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Achieving More Through Music

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Schools across the country are affected by the bad economy and are cutting back where it is most important. Districts’ number one cutbacks are music and art programs—one example is when Mountain Shadows Elementary School had huge cutbacks on all its art programs. But are they cutting back the one subject that helps children learn in every subject? The answer is yes. Schools have been taking away the one thing that helps children learn, deal with their emotions in a positive manner, and develop coordination.


Two Rhode Island schools went through a two-year research experiment to prove that music really does make a difference. This study was led by Martin Gardiner and the Start with the Arts program. Martin Gardiner was an extremely successful writer who has written more than seventy published books, mostly about recreational math. The Start with the Arts program is a resource from VSA that allows parents and teachers to teach children with and without disabilities through the art programs such as music. “Start with the Arts capitalizes on the inherently motivating nature of the arts to engage young children in exploring, creating meaning, and expressing their ideas about topics under study.” Gardiner started the study with two different schools with similar demographics of children. The study showed that students’ grades had a huge increase from their starting point. Students who were below grade level that got in the program improved almost two grade levels. The students tested at or were a grade level above their original grade. The students with no music program, who continued to go to school and learn, saw little to no improvement. Gardiner went into specific details, exclaiming, “After seven months in the program, 77 percent of the pupils were performing at or above grade level in math, compared with 55 percent of other pupils who were given traditional courses in music and art for smaller amounts of time, the survey found.”


“We believe our data shows that when students discover that participating in the arts is pleasurable, they become motivated to acquire skills in the arts,” says Martin Gardiner. Martin Gardiner’s findings in this experiment were published in the British journal, Nature. He also adds that when students are in a music program they are more attentive and their attitude about school improves.


The government in London is already taking notice on how music affects children in the learning process. The government is encouraging music training to start as early as four and five. Linthrope Community Primary School has already taken the initiative and already brings in music specialists just to teach younger children rhythm and sound. Lynn Salton adds, “We have a music specialist who comes and works with our reception and year one children, doing lots of work with sound and rhythm; not only does it help with things like children’s coordination, it can help with the sound and rhythm of words when they are learning to read too. “Music goes further than just making children happy and helps with rhythm it has a very positive impact in bringing out confidence as well as helping children learn,” the head teacher explains.


Lucille Foran goes into detail from Daniel Levitin’s research as to why music is so beneficial for children to be able to let go of stresses through music. Daniel Levitin is a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist. He is most known through his books This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession as well as The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature. Levitin said in his studies, “Performing music involves the frontal lobes and the sensory and motor cortices, and trying to recall lyrics of familiar music brings in the language areas. Music exercises more parts of the brain than almost any other single activity.” Music first flows through the auditory cortex then hit the frontal lobes. This then triggers the limbic system that releases dopamine in the blood stream and finally triggers the nucleus accumbens. The nucleus accumbens is like the coffee shop of the brain. It’s the part of the brain that gives out a feeling of accomplishment, as if you got a reward. This sends out a mood booster for the children. That is how music therapy can actually relieve the stress in a child’s life in a positive manner.


Fran Herman, a music therapist who started the first music therapy in Canada, went into detail as to how music therapy was successful to a nine-year-old boy who suffered from depression and aggressiveness. This little boy got so aggressive that he was no longer allowed to go to school anymore. Music therapy gave him an escape. Herman first focused on attention span and then went into self-expression. The boy gradually improved so much he was able to go back to school.  


Music and coordination go hand-in-hand. There are so many aspects of music that require children to use all of their motor skills. Children learning to play an instrument have to control their breathing while directing where their hands in order to hit a note at the proper time. The child then has to read the music given to them while keeping an eye out for the conductor. Also songs with motions help with fine-motor coordination. Doing songs with movement such as “Patty-Cake” helps children learn how to better control their hands, and body movement, and timing. This will help kids later on in life with handling small objects and sports.


Music programs not only help with teaching children math and English skills, but they also help with coordination and hoe to manage stress positively and coordination. The schools that produce the highest academic achievement in the United States today are spending 20 percent to 30 percent of the day on the arts, with special emphasis on music. Studies suggest that American students, as well as those around the world are positively affected by the benefits of music. 

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