Beyond the intrinsic value of music
to cultures worldwide, education in
music has benefits for young people
that transcend the musical domain. The Arts
Education Partnership (AEP) reviewed an
extensive body of research to identify high-
quality, evidence-based studies that document
student learning outcomes associated with an
education in and through music. The results
show conclusively that music education equips
students with the foundational abilities to learn,
to achieve in other core academic subjects, and
to develop the capacities, skills and knowledge
essential for lifelong success
Benefits of Music Education
A) Music education prepares students to learn
1.Enhances fine motor skills
2.Prepares the brain for achievement
3.Fosters superior working memory
4.Cultivates better thinking skills
B) Music education facilitates student
1.Improves recall and retention of verbal information
2.Advances math achievement
3.Boosts reading and English language arts (ELA) skills
4.Improves average SAT scores
C) Music education develops the creative capacities for
1.Sharpens student attentiveness
3.Equips students to be creative
4.Supports better study habits and self-esteem
Music education prepares students to learn.
Music education readies students for learning by helping to develop their basic mental skills and
capacities. Music instruction impacts learning in the following ways:
1Enhances fine motor skills.
Motor function is the ability to use small, acute muscle
movements to write, use a computer, and perform other physical
activities essential for classroom learning. The parts
of the brain associated with sensory and motor
function are developed through music instruction,
and musically trained children have better motor
function than non-musically trained children
(Forgeard, 2008; Hyde, 2009; Schlaug et al., 2005).
2 Prepares the brain for achievement.
Complex math processes are more accessible to students
who have studied music because the same parts of
the brain used in processing math are strengthened
through practice in music. For example, students
who take music in middle school score significantly
higher on algebra assessments in ninth grade than
their non-music counterparts, as their brains are already
accustomed to performing the processes used in complex math
3 Fosters superior working memory.
Working memory is the ability to mentally hold, control and
manipulate information in order to complete higher-
order tasks, such as reasoning and problem solving.
Musicians are found to have superior working
memory compared to non-musicians. Musicians are
better able to sustain mental control during memory
and recall tasks, most likely as a result of their long-
term musical training (Berti et al., 2006; Pallesen et
4 Cultivates better thinking skills.
Thinking skills such
as abstract reasoning are integral to students’ ability
to apply knowledge and visualize solutions. Studies
have shown that young children who take keyboard lessons
have greater abstract reasoning abilities than
their peers, and these abilities improve over time with
sustained training in music(Rauscher, 2000)
Music education facilitates student academic achievement.
Not only do students who study music develop musical abilities, they receive benefits that extend
to other academic areas, leading to overall scholastic success. Music education benefits student
achievement in the following ways:
Improves recall and retention of verbal information.
Musical training develops the region of the brain
responsible for verbal memory—the recall and
retention of spoken words—which serves as a
foundation for retaining information in all academic
subjects. Music students who were tested for
verbal memory showed a superior recall for words
as compared to non-music students (Ho et al.,
2 Advances math achievement.
Students who study music outperform their non-music peers in
assessments of math, and the advantage that music
provides increases over time. These findings hold true
regardless of socio-economic status and race/ethnicity
(Baker, 2011; Catterall, 1998). Additionally, students
involved in instrumental music do better in algebra, a
gateway for later achievement (Helmrich, 2010; U.S.
National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008).
3 Boosts reading and English language arts
Students who study music surpass non-music students in
assessments of writing, using information resources,
reading and responding, and proofreading. The gains
in achievement of music students compared to non-music
students increase over time (Baker, 2011; Catterall, 1998).
4 Increases average SAT scores.
The SAT is a standardized test designed to measure “readiness
for college.” An analysis of 10 years of SAT data
revealed that students who took four years of arts
courses in high school earned the highest scores on
both the verbal and math SAT, but overall, students
taking any arts courses scored significantly higher
than students who took no arts courses (Vaughn et
al., 2000). Of these students, those who took music
courses earned the highest math and second highestverbal SAT scores (College Board, 2010
Music education develops the creative capacities for lifelong success.
Engagement, persistence, and creativity are components of higher-level thinking and complex problem solving (Costa & Kallick, 2000). Music education nurtures these habits of mind that are essential for success in today’s global, knowledge-based economy in the following ways:
1 Sharpens student attentiveness.
The ability to pay attention—visual focus, active listening and
staying on task—is essential to school performance.
It begins to develop early in life and is continuously
refined. Early childhood training in instrumental
music improves these attention abilities, while
continued music education throughout adolescence
reinforces and strengthens them (Neville et al.,
2008). Attentiveness is an essential building block of
engagement, a competency necessary for success in
school and the workforce.
2 Strengthens perseverance.
Perseverance is the ability to continue towards a goal
when presented with obstacles. It is developed and strengthened
through music education. Students involved in music
lessons surpass their peers on tasks measuring
perseverance. At the foundation of perseverance are
motivation, commitment and persistence, all traits of
creative individuals (Scott, 1992).
3 Equips students to be creative.
Employers identify creativity as one of the top five
skills important for success in the workforce (Lichtenberg, Woock,
& Wright, 2008). Music education helps develop
originality and flexibility, which are key components
of creativity and innovation. Graduates from
music programs report that creativity, teamwork,
communication, and critical thinking are skills and
competencies necessary in their work, regardless of
whether they are working in music or in other fields
(Craft, 2001; SNAAP, 2011).
4 Supports better study habits and self-esteem.
A study of music majors found that they felt more
prepared for success in college than non-music
majors. This readiness may be due to the music
majors’ discipline and focus developed via intense
practice and performance routines prior to college.
These habits are typical of music students and may
generalize to other academic areas and social/
emotional aspects of life, contributing to higher self-esteem and success (Chesky et al., 1997)
The Arts Education Partnership (AEP) acknowledges
the generous support of the Quincy Jones Musiq
Consortium and Madelyn Bonnot and Marty Albertson
for the preparation of this brief. AEP also thanks Mary
Luehrsen of The NAMM Foundation and Sue Rarus of
The National Association for Music Education for their
assistance in the identification of research studies.
About the Arts
The Arts Education Partnership is
dedicated to securing a high quality
arts education for every young person in America. A
national coalition of more than 100 education, arts,
cultural, government, business and philanthropic
organizations, AEP was created in 1995 by the National
Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of
Education and is administered by the Council of Chief
State School Officers and the National Assembly of
State Arts Agencies.
Arts Education Partnership,
Music Matters: How Music Education
Helps Students Learn, Achieve, and Succeed
, Washington, D.C.,
Printing and distribution of this brochure made possible through a
grant from the NAMM Foundation.