RIVERSIDE COUNTY – Music’s efficacy as a teaching tool has long been studied. Though some still doubt if music has any effect on student performance, a strong body of evidence suggests otherwise.
Studies into the effects of music on learning are nothing new. Such studies have been conducted for decades, gaining popularity during the 1950s when research was done on something called the “Mozart Effect.”
The Mozart Effect theorizes that listening to Mozart can temporarily improve performance and may even boost a person’s IQ. In response, many parents started playing Mozart and other classical music in their homes. By the late 1990s, Baby Einstein, a company that offers a wide range of developmental and entertainment products for babies and toddlers, released a series of CDs and videos that prominently featured classical music amid visual learning sequences for young children. “Baby Mozart,” “Baby Bach” and “Baby Beethoven” were just a few of the videos capitalizing on the evidence that children learn more when exposed to classical music.
Ongoing research continues to support the theory that music education can help children on many levels. In Canada, a research group from McMaster University conducted their own study into music education. That study, which was published in the journal Brain in 2006, examined two groups of children, ages 4 to 6. Each were taught the same lessons, but one group was also given musical instruction. The study found that the group of children who received musical instruction scored much better than their peers in literacy, mathematics, IQ, and memory skills.
Long Island University researchers Joseph Piro and Camilo Ortiz found that children exposed to a multi-year program of music instruction, involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills, displayed superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared to their peers who did not receive musical training. The authors concluded that, “because neural response to music is a widely distributed system within the brain, it would not be unreasonable to expect that some processing networks for music and language behaviors, namely reading, located in both hemispheres of the brain would overlap.”
Music education is not just for the average student. Other research shows it may be beneficial to children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. A study completed at Stanford University showed that mastering a musical instrument improves the ability to process parts of the spoken language. The researchers believe that additional research might develop a way to use the knowledge obtained in the study to increase language development for individuals with dyslexia or cognitive disorders.
In many schools, music education is being drastically reduced or eliminated. Parents may want to look outside the classroom for music instruction or play more music at home.