Among the first subjects to be cut in school budgets are art and music. These cuts are often based on the belief that these subjects can be sacrificed without much damage to a student’s development or academic success. But, more and more research shows that this is not the case. While the Mozart Effect, claiming an increase in IQ points when children are exposed to classical music, has been largely debunked, there are still good reasons to study music. Let’s consider some of these.
Applied Academics: One benefit is that music is a great way to show a fun application of other academic subjects such as mathematics, physics, history, and geography. Given the general interest in music that most children have, it can be used as a window into other subjects that are not as immediately interesting for students.
Cognitive Benefits: While the Mozart Effect may not be reliable, there are tangible cognitive developmental benefits to studying music. Surely one of these is an increase in creativity. Other benefits include an increase in attention span and quantitative ability. Music does activate various parts of the brain and this increased activity has positive benefits. Music rewards close attention to detail, form, structure, and organization all of which are beneficial in many other areas of life.
Rhythm: An important part of music is the element of rhythm and many children relate to music very physically though dance, clapping, singing, and humming. Focusing on the rhythm of music can improve a child’s general physical coordination and practicing a musical instrument can improve more specific coordination and dexterity.
Harmony: A second component of music is harmony and here the benefits of studying music are both literal and metaphorical. The study of harmony develops the ability to hear and discriminate among various tones and intervals and can lead to an appreciation of a wider range of musical styles. Metaphorically the study of harmony can be used as a meas of teaching the benefit of harmony in general in how we relate to others. Such virtues as sharing and cooperation can be introduced through the musical element of harmony.
Melody: Built on the foundation of rhythm and harmony is the element of melody. Again, the benefits of study here are both literal and metaphorical. Since music has long been used as an aid to memory and a means of improving memory, the study of melody can be beneficial. The study of increasingly complex melodies can lead to an improvement of memory for more complex ideas as well. Metaphorically, the study of melody introduces the idea of individuality. Like musical pieces, Everyone has their own individual melody which develops over time.
Just a consideration of the basic elements of music can illustrate several important benefits to studying music. Studying specific genres can yield other benefits. Jazz is important to the study and ability of improvisation. The blues illustrates emotional expression. Classical music reveals organization and precision. At the same time, music also shows the universal nature of such values as every genre contains these elements as well as the basics of rhythm, harmony, and melody. The rewards of studying and enjoying music extend far beyond the simple act of listening and playing. As important as these are, the applied benefits are also well worth examining.