Is Music the Answer to Better Grades in School?

English, math and science scores are higher in students who take music classes, a new study demonstrates
Fabienne Lang

Don't ditch that place in the orchestra or jazz band if you're in high school - it will help you achieve higher test scores!

A new study, recently published by the American Psychological Association, has demonstrated how students who play music, perform better in English, math and science exams than their non-musical peers. 

According to the lead author of the study, Peter Gouzouasis of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada; many public schools in North America are ditching their music and art courses to focus funds on the scientific and "educational" courses - such as math, English and the sciences.


Schools believe that by removing what they deem as "unnecessary" courses, such as music, students will have more time to focus on the "more important" classes.

What the study has proven, though, is quite the opposite. 

Music as a discipline to improve focus

"It is believed that students who spend school time in music classes, rather than further developing their skills in math, science and English classes, will underperform in those disciplines. Our research suggests that, in fact, the more they study music, the better they do in those subjects," said Gouzouasis

How did the researchers prove this?

The study examined over 112,000 students' school records who had completed at least one exam in math, science or English, and took into account their appropriate demographic information (gender, ethnicity, neighborhood socioeconomic status). 

Thirteen percent of the observed students had taken part in at least one music course in grade 10, 11 or 12. Music courses such as orchestra, jazz band, conservatory piano, or concert choir are what counts. 

The team did not include guitar or general music classes, as these don't require previous musical knowledge or practice. 

What the team discovered, according to Gouzouasis was "students who participated in music, who had higher achievement in music, and who were highly engaged in music had higher exam scores across all subjects, while these associations were more pronounced for those who took instrumental music rather than vocal music."

How does playing music develop stronger learning skills?

Gouzouasis believes that some skills learned while playing music in a band can be transferred broadly to other subjects in school. 

"A student has to learn to read music notation, develop hand-eye-mind coordination, develop keen listening skills, develop team skills for playing in an ensemble and develop discipline to practice," he said.

All these skills combined certainly leads to higher self-efficacy and focus. 

What the researchers hope to achieve through their findings is a change in the school systems across North America - so they do not entirely remove or keep underfunding music and art courses.

If this study is not enough to prove how valuable taking part in musical courses is for improving scores and for education in general, then we're not sure what is.

Time to tune that violin!

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