via their tie-up with schools and through online lessons. The Academy, founded by noted singer and music composer, Shankar Mahadevan, was established to provide world-class music education available to people online, in the comfort of their own personal spaces. Shankar Mahadevan very strongly believes that music is a heritage that should be passed on to the future generations. In a recent interview with Rekha Shah, he says, “Today, the best thing one can gift a talented family member, relative or friend is an opportunity to learn music. And since my music academy is online, it has the potential to really grow and take our music across borders and boundaries.”
The Academy works with schools, offering them option of hiring expert and devoted teachers from the Academy, who are trained to teach Indian Classical music to children of all ages. They also offer online singing classes, with specially designed OM (Online Music) books, that give your child the opportunity to learn Indian Classical/Devotional/Bollywood music in the comfort of your home. Learn more at www.shankarmahadevanacdemy.com 

Did you know that making music a part of the academic curriculum is clearly associated with the development of both academic skills and personalities of the students?