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Does Music Make You Smarter?

Eliahu Sussman • News • December 12, 2013

And does it matter?

A recent study by researchers at Harvard University calls into question the general assumption that music study helps students perform better in other academic areas. While many studies on this subject continue to be in their infancy and there are countless correlations between achievement and intensive musical training, according to an article in The Boston Globe from 12/11/2013, it’s not so clear cut, and it turns out that this might not be a bad thing. 

Contrary to popular belief, a study — led by a Harvard graduate student who plays the saxophone, flute, bassoon, oboe, and clarinet — found no cognitive benefits to music lessons.

The finding, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, is bound to make arts advocates cringe, as it overturns an argument that is often used to bolster the case for music education: it’ll make kids better at math.

“We don’t teach our children Shakespeare and Dante and Tolstoy because it makes them do better in American history class or at learning the periodic table of the elements,” said Samuel Mehr, a graduate student at the Harvard School of Education who led the work. “We teach them those great authors because those great authors are important. There’s really no reason to justify music education on any other basis than its intrinsic merits. We have our Dante, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare, and they are Bach, Duke Ellington, and Benjamin Britten.”

As Scientists continue to chip away at this immensely complex issue, the education community seems divided on how much it matters. While it’s great if there are ancillary benefits to studying music, is it not enough to justify studying music for its own sake? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

 

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