+ Play Music and Increase Brain Power? The Arts in School

other topics: click a “category” or use search box

Harvard researchers followed 41 children who practiced either a  stringed instrument or the piano for at least three years, and compared them to 18 kids who only took a general music class in school.

According to a story by Lois Thome at WINK news, they found that those kids who practiced an instrument scored better on certain tests that measured visual and verbal acuity.

Liken this  to cross-training in sports: by working different parts of your brain actively, you might improve functioning in many different areas.

In addition, the study found that the longer and more intensively that children trained with their instrument, the better they did on tests.

Since memorizing is a skill (according to most experts), it can be improved with practice.  Music may be one way of getting that practice.

Of course, further study is needed in order to prove conclusively that there is a connection.  But these kids did improve their scores.

Some research done at the Chinese University of Hong Kong indicates that studying music can improve a child’s memory and boost his or her academic ability. 

After administering verbal recall and visual memory tests to kids who were members of the school orchestra and those who were not, they found that those who had musical training recalled significantly more information.  And in a follow-up study one year later, those who had discontinued their music could not keep up with those who had. 

New evidence suggests that studying the arts in school may help strengthen children’s academic and social skills.  A comprehensive report, titled “Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development,” finds that arts education is particularly beneficial for the very young, the economically disadvantaged and those who struggle academically.

This research from the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) reviewed 62 studies of how dance, music, drama, visual arts and other arts education affected student achievement. 

It found that strong arts programs are linked to improving communication and critical-thinking skills, school climate and student motivation for learning.


  • Reading and Language Development:  Certain forms of arts instruction enhance and complement the basic reading instruction that is directed toward breaking the phonetic code.  It unlocks written language by associating letter, words and phrases with sounds, sentences and meanings.  Also benefiting are comprehension, as well as speaking and writing skills.
  • Mathematics:  Certain music instruction develops spatial reasoning and spatial-temporal reasoning skills, which are fundamental to understanding and using mathematical ideas and concepts.
  • Thinking Skills:  Learning various art forms, and having varied experiences with art, engages and strengthens such fundamental cognitive capacities as spatial reasoning, conditional reasoning, problem-solving and creative thinking.
  • Motivation:  The arts nurture active engagement, disciplined and sustained attention, persistence and risk taking.  It can also increase attendance and — often — educational aspiration.
  • Social Skills:  Certain studies have shown growth in self-confidence, self-control, self-identity, conflict resolution, collaboration, empathy and social tolerance.
  • School Environments:  Studies have shown that arts education helps create the kind of learning environment conducive to success, not only for students, but also for teachers.  Teacher innovation, a positive professional culture, community engagement, increased student attendance and retention, effective instructional practice and positive school identity — all these have been found where the arts flourish.

source: Lois Thome’s article in WINK News online on 12/15/08.  www.winknews.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


Comments are closed.