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updated 10/22/2021

Save The Music believes in the benefits of music in schools. Music has the potential to help students succeed in school, build self-confidence, and create leaders and well-rounded young people. Learning through music can improve a student’s academic performance, increase attendance, and improve test scores overall.

In Save The Music’s recent case study in Newark, New Jersey, schools with quality music education programs had a decrease in students being chronically absent from school. The value of a music program can mean that more students come to school more often, participate more in school activities, and look forward to something during the school day – music class.

We see that students who participate in a school music program have more social-emotional skills like grit, perseverance, and teamwork. Music can prove to be an important part of the school day to help students express themselves and work through feelings of stress and anxiety. This attributes to the social benefits of music education. Music education and social-emotional learning (SEL) intersect when students practice self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making (SEL core competencies). Embedded into the four major music education processes – create, present, respond, connect – students have the potential to become impactful leaders, creators, independent thinkers, and empowered young people.

Music shows something about who we are as people. Our identities can be communicated through what we play, create, and the music we share with others. We can illuminate our cultures through music and continue a legacy passed down by our families. With music education in schools, teachers can encourage students to use their voices, expressing themselves through music.

In West Virginia, Save The Music found that 83% of music teachers believed that their students who participate in music have increased their overall engagement in school. Additionally, active music programs in schools gave a sense of pride to the whole community. Music education has become a key thread in the fabric of the people who live in school districts with quality music education in schools.

The value of music education seen here is that students who participate in music-making, creativity, and artistic expression attend school more often and perform higher in other academic subjects. The importance of music in school also extends to social and emotional benefits, that each child develops the skills to conquer challenges of life situations in the music classroom and beyond.

Why is music education important? Let’s explore more areas to answer this question.


There are positive outcomes and cognitive benefits of learning music. It has been shown to increase cognitive competence and development in students who participate in music in school. Playing music throughout life can also lead to a lower risk of developing dementia and increased brain resilience. Playing music activates many senses in the brain that increase thinking skills, including social and emotional awareness, and improve interpersonal communication. Reading music can improve general reading comprehension skills overall. Music sparks the brain and many parts of the brain are activated.

Practicing music is like a cross-fit workout for the brain! When we play and listen to music, it’s processed in many different areas of our brain. The extent of the brain’s involvement was scarcely imagined until the early 1990s, when functional brain imaging became possible. The major computation centers include (Source: This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel Levitin).


Creation of expectations, violation, and satisfaction of expectations.


Movement, foot-tapping, dancing, and playing an instrument.


Connects left and right hemispheres.


The first stages of listening to sounds and the perception and analysis of tones.


Tactile feedback from playing an instrument and dancing.


Reading music and looking at a performer’s or one’s own movements.


Emotional reactions to music.


Emotional reactions to music.


Memory for music, musical experiences, and contexts.


Movement such as foot-tapping, dancing, and playing an instrument. Also involved in emotional reactions to music.

“Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.”

– “While listening to music engages the brain in some pretty interesting activities, playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout. The neuroscientists saw multiple areas of the brain light up simultaneously processing different information in intricate, interrelated, and astonishingly fast sequences. Playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. As with any other workout, disciplined structured practice in playing music strengthens those brain functions allowing us to apply that strength to other activities.” (Anita Collins, How Playing An Instrument Benefits Your Brain, July 2014)


Playing music connects different parts of the brain, increasing efficient decision-making skills and more spontaneous creativity.

– “The heavy-tax of piano playing makes their minds efficient in every way. Studies show that when jazz pianists play, their brains have an extremely efficient connection between the different parts of the frontal lobe compared to non-musicians. That’s a big deal — the frontal lobe is responsible for integrating a ton of information into decision-making. It plays a major role in problem solving, language, spontaneity, decision-making and social behavior. Pianists, then, tend to integrate all of the brain’s information into more efficient decision-making processes. Because of this high-speed connection, they can breeze through slower, methodical thinking and tap into quicker and more spontaneous creativity.” (Jordan Taylor Sloan, Science Shows How Piano Players’ Brains are Actually Different From Everybody Elses’, June 2014)

✓ Check out our guest blog post by Music Education Advisory Board member, Gabriella Musacchia, called “Music and Learning: Does music make you smarter?”



There has been an outstanding amount of research about young people who play and practice music and its positive outcomes. Music education in schools has profound effects on student performance and the development of well-rounded citizens. At Save The Music, we see students in music programs thrive and discover their creativity. We see them participate more in school activities and engage their families and communities in music education as well.

Explore the benefits of music education statistics below and find more information about the value of music education in Save The Music’s Advocacy Tools.

Studies show music learning yields several benefits to overall development and performance.

– Children who study music tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their peers who do not participate in music lessons (Arete Music Academy. “Statistical benefits of music in education.” Arete Music Academy. Accessed July 17, 2014).

– Regardless of socioeconomic status or school district, students (3rd graders) who participate in high-quality music programs score higher on reading and spelling tests (Hille, Katrin, et al. “Associations between music education, intelligence, and spelling ability in elementary school.” Adv Cogn Psychol 7, 2011: 1–6. Web. Accessed February 24, 2015).

– Schools that have music programs have an attendance rate of 93.3% compared to 84.9% in schools without music programs (The National Association for Music Education. “Music Makes the Grade.” The National Association for Music Education. Accessed February 24, 2015).

– Research at McGill University in Montreal, Canada showed that grade-school kids who took music lessons scored higher on tests of general and spatial cognitive development, the abilities that form the basis for performance in math and engineering (http://nisom.com/index.php/instruction/health-benefits).

– A study of 8 to 11-year-olds found that, those who had extra-curricular music classes, developed higher verbal IQ, and visual abilities, in comparison to those with no musical training (Forgeard et al., “Practicing a Musical Instrument in Childhood is Associated with Enhanced Verbal Ability and Nonverbal Reasoning,” PLOS One, 2008).

– Children with learning disabilities or dyslexia who tend to lose focus with more noise could benefit greatly from music lessons (Arete Music Academy. “Statistical benefits of music in education.” Arete Music Academy. Accessed July 17, 2014).

– Young children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year, compared to children who do not receive musical training (National Association for Music Education. “The Benefits of the Study of Music.” National Association for Music Education. Accessed July 17, 2014).

– Music and math are highly intertwined. By understanding beat, rhythm, and scales, children are learning how to divide, create fractions, and recognize patterns (Lynn Kleiner, founder of Music Rhapsody in Redondo Beach, CA).

– Playing a musical instrument strengthens eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills, and kids who study an instrument learn a lot about discipline, dedication, and the rewards of hard work. (http://nisom.com/index.php/instruction/health-benefits).

– Music training not only helps children develop fine motor skills, but aids emotional and behavioral maturation as well, according to a new study, one of the largest to investigate the effects of playing an instrument on brain development (Amy Ellis Nutt, “Music lessons spur emotional and behavioral growth in children, a new study says,” The Washington Post, January 7, 2015).

– Music training leads to greater gains in auditory and motor function when begun in young childhood; by adolescence, the plasticity that characterizes childhood has begun to decline. Nevertheless, our results establish that music training impacts the auditory system even when it is begun in adolescence, suggesting that a modest amount of training begun later in life can affect neural function (Adam T. Tierney, Jennifer Krizman, Nina Kraus, “Music training alters the course of adolescent auditory development,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015).

– Children who study a musical instrument are more likely to excel in all of their studies, work better in teams, have enhanced critical thinking skills, stay in school, and pursue further education (Arte Music Academy. “Statistical benefits of music in education.” Statistical-Benefits-Of-Music-In-Education. Accessed July 17, 2014).

– Taking music lessons offers a space where kids learn how to accept and give constructive criticism, according to research published in The Wall Street Journal in 2014 (Joanne Lipman, “A Musical Fix for American Schools,” The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014).

– Making music together, children learn to work as a team while they each contribute to the song in their own way. At the same time, music helps children learn that together they can make something larger than the sum of its parts (© 2015 Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS), a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization).

– More benefits of music for children include learning cooperation, sharing, compromise, creativity, and concentration – skills that become invaluable as they enter school, face new challenges, and begin to form new friendships and develop social skills (© 2015 Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS), a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization).

– Kids who make music have been shown to get along better with classmates and have fewer discipline problems. More of them get into their preferred colleges, too (http://nisom.com/index.php/instruction/health-benefits).

> Source: NAMM Foundation’s “How Children Benefit From Music Education In Schools”

✓ For more research briefs and handy quotes to help make your case for supporting music education in schools, check out this list from the NAMM Foundation: MUSIC FACTS


Thank you to our partners and friends in music education for publicizing their vital research for us to share. Remember, however you use this fact bank, please remember to include the sources provided.