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Why Should Childdren Learn Music?

"Music will not only help us understand how we think, reason, and create, but will enable us to learn how to bring each child's potential to its highest level."

Dr. Gordon Shaw, Co-Founder and Chairman, MIND Institute

"Most people who reach advanced levels in mathematics and science grow up in very rich environments, they have lots of opportunities to experience lots of things, including music lessons."

Robert Duke, professor of music and human learning at the University of Texas.


It is widely agreed that children who study arts tend to have higher IQs and perform better in school than children who do not. The question has always been whether there is just a correlation or if this is the result of a cause-effect relationship.

A Canadian study has shown that weekly training in piano or voice helps to increase the IQ level of six-year-olds.

A Multidimensional Experience
The study supports the idea that musical training may do much more for kids rather than simply teaching them their scales as it exercises parts of the brain useful in mathematics, spatial intelligence.and other intellectual pursuits.

"With music lessons, because there are so many different facets involved such as memorizing, expressing emotion, learning about musical interval and chords, the multidimensional nature of the experience may be motivating the [IQ] effect," the study's author E. Glenn Schellenberg, of the University of Toronto was quoted by Health Scout as saying.

Six-year Olds
In his study Schellenberg offered twelve six-year-olds free weekly voice or piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Six-year-olds were chosen because their developing brains still retain a large degree of "plasticity," defined as "the ability of the brain to change and adapt to environmental stimuli."

Children younger than six were deemed less suitable "because you also want the lessons to be rigorous enough, and you can't really start serious musical training with four-year-olds," Schellenberg said.

Study Findings
The children's IQs were tested beforehand using the full Weschler Intelligence Test, which assesses various aspects of intellectual function in 10 separate areas.

Retesting of children once the study was over, revealed that the only added boost to IQ came to kids taught either piano or voice.

IQ Scores
Schellenberg said that the children in music group "had slightly larger increases in IQ than the control groups," averaging 7-point gains in their IQ scores from the previous year and 2.7 points higher than children placed in either the drama or no-lessons groups.

The increase in IQ was considered small but significant, and was evident across the broad spectrum of intelligence measured by the Weschler test, Schellenberg said.(ANI)


For those who want to read the actual study, here is the research report from the journal Psychological Science.

The Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess and Harvard Medical School provides a very scientific approach to music and the human brain.

There is a lot of material available from the folks that discovered the "Mozart Effect" they are located at M.I.N.D.


Congratulations for Giving Your Child the Beauty of Music

Music provides the following advantages to children who learn it:

  • Improves reading and math skills
  • Raises IQ scores
  • Increases SAT and other standardized test scores
  • Teaches self-discipline
  • Teaches excellence
  • Helps develop critical thinking skills
  • Helps develop quick and decisive thinking
  • Helps develop spontaneous/creative thinking skills
  • Builds Teamwork
  • Enhances social cooperation
  • Gives each child a life-long hobby


Dr. Stephen Juan's Odd Music Facts


  • According to Dr's. A. Myskja and M. Lindbaek of the School of Medicine at the University of Oslo in Norway, writing in the April 2000 issue of TIDSSKR NOR LAEGEFOREN, research has shown that music may influence blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, EEG measurements, body temperature, and galvanic skin response. It may also influence immune and endocrine function. They write "The existing research literature shows growing knowledge of how music can ameliorate pain, anxiety, nausea, fatigue, and depression." They add that there exists less research on how music accomplishes this task or what type of music works best.
  • Music can alter brain chemistry. According to Dr. A.M. Kumar and nine colleagues from the University of Miami School of Medicine, in their study published in the November 1999 ALTERNATIVE THERAPY AND HEALTH MEDICINE, it was found that music therapy altered the serum melatonin levels in patients with Alzheimer's disease. They add, "Increased levels of melatonin following music therapy may have contributed to patients' relaxed and calm mood." This is desirable in the care of Alzheimer's patients.
  • The brains of musicians differ from the brains of the rest of us such that musical training during childhood may influence regional brain growth. Research has revealed significant differences in the gray matter distribution between professional musicians trained at an early age and non-musicians. This was the finding of research headed by Dr. Gottfried Schlaug of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and reported at the American Academy of Neurology's 53rd Annual Meeting in Philadelphia in May, 2001. The musicians in the study had more relative gray matter volume in left and right primary sensorimotor regions, the left more than the right intraparietal sulcus region, the left basal ganglia region and the left posterior perisylvian region, with pronounced differences also seen in the cerebellum bilaterally. Dr. Schlaug adds that musicians are smarter and live longer than average. "Whether it's because they are more intelligent and thus make better health decisions we don't know."
  • It seems that music can not only calm a patient towards health, it can stimulate towards health too. Dr. C. Pacchetti and five colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine at University of Pavia in Italy found that music therapy stimulated the brains of Parkinson's disease sufferers. In fact, writing in the May 2000 PSYCHOSOMATIC MEDICINE, the researchers argue that the music therapy was so effective "on motor, affective, and behavioral functions", that "We propose active MT [music therapy] as a new method for inclusion in PD [Parkinson's disease] rehabilitation programs." Why do light, color, and music heal? The most likely explanation is that all three stimulate the brain's action-determining thalamus in identical ways using the same nerves. This results in specific effects upon the body. As Christopher Barber of the North Birmingham Health Service in England writes in the July 1999 BRITISH JOURNAL OF NURSING, the sensory-neural pathways that carry these messages to the brain "pass through the thalamus where they are implicated in either inhibition or enhanced action of several neurotransmitters. Some of these neurotransmitters impact upon the physiological aspects of tension and stress such as heart rate, muscle tension and blood pressure while others impact upon mental and emotional aspects."

Dr. Juan's Homepage

In conclusion, the greatest gift that any parent could do for his or her child is to introduce them to the field of music. As a parent who has made sure that all of my children were educated music, I can say first hand that it is not an easy task. It will challenge you as a parent, and it will test your patience. With this in mind we have worked hard to help parents get started in educating their children in music. Consequently, we provide parents with a lot of tools to help them get their child to practice more efficiently, etc. The Music Theory for Parents and Educators link is a great place to start.

As an educator of 15 years, I would love to see music education made an academic requirement for all children in the public schools, just as English, math, etc., are requirements. Not only does music provide all of the advantages presented on this page and in many of the links we provide, but the child is also given a life long skill. They may not become professional musicians, but they will have a means of relaxation and creative expression that they will carry with them the rest of their lives. At no point should any parent feel that educating children in music is a waste of time, even in the face of all the frustrations they may experience.

We encourage a minimum of three years of music education. If only three years are taken then they should be in grades 6-8. It will be hard, but the benefits far out weigh the hardships. Why grades 6-8? Middle school is when students are first given the opportunity to play any instrument of their choosing. Also, the brain is in a critical phase of development during these years of growth. Since the child is also in a great state of flux due to the hormonal changes, then music would be an ideal means of providing " grounding."

When we speak about music and children, we are referring to the type of music education where the reading of music and music theory is required. Though choir is great, it should not be used to replace music theory. So, do your child a favor and give him or her the greatest gift a parent could provide, give every child the opportunity to acquire a solid foundation/background in music.


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