• Music education gives students a boost
    December 28,2012

    Music education gives students a boost

    Dear Superintendent Ricca,

    I am writing today in my capacity as a Montpelier High School parent, and also the artistic director of the Green Mountain Youth Symphony. I understand that the school budget has a serious deficit, and I’d like to express my concern about cutting music staffing in schools.

    First, a little about me: I’m an academic kind of person. My first major in college was mathematical physics, I have taken graduate-level coursework in history, and we home-schooled our son until this last year. For me, the academic aspect of schooling is very important.

    Research has demonstrated that music and arts are an important part of an educated person’s experience and experiencing the work of some of the greatest minds in history directly by performing their music is incredibly valuable. However, it has been found that music is a very powerful way to develop students cognitively in ways that are not musical. For example:

    James Catterall of UCLA performed a study in which he analyzed the school records of 25,000 students as they moved from grade 8 to grade 10. He found that students who studied music and the arts had higher grades, scored better on standardized tests, had better attendance records and were more active in community affairs than other students. He also found that students from poorer families who studied the arts improved overall school performance more rapidly than all other students.

    Students of lower socio-economic status who took music lessons in grades 8 through 12 increased their math scores significantly as compared with non-music students. But just as important, reading, history, geography and even social skills soared by 40 percent (From Nature; Gardiner, Fox, Jeffrey and Knowles).

    Students of music continue to outperform their non-arts peers on the SAT, according to reports by the College Entrance Examination Board. In 2006, SAT takers with coursework/experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 43 points higher on her math portion than students with no coursework or experience in the arts. Scores for those with coursework in music appreciation were 62 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math portion (The College Board, Profile of College-Bound Seniors National Report for 2006).

    I know that it is very difficult to make these decisions, and I don’t envy your responsibility. However, I can see the difference that music makes in the kids that I work with in the Green Mountain Youth Symphony, and there is convincing research about how music affects students positively in many academic areas. Please consider these points when making budget decisions.

    Robert Blais

    Artistic director

    Green Mountain Youth Symphony

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