Young people

Music education research about the benefits of music for young people.

Raise your child’s intellectual capacity with music education

A useful summary article about the benefits of music education, particularly for babies, toddlers and younger children, outlining the following benefits and referencing the research:

  • Musical development – Your child’s aptitude for learning music is at its strongest from birth to 18 months. Children learn more in this critical 18-month period than in any other 18-month period in their life. The second most important time for musical development in one’s entire life is from 18 months to 5 years old.
  • Intellectual development – Music is the only activity or subject matter that actively engages both hemispheres of the brain at the same time. Those who begin studying music before the age of 7 and continue through the teenage years will have an average IQ score of 7.5 points higher than those who don’t study music.
  • Language development – Music education advances the early development of the auditory processing network in the brain. This is the network used to make meaning of sounds and learn spoken language. Songs introduce new vocabulary words in rapid succession and in turn significantly boost a child’s working vocabulary.
  • Literacy development – Literacy levels have been shown to improve by between one and three grade levels with consistent music education beginning from birth with activities as simple as singing, musical games, listening to music, repeating rhythmical or tonal patterns, and learning an instrument at age 5-7.
  • Imagination – Life without music would be bleak. Music opens up an entirely new world to a child. It enables a child to gain insights into himself/herself, others and most importantly life itself. These insights help to develop and sustain a child’s imaginative creativity. Because a child hears and participates in some music every single day, it is to a child’s advantage to understand music as thoroughly as possible.

The writer Kathryn Brunner, has been a music educator for 17 years in the USA, and is also a parent and music business owner.

 

Source:
Truro Preschool and Kindergarten: http://truropreschool.org/2017/02/24/raising-your-childs-intellectual-capacity-with-early-music-education/

Playing a musical instrument has a positive effect on attainment

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

The findings of a recent study by Dr Susan Hallam,  Professor of Education and Music Psychology at the Institute of Education and Kevin Rogers, of Hampshire Music Service, show that young people playing a musical instrument enjoy greater progress and better academic outcomes than those who do not, with the greatest impact for those playing the longest.

The study drew on existing data from three secondary schools in England and compared the attainment of 608 young people at the ages of 11 and 16.

Of these, 493 students (81%) did not learn to play an instrument or have voice tuition in school, while 115 students (19%) did. Of those who were learning to play an instrument, 55 had been learning for up to three years, and 60 had been learning for four or five years.

The researchers collected the student’s scores in mathematics and English tests taken at the age of 11 , as well as data on whether they played a musical instrument and if so, how long they had been playing for (see above). They then used GCSE results (the General Certificate of School Education, a national examination taken at age 16 in the UK), to assess each student’s attainment.

The study shows that playing a musical instrument enhances performance in national exams at KS4, shows progress between KS2 and KS4, and that the impact is greater the longer a young person has been playing an instrument. The instrumentalists across all three schools, on most measures, performed at nearly one standard deviation better than those not playing an instrument at KS4 despite there being negligible differences at KS2. Those who had been learning for four or five years had the best results.

SOURCES:
Cambridge University Press: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-music-education/article/div-classtitlethe-impact-of-instrumental-music-learning-on-attainment-at-age-16-a-pilot-studydiv/F439F0A77A79858988B66C172FF5CC72/core-reader

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: ACADEMIC ATTAINMENT
TARGET GROUP: YOUNG PEOPLE
AGE: 11-16 YEARS
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 608
PERIOD OF STUDY: UNKNOWN (DATA COVERS 5 YEARS)
DATE: 2016
PLACE: UK

Using music education to improve children’s grammar skills

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

A study by Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, is the first of its kind to show a connection between musical rhythm and grammar. It suggests that a child’s ability to distinguish musical rhythm is related to his or her capacity for understanding grammar.

Reyna Gordon, Ph.D., lead author and research fellow in the Department of Otolaryngology at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, studied 25 typically-developing six-year-olds. All were native speakers of English with less than two years of formal music training, with parents reporting that their child had normal hearing, language, cognitive, and emotional development.

The first test was a standardised test of music aptitude. A computer programme prompted the children to judge if two melodies (which were either identical or slightly different) were the same or different.

Next, the children played a computer game that the research team developed called a beat-based assessment. The children watched a cartoon character play two rhythms, then had to determine whether a third rhythm was played by “Sammy Same” or “Doggy Different.”

To measure the children’s grammar skills, they were shown a variety of photographs and asked questions about them. They were measured on the grammatical accuracy of their answers, such as competence in using the past tense.

Though the grammatical and musical tests were quite different, Gordon found that children who did well on one kind tended to do well on the other, regardless of IQ, music experience and socioeconomic status.

SOURCES:
Vanderbilt University: https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2014/10/30/researchers-explore-links-between-grammar-rhythm/
Science Daily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141105101238.htm
Wiley Online Library: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/desc.12230/abstract;jsessionid=827154C613FE7F59764343B3B5892A5C.f02t02

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: LANGUAGE SKILLS
TARGET GROUP: CHILDREN
AGE: 6-YEARS-OLD
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 25
PERIOD OF STUDY: UNKNOWN
DATE: 2014
PLACE: USA

Our beliefs in musical ‘talent’ may hold back budding musicians

Girl playing piano

 

New music education research from the USA claims that children who have confidence in their own musical abilities are more likely to continue their music education than those with a poor ‘musical self-concept’. Early judgements about which children are ‘talented’ or not may therefore hold back those who have less confidence (and perhaps support).

Although music is a compulsory subject in elementary (primary) schools in the USA (5-10-years-old*), only 34% of students register for music instruction when they move to middle (or junior high) school (11-13-years-old*). [*http://www.fulbright.org.uk/study-in-the-usa/school-study/us-school-system]

To understand why so many students choose to opt out of music, Dr Steven Demorest, professor of music education at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music, along with co-authors Dr Jamey Kelley, music education programme co-ordinator at Florida International University, and Dr Peter Pfordresher, professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo (The State University of New York), surveyed 319 sixth-graders from five elementary schools.

The students were asked about their family background, their attitudes toward music, their beliefs about themselves as musicians, as well questions relating to peer influence and other variables. Then the researchers waited until those same students had chosen their classes in middle school.

The study found that a combination of family background, musical self-concept, and peer influence predicted with 74% accuracy which students would choose to continue with music.

“This decision seems to be rooted in our mistaken belief that musical ability is a talent rather than a skill,” Demorest said. “Children who believe themselves to be musically talented are more inclined to continue to participate in music, and subsequently they get better and better. Conversely, children with a poor musical self-concept were inclined to quit, a decision people often grow to regret as adults.”

In the second part of the study, the researchers measured the singing accuracy of students drawn from the opt-in (to music education in middle school) and the opt-out groups. They found no significant differences in singing accuracy between the two groups. There was, however, a link between musical self-concept and accuracy.

“The data raises an alarming prospect that singing accuracy could be part of a self-fulfilling prophecy in the case of individuals with poor musical self-concept,” said co-author Dr. Peter Pfordresher. “If a child falsely believes he or she is a poor musician, for a variety of reasons that child may actually become one.”

The new findings are published in the Journal of Research in Music Education.

SOURCES:
Northwestern University: https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2017/01/childrens-beliefs-about-talent-influence-music-participation/
Sage Journals: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0022429416680096
Psychcentral.com: https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/01/21/kids-who-believe-they-cant-sing-tend-to-quit-music-education/115443.html

Musicians respond faster to sensory stimuli

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

New research from the School of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology at the Université de Montréal in Canada, shows that musicians respond faster to sensory stimuli than non-musicians. This, in turn, has implications for preventing the sensory decline that comes with age.

“As people get older, for example, we know their reaction times get slower. So if we know that playing a musical instrument increases reaction times, then maybe playing an instrument will be helpful for them,” said lead study researcher Simon Landry, a cognitive psychology expert from Université de Montréal.

Researchers compared the reactions times of 16 musicians (from the University’s music faculty) and 19 non-musicians (from the University’s School of Speech Language Pathology) in performing a simple test. Both groups were roughly evenly split between graduates and undergraduates.

The participants were taken to a quiet, well-lit room, with one hand on a computer mouse and the index finger of the other hand on a small box that vibrated intermittently. They were asked to click on the mouse when they heard a sound from the speakers in front of them or when the box vibrated, or both.

Researchers found that the musicians – who had started playing between the ages of 3 to 10-years-old, and had at least seven years of training – responded more rapidly compared to those with no musical training.

SOURCES:
Université de Montréal: http://nouvelles.umontreal.ca/en/article/2017/01/06/play-an-instrument-and-stay-alert/
ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311679389_Musicians_react_faster_and_are_better_multisensory_integrators
The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/playing-music-brain-benefits-aging_us_58765d35e4b03c8a02d4713b
i4u.com: http://www.i4u.com/2017/01/119471/playing-musical-instrument-can-sharpen-your-senses
health.com: http://www.health.com/mind-body/instrument-brain-benefits
The TeCake: http://tecake.in/news/health/27934-27934.html
Sciencedirect.com: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278262616300550
Medical News Today: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315231.php

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: BRAIN & SENSORY DEVELOPMENT
TARGET GROUP: YOUNG PEOPLE & ADULTS
AGE: 18-34-YEARS-OLD
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 35
PERIOD OF STUDY: UNKNOWN
DATE: 2016
PLACE: CANADA

The Rock ‘n’ Read Project – ‘If you can’t read, you can’t succeed.’

rocknread-banner-camera

The Rock ‘n’ Read Project in Minnesota uses proven, research-based strategies which help children to read at their grade level through singing. Singing is the fastest way to learn new vocabulary and increase comprehension and fluency.

Neuroscientists have found that making music, moving, and creative play develop a brain that is more able to acquire language, improves reading, helps in understanding mathematics, and many other executive functions such as planning, creating, and focusing. Neuroscientists such as Dr. Nina Kraus at Northwestern University are calling for schools to get children singing and moving daily. Keeping a steady beat and singing can remediate ineffective areas of the brain.

Children who cannot read at their grade level struggle to keep up, and often drop out of school. Reading is the most important factor in closing the achievement gap, and the Rock ‘n’ Read Project’s strategies have shown a dramatic improvement in reading achievement.

Founded by Bill Jones and Ann Kay, the Rock ‘n’ Read Project is a non-profit organisation run by a board of directors.

Source:
The Rock ‘n’ Read Project: http://www.rocknreadproject.org/

Music work with vulnerable young people in Suffolk shows significant impact on wellbeing

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A year-long impact study funded by the Cabinet Office’s Impact Readiness Fund, concludes that community music organisation Noise Solution’s fusing of informal music outreach and digital narrative work is “Statistically significant” in impacting on the wellbeing of participants in challenging circumstances.

In February 2016, Noise Solution was awarded funding from the Cabinet Office to work with The Social Investment Consultancy to measure its social impact. The resulting impact report shows that Noise Solution has serious impact with the young people it works with.

Noise Solution pairs professional musicians with people facing challenging circumstances, and they are tasked with making particpants successful at creating the music they value. The organisation then captures and shares their achievements using a blog or a ‘positive digital narrative’.

It is this quick mastery of a skill, combined with the easy and targeted sharing of success with the people whose opinions really matter to them that is allowing participants to reinvent themselves in a positive light.

SOURCES:

Youth Music Network: http://network.youthmusic.org.uk/posts/cabinet-office-funded-impact-audit-states-noise-solution-statistically-significant-read-report

Noise Solution: http://www.noisesolution.org/wp-content/uploads/report-view/web/viewer.html?file=noise-solution-external-report.pdf

Boomwhackers study suggests music training can help with autism and ADHD

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

According to research undertaken in Mexico with Boomwhackers, taking music lessons increases brain fibre connections in children and may be useful in treating autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

“It’s been known that musical instruction benefits children with these disorders,” said Dr. Pilar Dies-Suarez, chief radiologist at the Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez in Mexico City. “When a child receives musical instruction, their brains are asked to complete certain tasks. These tasks involve hearing, motor, cognition, emotion and social skills, which seem to activate these different brain areas.”

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in November 2016. The researchers studied 23 healthy children between the ages of five and six years old. All of the children were right handed and had no history of sensory, perception or neurological disorders. None of the children had been trained in any artistic discipline in the past.

The study participants underwent pre- and post-musical-training evaluation. After the children in the study completed nine months of musical instruction using Boomwhackers—percussion tubes cut to the exact length to create pitches in a diatonic scale, the results showed an increase in fibre lengths and connectivity in parts of the brain where low connectivity can be associated with autism spectrum and ADHD.

“”When a child receives musical instruction, their brains are asked to complete certain tasks,” said Dr. Dies-Suarez. “These tasks involve hearing, motor, cognition, emotion and social skills, which seem to activate these different brain areas. These results may have occurred because of the need to create more connections between the two hemispheres of the brain.”

The researchers believe that the results of this study could aid in creating targeted strategies for intervention in treating disorders like autism and ADHD.

SOURCES:
News-Medical.net: http://www.news-medical.net/news/20161121/Music-lessons-increase-brain-fiber-connections-in-children.aspx
CTV News: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/music-lessons-help-boost-brain-power-study-1.3170332
PR Newswire: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/musical-training-creates-new-brain-connections-in-children-300366036.html
Science Codex: http://www.sciencecodex.com/music_training_creates_new_brain_connections_in_children-190295

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
TARGET GROUP: CHILDREN
AGE: 5-6 YEARS-OLD
MUSIC TYPE: PERCUSSION
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 23
PERIOD OF STUDY: 9 MONTHS
DATE: 2016
PLACE: MEXICO

Music lessons may regulate children’s aggressive behaviour

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

Enrolling children in music lessons teaches them how to control the tendency to become aggressive according to a newly-published study from Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany.

The researchers, led by psychologist Ingo Roden, investigated the assumption that extended music lessons reduce stress responses and increase wellbeing in primary school children.

For 18 months, 14 children received extra weekly training of 45 minutes on musical instruments of their choice, in addition to the regular school music curriculum. While the other 20 children received 45-minute natural science lessons.

The research centred around the ‘Point Subtraction Aggression Game’. It’s a video game where you and your opponent attempt to press a button as soon as a football appears on the screen. The winner of each round gets 50 points, and is allowed to decrease his or her opponent’s score by anywhere from zero to 100 points.

All the children played the video game at the beginning and at the end of the 18-month study, and in order to determine each child’s level of “provoked reactive aggressive behaviour,” the researchers noted how many points they subtracted from their opponents.

The study found that the budding scientists were more likely to respond to provocation with aggression by increasing the number of points deducted from their opponents, whereas the young musicians showed no significant change.

While this is a small, preliminary study, the results would suggest that music training positively modulates reactive aggressive behaviour in primary school children.

SOURCES:
Pacific Standard: https://psmag.com/heres-evidence-that-music-training-dampens-young-kids-aggressive-behavior-b4f853502cc4#.32egotpod
Science Direct: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959475216300676
ISI DL: http://isi-dl.com/item/21941

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: REDUCED STRESS AND IMPROVED WELLBEING
TARGET GROUP: CHILDREN
AGE: 7-8 YEARS-OLD
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 34
PERIOD OF STUDY: 18 MONTHS
DATE: 2015
PLACE: GERMANY

Music in Mind evaluation report published

Continuum of need diagramMusic in Mind is a music making programme which focuses on enhancing the life chances of young people aged 11-to-18 years with mental health needs. It’s led by Rhythmix, a music, education and social welfare charity that provides music opportunities to people in challenging circumstances across south east England.

The programme gives young people a positive outlet for self-expression, the opportunity to gain vocational skills and helps them to gain the self-belief and skills necessary for them to move forward in life.

It encourages musical, social, personal and educational development; focuses on self-expression and resilience; acknowledges complex needs through tailored programmes; and includes workforce development.

What happened, and what works?

In order to assess the programme’s effectiveness, an independent evaluation  was conducted by Dr Alison Daubney and Gregory Daubney MSc between April 2013 and March 2016 – looking at projects in East Sussex, West Sussex, Brighton & Hove, Kent, and Surrey.

During the evaluation many young people spoke about how music was important to them, particularly as a listener. Some discussed their musical preferences and how these related to a strong sense of identity. Some also discussed the importance of music as a mood regulator, including as a mechanism to purposely set or change their mood.

Many of them also saw making music as something to learn and/or develop and not just as something to take part in. They clearly cared about the quality of what they produced, and ‘making music well’ was an important aspect for the young people.

One of the many conclusions of the report is that the importance of music to some young people with mental health needs is significant and should not be ignored or seen as unimportant. For them, music is a perceived lifeline, a fundamental part of who they are, or as was said more than once in the project, “Music, quite literally, is my life”. Not every young person with mental health needs will find that music is the ‘hook’ to help them to seek and accept help, but for some, under the right circumstances, music can help them to take steps towards improved mental health and wellbeing.

SOURCE:
Rhythmix: http://www.rhythmixmusic.org.uk/music_in_mind_evaluation.html