Study Indicates Americans Believe Music Ed Preps Students for Careers

Mike Lawson • News • September 23, 2014

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Calling it the “Glee Effect,” The Harris Poll®, a Nielsen Company, has released new findings that show the majority of Americans believe music education prepares students for future careers and problem-solving. And the numbers responding favorably about music education have risen significantly since the original 2007 Harris Poll on music education, commissioned by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), then known as MENC.

“I am thrilled, but not necessarily surprised, by these new findings from the Harris Poll,” said NAfME Executive Director and CEO Michael A. Butera. “In discussions about education policy, career readiness, and creating a skilled workforce, the emphasis is increasingly on ensuring our students, employees, and future leaders have a broad range of adaptable capabilities. We need industry leaders who can think ‘beyond the bubbles’ creatively, to problem-solve and innovate. We, at NAfME, have long known that music education helps students to be prepared precisely for these future challenges. The new Harris Poll supports our mission, orchestrating success for students all across America, and we are grateful they had the foresight to commission this nationally relevant poll themselves.”

The poll illuminates five key findings:

  • Music education experience: “three-quarters of Americans (76%) have had some sort of music education during school with half (49%) being in a chorus and more than two in five (43%) taking formal instrument lessons. Two in five Americans (39%) played in a school orchestra or band, while over one in ten played in an informal group, such as a garage band (14%) or took formal vocal lessons (13%).”
  • Continued music education: “less than one in five (16%) continued with their music program for less than one year, while three in ten (30%) stayed with it for one to less than three years. But half (49%) stayed with it longer—more than one in five (22%) were involved for 3 to 5 years, one in five (20%) for more than 5 years and almost one in ten (8%) are still involved. Those who took vocal lessons and played in an informal group are more likely to say they are still involved in a musical program (18% and 24% respectively).”
  • Music education’s influence: “The more time one spends in a music program, the more they are to say it has been influential in contributing to their current level of personal fulfillment. Among all those involved in a music program, over one-third (37%) say it was extremely or very influential with one-third (32%) saying it was somewhat influential.” Among those who spent 3-5 years in a music program, one-third say it was extremely or very influential; that number jumps to three in five (59%) among those involved 5 or more years, and skyrockets to four in five (81%) of those still involved in music.
  • Job skills: “Over half of those involved in a music program say music education was extremely or very important in providing them with the skills of working towards common goals (54%), up from 44% in 2007, and striving for individual excellence in a group setting (52%), while half (49%) say it provided them with a disciplined approach to solving problems. Almost half of those involved in a music program say music provided them with the skills of creative problem solving (47%) and flexibility in a work situation (45%), which is up from 36% in 2007.”
  • Preparation for life: “Seven in ten Americans (71%) say that the learnings and habits from music education equip people to be better team players in their careers, up from 66% in 2007, while two-thirds say it provides people with a disciplined approach to solving problems (67%), up from 61% in 2007, and prepares someone to manage the tasks of their job more successfully (66%), up from 59% in 2007.”

“These new findings from the recent Harris Poll on music education bolster what we have been saying in our recently launched Broader Minded campaign (, which was just named a 2014 Power of A Silver Award Winner by the ASAE: Center for Association Leadership,” says NAfME Assistant Executive Director Christopher Woodside. “The value proposition of classroom music could not be more clear—and within a matter of a few years, the number of people who attest to this critical value has increased significantly. The intrinsic value of music programs has become ever more apparent as students now enter the workforce, equipped with necessary 21st-century skills gleaned from their music programs.”

The complete findings of the 2014 Harris Poll, including data tables, may be read here.



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