Music Education in Jeopardy


Throughout the ages, historical figures have been known to be musicians. Not only that, but they were known to have started at an early age. Albert Einstein, perhaps one of the smartest men to walk the face of this earth, learned to play an instrument when he was a child. He had troubles with language during his early years, but when he started playing music, his speaking skills greatly increased. In his adulthood, Einstein contributed all of his success to the violin, and would often play it when he had trouble with a formula (Music’s Benefits Last a Lifetime).

Despite a vast amount of research, funding to the music department is being cut across the nation. America is one of the world’s wealthiest nations as seen in the figure here. However, we rank below Hungary, one of the poorest nations in the world, in mathematics and science, as shown in this statistic. It’s sad to see that “the greatest country on earth” has such a sub par education system. According to the Huffington Post, Finland currently has the best school systems in the world. Coincidentally, they also are the only known country in the world who has systematic musical instruction in preschool (Klemettinen). Is this really a coincidence, or is there some sort of connection that people fail to see?

Research has shown that there is a direct relationship between early music education and the cognitive process. One example would be the relation it has to spatial-temporal reasoning, which is the ability to see how physical and nonphysical things fit together in a step-by-step process, and being able to manipulate them without a visual (Rauscher 2). Musicians practice the pieces they are given so much that eventually they don’t need the sheet music anymore as seen in the video below.

As you can see, the musician plays the Caprice with no music in front of him. This piece is actually considered one of the hardest in the world to play, and it was originally written for violin. That just shows how much effort that this man put into learning that piece. The constant memorizing and analyzing ultimately gives the musician the ability to visualize and predict what sounds flow together in a series of notes without the use of a visual. So, when a child learns an instrument, they begin to realize that various other elements in the world have a connection, and they learn that from musical activity.

Not only does music education impact spatial-temporal reasoning, it also can improve language. Listen to this audio clip.

Now, sing your ABC’s. Don’t just say them, sing them. If you hadn’t already noticed, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and the ABC’s have the same melody. We often use music when learning something new in a language, or in any other subject. But why? Well, music stimulates the auditory cortex, the part of the brain that controls how we process and understand sounds, so when played, it allows something to become imbedded in the mind much more easily. Oliver Sacks, a neuropsychologist wrote, “I have only to glance at a score or think of a typical mazurka… and the music will start to play in my mind” (31). This man had played music for so long that he no longer required actually instruments in order to hear it. This proves how much of an impact playing music can effect the memory, thus affecting how easily one can remember language at an early age.

Yet, despite the various connections that have been made between musical activity and the cognitive process, our nation still sees the music department in schools as just another elective. It’s sad to see that despite the positive influence it can have on the brain, funding to these programs continues to be cut. What would happen if music was completely eliminated from our schools altogether?

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Heather, a senior in high school, practices her violin for hours on a daily basis. As you can see, she has a passion for it and it helps increase her mood. If the orchestra program was cut from her school, she would be crushed, as well as everyone else who logs many hours into something they love. We shouldn’t be cutting funding from this department, we need to be giving more money to it! If children learned to be musically active at an earlier age, it would stimulate their minds and help them become more successful adults. Isn’t that what every parent wants for their child? So wake up America, hear the music, because it’s on full blast. All you have to do is listen.

Below I’ve attached a podcast, which contains an interview with a musician who expresses his own opinion on the matter.

Works Cited

Ashley, Heather (heatherashley0). “I’ve been practicing my violin since I got home… my shoulder!” 17 Sep. 2013. 4:36 p.m. Tweet.

“Best Education In The World: Finland, South Korea Top Country Rankings, U.S. Rated Average”. Huffpost Education. Huffington Post, 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.

Brown, Laura. “The Benefits of Music Education.” PBS Parents. PBS. N.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.

Goldin, Claudia, and Katz, Lawrence. “The Future of Inequality: The Other Reason Education Matters So Much”. Milken Institute Review. 2009. PDF file.

Klemettinen, Timo. “Music Education From Finland.” Finlandia Foundation National. n.p. n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.

“Music’s Benefits Last a Lifetime.” Early Childhood Music. WordPress. 17 Mar. 2011. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.

Pasquali, Valentina. “The World’s Richest and Poorest Countries.” Global Finance. Classeditori, n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.

Rauscher, Frances, et. al. “Music Training causes long-term enhancement of preschool children’s spatial-temporal reasoning.” Neurological Research 19 (1997). 1-6. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.

Sacks, Oliver. Musicophilia. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 2007. Print.


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