Why Teach Music

  • 2022
  • Teachers
Tom Stroud, Grade 5-Grade 8 Band Instructor


The Purpose and Research Behind Our Music Program at The Harbour School

Over the past several years, we have witnessed a growth throughout all levels of the music program at THS. The general music program for Junior Grade 1 to 4th Grade is solid and gives students a meaningful foundation in music on which to build when those students move to Upper Primary and into Middle School. Students in the 5th and 6th Grade band program are continually building upon foundational skills that will lead them towards greater success in the Middle School levels. The Middle School Band (22Y23) is currently giving the strongest and most advanced performance of  the past several years. Also, the Middle School choral class is advancing that musical endeavor and expectations, as well. The two Middle School ensembles, band and choir, have exhibited massive growth in their performance skills and musical abilities.

The reason THS has a music program that includes Band and Choir is not merely for the preparation of concerts and school programs, but to also give examples for what can be accomplished through the music education class. But, as you will see, music can be a foundation on which all education can be built upon to improve each student's physical, mental, cognitive, social skills and build human connections.

Music is Science

It is exact, specific; it demands exact acoustic. A conductor's full score is a chart, a graph which indicates frequencies, intensities, volume changes, melody, and harmony all at once and with the most exact control of time. Likewise, the student must interpret a specific condensed part of that score, in all its complexities, to perform the musical compositions.

Music is Mathematical 

It is rhythmically based on the subdivision of time into fractions, which music must be interpreted instantaneously, not worked out on paper.  

Music is Foreign Language 

Most of the musical terms are in Italian, German, or French, and the notation is certainly not English. Music is an alternative language that uses a highly developed kind of shorthand that uses symbols to represent ideas. The semantics of is a complete and universal language. The chosen repertoire introduces students to songs from other countries and cultures. 

Music is Art 

It allows humans to take all these dry, technically boring difficult techniques and use them to create emotion. That is one thing science cannot duplicate: humanism, feeling, emotion. 

Why Music Matters 

This following link is a humorous and informative audio discussion by music educator Jack Stamp on why music matters.  

Music Study is Academic 

Music is and should be an extremely academic practice and study. Even if the student never uses the direct and obvious skills of playing a musical instrument, reading music, learning to perform in a band or choir, etc. They can use the indirect or intrinsic skills such as organizational practices, cognitive focus, teamwork practices, etc. Many of the intrinsic skills are listed here. 

  1. Reading music benefits language and math skills. 
  2. Playing an instrument benefits general cognitive activity. 
  3. Performing and understanding rhythm benefits spatial acuity. 
  4. Understanding music form benefits study of written literature 
  5. Reading musical terms and music notation benefits language skills. 
  6. Breath support and fingering skills benefit physical skills, gross and fine motor skills. 
  7. Social skills, working as a group to accomplish a goal. 
  8. Individual discipline, you must be self-accomplished before the ensemble and succeed. 
  9. Organizational skills, the work/practice must be planned and completed on time. 

Music Improves Academia 

Physical attributes include improved audio and visual perception, enhanced fine motor coordination, and a well-defined muscle memory. Mental dexterity is also improved through band/music. Increased cognitive reasoning, collaborative skills, emotional balance, and creative thinking are fostered through the band program. 

It is understood that music students perform better than non-music peers academically. Past studies have indicated that students who participated in music scored an average of 31 points above average in reading, 23 points above average in math, and 31 points above average in writing on standardized testing such as S.A.T. and A.C.T. exams. Researchers have also demonstrated a strong relationship between individuals who participated in school arts experiences and higher academic success as demonstrated by grade point averages. 

Additional studies have confirmed that students engaged in music programs outperformed their peers on every indicator, including grade-point average, graduation rate, ACT scores, attendance, and discipline referrals. Overall, the University of Kansas study demonstrated that the more a student participates in music, the more positive these benefits become. 

Equally important to the academic benefits of participation in music and band programs are the intangible qualities that come along with the full band/music experience. 

A sense of belonging 
Creativity and expression 
Collaboration, Teamwork and Accountability 
Mental and Physical Acuity 
Building Life Skills 

In Conclusion  

Music education in the school curricula is not only about doing performances but is a holistic avenue in which all a student's educational experience is improved, benefited, and supported.

We Teach Music! 

• Not because we expect you to major in music, which would be nice.
• Not because we expect you to play or sing all your life, which would make us happy, 
• Not so you can relax, which would be a nice benefit. 
• Not so you can have fun, which would be good.
• BUT--so you will be human 
• So you will recognize beauty 
• So you will be sensitive 
• So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world
• So you will have something to which to cling 
• So you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good--in short, more life. 

Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living, unless we know how to live?

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