Research Shows…

There is much historical evidence of the wide range of benefits to children’s cognitive and social development through the study of an instrument. Recent increases in knowledge of how that benefit takes place in the life of a child have been discovered in a variety of studies in America and abroad. These areas of benefit include academics, self-concept, mental reasoning and vocational preparation. Regardless of their future with an instrument, the positive effects of the musical training they receive as children will stay with them and carry into many other areas of their lives.

Listed below are encapsulated quotes from some of the many studies that show positive results in children’s learning and development from involvement in music and the study of musical instruments.

Many thanks to Music Educators National Conference for their contributions.

Music and…


“Students with coursework/experience in music performance scored higher on the SAT: 51 points higher on the verbal and 39 points higher on the math for music performance than students with no arts participation. Students with four or more years of arts study scored 59 points higher on the verbal and 44 points higher on the math portions than students with no experience in the arts.”


1995 College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers, The College Entrance Examination Board, Princeton, NJ. (Courtesy of MENC)


One study of the effects of the Yamaha program in the Downey, California school district showed, for example, that the reading level of first-grade students with a single year of music was nearly one grade higher than their peers; those with two years of music scored at almost a third grade level; and some students scored as high as fourth-and fifth-grade levels.


From the testimony of John Waltrip, President of Waltrip Music Centers of Arcadia, California, at the Commission’s Los Angeles Forum, Sept. 18, 1990. (Courtesy of MENC)


The inclusion of music and the arts in this reading program resulted in a dramatic rise in reading test scores.


1980: New York City Board of Education. Learning to read through the arts: Title I children’s program, P.S. 9. Brooklyn, NY: Division of Curriculum and Instruction. (Courtesy of MENC)


Fifth grade students who participated in instrumental music scored significantly higher in the areas of reading and language on the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills than those who did not participate in music.


1981: Robitaille, S. O’Neil. “Why instrumental music in the elementary schools?” Phi Delta Kappa, Vol. 63. (Courtesy of MENC)


Students who participated in arts programs in selected elementary and middle schools in New York City showed significant increases in self-esteem and thinking skills.


National Arts Education Research Center, New York University, 1990. (Courtesy of MENC)


The St. Augustine Bronx elementary school was on the verge of failure in 1984. It then implemented an intensive music program; now 90% of its students are reading at or above grade level.


Dee Dickinson: Music and the Mind; New Horizons of Learning. (Courtesy of MENC)


The Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities has found a connection between students having musical competence and high motivation in that they were more likely to achieve success in school. They concluded that there is a high correlation between positive self-perception, high cognitive competence scores, self-esteem and interest and involvement in school music.


Lillemyr, 1983.

Mental Reasoning

A University of California (Irvine) study showed that after eight months of keyboard lessons, preschoolers showed a 46% boost in their spatial reasoning IQ.


Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, KY, and Wright, “Music and Spatial Task Performance: a Causal Relationship,” University of California, Irvine, 1994. (Courtesy of MENC)


Learning to read music enhances the student’s ability to perform the skills necessary for reading, listening, anticipating, forecasting, memory training, recall skills, concentration techniques and speed reading.


Winston, E.W. (1982, Dec.). 3R’s and an M, Music Educators Journal, p. 40. (Courtesy of MENC)


Dr. Jean Houston of the Foundation for Mind Research says that children without access to an arts program are actually damaging their brain. They are not being exposed to non-verbal tools that can assist them in reading, writing and math.


Roehmann, Franz L. & Wilson, Frank R. (1988). The Biology of Music Making Proceedings of the 1984 Denver Conference. St. Louis: MMB Music Inc. (Courtesy of MENC)


In a study of the ability of fourteen year-old science students in 17 countries, the top three were Hungary, the Netherlands, and Japan. All three include music as a primary component of their curriculums from kindergarten through high school.


Dee Dickinson: Music and the Mind; New Horizons of Learning. (Courtesy of MENC)

Vocational Preparation

“GE hires a lot of engineers. We want young people who can do more than add up a string of numbers and write a coherent sentence. They must be able to solve problems, communicate ideas and be sensitive to the world around them. Participation in the arts is one of the best ways to develop these abilities.”

Clifford V. Smith, President of the General Electric Foundation


“Arts education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate; the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence.”

Joseph M. Calahan, Director of Corporate Communications for the Xerox Corporation


“Those at home with the nuances and ambiguities of art forms are far more likely to persist in the quest to resolve ambiguity in the practical world.”

Arco President and CEO William F. Kieschnick


“It seems that musical aptitude is one of the strongest predictors of success in a technical position. The highest scores on the admissions test and best performers have been people with a background in music . . . There seems to be a high correlation between musical ability and reasoning skills.”


Terry Skwarek, director of the Institute for Professional Development in the School of Computer Science, Telecommunications and Information Systems at DePaul University in Chicago. “Why musicians may make the best tech workers,” Kathleen Melymuka, CNN Internet, 7/31/98.